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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Translating Nishiwaki : beyond reading Hirata, Hosea


This dissertation is divided into two parts. Part Two contains my translations of Japanese texts by Nishiwaki Junzaburō (1894-1982): three essays from Chōgenjitsushugi shiron (Surrealist Poetics) (1929), his first and second collections of poems written in Japanese, Ambarvalia (1933) and Tabibito kaerazu (No Traveller Returns) (1947), as well as a long poem from his "middle period," entitled "Eterunitas" (1962). Part One, consisting of three chapters, attempts to expose various theoretical issues that these translations bring forth. Through this "exposé," several major issues surface, namely, the concepts of Language, Poetry, and Translation. Further, these concepts are interrelated by a "paradisal" centre—the notion of "non-meaning." Chapter One presents a deconstructive examination of the notion of translation. Two opposing manifestations of Language, writing and reading, are set forth by way of Roland Barthes's textual concepts, "le scriptible" and "le lisible." "Writing" is here defined as a language-movement of production that opposes "knowledge," while "reading" is regarded as the consumption of codes, that is, "knowing." The question posed at this point is: what status does "translation" possess in terms of these two opposing language-movements? Is it writing or reading? Through Walter Benjamin's essay on translation, "Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers" (The Task of the Translator), as well as through Jacques Derrida's reading of it in his "Des Tours de Babel," translation is revealed to hold an essentially paradoxical function: a translation is secondary to the original in its status, yet it deconstructs the original and triggers the survival movement of Language towards its paradisal state of non-meaning. Thus translation is seen as partaking of an originary movement of writing, which Derrida elsewhere names "différance." In Chapter Two, Nishiwaki's notion of Poetry presented in his Surrealist Poetics is discussed along with Georges Bataille's notions of "dépense" and "non-savoir," as well as with Derrida's grammatology. Nishiwaki proposes a negative evolution of poetry whose ultimate end is the (self-)extinction of poetry. Similarly, Bataille locates Poetry in the self-sacrificial "jouissance," beyond identity, beyond knowledge. Derrida's notion of "arche-writing" in turn exposes the "always-already" existence of the essentially transgressive movement of "writing" everywhere in our logocentric universe. Through these discourses, then, Poetry is envisioned as the death of writing, located outside of Language, in the paradise of non-meaning. Every writing strives towards this paradisal goal. At the same time, for Nishiwaki, this paradise includes an origin (the origin of poetry) which he names "tsumaranasa (boredom, insignificance) of reality." Poetry thus begins and ends in this fundamental loss of language, meaning, and knowledge. In Chapter Three, the translated poems of Nishiwaki are discussed as representing not "reality" but a certain movement of Language, be it Benjamin's "translation" or Derrida's "arche-writing." The text of Ambarvalia essentially presents fissures in the Japanese language caused by the invasion of foreign tongues. Thus it is Nishiwaki's translatory textual strategy that produces a "new" poetic language. In No Traveller Returns, Nishiwaki's willful appropriation of past traditions is brought forth. In "Eterunitas," we witness the failure of silence, Language's failure to attain Poetry, initiating the incessant flow of writing, poetry, and translation, beyond reading.

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