ANTI-OEDIPUS PARAGRAPH 1: translation

ANTI-OEDIPUS begins with a very striking paragraph:

Ça fonctionne partout, tantôt sans arrêt, tantôt discontinu. Ça respire, ça chauffe, ça mange. Ça chie, ça baise. Quelle erreur d’avoir dit le ça. Partout ce sont des machines, pas du tout métaphoriquement : des machines de machines, avec leurs couplages, leurs connexions. Une machine-organe est branchée sur une machine-source : l’une émet un flux, que l’autre coupe. Le sein est une machine qui produit du lait, et la bouche, une machine couplée sur celle-là. La bouche de l’anorexique hésite entre une machine à manger, une machine anale, une machine à parler, une machine à respirer (crise d’asthme). C’est ainsi qu’on est tous bricoleurs ; chacun ses petites machines. Une machine-organe pour une machine-énergie, toujours des flux et des coupures. Le président Schreber a les rayons du ciel dans le cul. Anus solaire. Et soyez sûrs que ça marche ; le président Schreber sent quelque chose, produit quelque chose, et peut en faire la théorie. Quelque chose se produit : des effets de machine, et non des métaphores.

This has been translated competently, but a little freely in places, into English as follows:

It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id. Everywhere it is machines-real ones, not figurative ones : machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections. An organ-machine is plugged into an energy-source-machine : the one produces a flow that the other interrupts. The breast is a machine that produces milk, and the mouth a machine coupled to it. The mouth of the anorexic wavers between several functions: its possessor is uncertain as to whether it is an eating-machine , an anal machine, a talking-machine, or a breathing machine (asthma attacks). Hence we are all handymen: each with his little machines. For every organ-machine, an energy-machine: all the  time, flows and interruptions. Judge Schreber has sunbeams in his ass. A solar anus. And rest assured that it works : Judge Schreber feels something, produces something, and is capable of explaining the process theoretically. Something is produced : the effects of a machine , not mere metaphors.

Here is a more literal translation:

It functions everywhere, at times without break, at times discontinuously. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits, it fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the it. Everywhere it is machines, not at all metaphorically : machines of machines, with their couplings, their connections. An organ-machine is connected to a source-machine : the one produces a flow that the other cuts. The breast is a machine that produces milk, and the mouth a machine coupled to it. The anorexic’s mouth wavers between an eating-machine , an anal machine, a talking machine, a breathing machine (asthma attack). That is how we are all tinkerers: each with his or her little machines. An organ-machine, for an energy-machine: all the  time, flows and cuts. Judge Schreber has divine rays in his ass. Solar anus. And rest assured that it works : Judge Schreber feels something, produces something, and can make the theory of it. Something is produced : machine effects , not metaphors.

Some linguistic comments:

1) There is just one verb in the first sentence, “functions”. I think it is best to keep it that way as D&G are trying for a style faithful to events.

2) The very first word is “it” (“ça): “it” is pluralised and dispersed, as lots of functioning its. For this reason, beginning with “it is at work everywhere” is inappropriate as this universalises “it” where it should particularise.

3) Despite the overtly concrete style, the book’s first point is linguistic, concluding: “What a mistake to have ever said the it”. In French it here is the neuter pronoun “ça”, the same word used to render the Freudian concept of the id, translated as “le ça”. D&G propose to drop the definite article, thus changing the logical grammar of the concept.

4) I have translated “tantôt…tantôt” as “at times…at times”. The expression is employed to express a succession, an alternation, a dispersion of cases. Its sense is taken up later in the paragraph with “wavers”, predicated of the anorexic’s mouth.

5) For the compact “machines of machines”, the published translation has the more long-windedly “machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines“. This adds something to the text, but inappropriately, as the sense suggests composed of rather than driven by. In the French text there is no reciprocity, but a nesting: machines composed of machines. It’s machines all the way down (and up).

6) “An organ-machine is connected to a source-machine“. The published translation reads: “An organ-machine is plugged into an energy-source-machine“. The word “energy” has been added, it does not fit the example given immediately after of the breast as source of milk. For the same reason “plugged into” is not suited, as the mouth does not plug into the breast. “Branché” is difficult to translate as it is a more generic word than its English equivalents, meaning: plugged into, hooked onto, wired onto, attached to.

6) The published translation has “For every organ-machine, an energy-machine“. This inverts the order and over-generalises (insertion of “every”). It is tinged with idealism, as if there were a necessary correlate in the world to each of our organs. It should read: “An organ-machine, for an energy-machine“. Of course, the same machine can be both organ (receptor) and source, as the example of the anorexic’s mouth shows, so there is no sharp dualism. There is an asymmetrical complementarity.

Note: I am not criticising the published translation. Translating French philosophy is a daunting near-impossible endeavour. I want to comment on the incipit to ANTI-OEDIPUS (see next post) so I decided to retranslate it for my own purposes. Translation is just as theory-laden as any other experience, as the example of Schreber’s theorising shows.

 

 

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