I’m sitting on my parents’ couch, working on the translation of an archival text by the Polish sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman, who is most famous, perhaps, for his work on “liquid modernity” and globalization.
My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality.
B. R. Ambedkar
The condition of Paris as the main artistic capital from the end of the 19th to the mid-20th century caused it to attract an expressive contingent of foreign artists, and among those, dozens of Brazilian artists who were attracted by what was seen as the world capital of arts. They encountered, however, an extremely competitive universe, in which national origins were important components to recognition.
In the second volume of her Testimonios, Victoria Ocampo recalls how her friend, Virginia Woolf, insisted that she must “guardar el dinero para la revista [Sur] y los libros” (save money for her journal [Sur] and books). Drawing on her own publishing experience with the Hogarth Press, Woolf acknowledges both the literary importance of Ocampo’s journal as well as the inherent financial strain of maintaining it. The world of publishing involves great risk, but the rewards can be even greater, as Woolf notes: “¿Sabe usted que nosotros vivimos de la Hogarth Press?” (Did you know that we live off of the Hogarth Press?).
New. Now. Motion. Speed. Acceleration. Expansion. Pause. Renew. Now, again.
In the early twentieth century, there is no such thing as transnational literary modernism. Yet, in the early twenty-first century, there is transnational modernist studies.
“The harbor of New York was somehow the inexplicable scene of a mysterious cruel translation,” wrote modernist art critic Paul Rosenfeld in 1924. With his impressionistic term “cruel translation,” Rosenfeld pointed to interferences in the sea lanes that connected New York to Antwerp and Buenos Aires, and to obstructions where people crossing stateless oceans touched national territories. In his description of Alfred Stieglitz’s epochal photograph The Steerage (1907), cruel translation appears as “the abyss of water” that “divides the folk crowded in the yawning mouth of the ferryboat from the foreground piles” (Rosenfeld, Port of New York, 272). Here, the meaning of translation exceeds strictly linguistic exchange, and its cruelty connotes a multifarious cultural scenography of constricted circulation at the port of entry, where blockages from cultural difference to customs house diffidence destabilize the global flows of people and goods.