New articles published; notes on the Living Language Organism

Also: recurrent motifs in sculpture; Monan on chthonic diagrams; metaphor and authorship in the Decline

Many thanks to those of you who have visited our website and read what has been published thus far of our research. Today we are releasing the second half of our inaugural articles:

  • I Become a Figure’: Traces of an Emergent Voice from the Lower Wetlands summarises a diverse collection of items recovered from a preservative vat in a home built for a single permanent resident. Along with a folio of written texts, researchers discovered several drawings, as well as carefully preserved, minuscule floral specimens. A short accompanying essay speculates on the significance of, and potential connections between, these disparate artefacts.

  • Recurrent Motifs: the Huddling Figures brings together various sculpted artefacts recovered from a variety of different locations on the Lye Planet which nevertheless share common physical features.

  • Grave Forecasts features excerpts from an interview with Adeline Monan, concerning her ongoing research into a series of diagrams.

  • Some Propositions Following the Translation of the ‘Moorland Diary’, the longest of the four new publications, comes to us via the Department of Textual Studies. In this essay, Prof. S. A. Leach analyses a diary-like text (‘marked by a casualness of production’ and ‘alternately fragmentary and clearly structured’, in the Professor’s own words) purportedly written by a prominent community figure, and its implications for the study of inter-communal relations, social hierarchy, and linguistics (in particular, the role of metaphor) in the Decline.

Prof. Leach’s essay and the texts collected in ‘I Become a Figure’ contribute further to an important area of research touched on by Dr. Grace Linden and Kiran Leonard in their respective essays published three weeks ago: namely, the impact of Lye culture and mythology on the narrative voice, and the difficulties which its unfamiliarity and lack of stability present to translators and analysts. In his ‘Propositions’, Leach provides a succinct description of the guiding principles of Lye mythology:

[…] central to the ideology of the planet prior to the Decline was, simultaneously, symbiosis (reciprocity between equal elements of the world, such as in biological processes, craft, or farming) and one-ness, that is, a designation of ‘different’ aspects of the world as identical - not only as equal parts of a ‘unified living God-organism’ but also as parallel statements of a single phenomenon. 

In the radically different ontology of the ULG-O, individuals were akin to limbs that grew out from one planetary body, destined to perish physically but then re-emerge as other forms upon the world’s surface. Belief in the literal physical connectedness of all living things naturally had a profound impact on the ways in which Lye inhabitants described and experienced their world (one intriguing example of this can be found in Laura Reinhardt’s piece for our previous newsletter, which provides a brief history of Lye epidemics). Leonard’s essay, while mostly a musical and textual commentary, makes some references to the influence this worldview had on conceptions of time and individual self-expression; to whether it is wrong to project an Earthly chronology and identity onto authors who wrote while conceiving of themselves as an extension of a unified and endlessly renewing self, even if it makes the texts more approachable. Dr. Linden directly addresses the practical difficulties of translating Lye writing; as she observes in her essay, the question of how exactly to render the perspective of the Lye texts in our versions is yet to be resolved within the LPRU. This matter is only complicated further by the ways in which perspective mutated as the Decline progressed, and a sort of individuality was forced into being by the unified organism’s gradual deterioration.

Such a process is documented in the Song of the Husband as well as in the texts featured in ‘I Become a Figure’. In the latter instance, we have provided two different translations of the texts in order to demonstrate the divergent views within our organisation on how to render these artefacts. Alkmini Gousiari’s version chooses to fix the nascent and unstable ‘I’ of the original, and in a sense captures the author’s identity through expressive means unavailable to them at time of writing. The second version, provided by Prof. Leach himself, is a very different reading of the texts in line with his work at Textual Studies, an approach which emphasises the influence of the ULG-O on the semiotics of language itself. To quote from his essay on the Moorland diary:

[…] any word is, at root, the same kind of thing as what it is describing; it exists in the same way. Words are parts of the living world on their own terms, equal and irreducibly unique parts of the organic whole. And at the same time, they are exactly the same as what they correspond to in the world, united through the whole. They are both infinitely closer to, and infinitely further away from, the thing(s) that they refer to than we can possibly conceptualise.

Hence the implied synonymity, found in the differing titles of Gousiari and Leach’s translations, of ‘Thoughts’ and ‘Growths’. The Professor’s translations of both the Lower Wetlands poems and the Moorland diary are thoroughly informed by this viewpoint, and as a result his versions often consist of vivid, abstract litanies of images, which give physical attributes to the process of verbal expression:

The Body can fall to a Core, and Growth can be attempted.
In the place where Words twine together,
Words can become still also. Their Movement
feeding Growth. Where?
The Mouth, then the Front of the Head.

The verse lacks an identifiable narrator. Gousiari’s translation of the same extract, however, recovers a voice from the deluge:

I am trying to make some sort of sense.

I throw my body to the centre,
I try to articulate.
Words get stuck on the top of my mouth.

Both versions are presented side by side on our website to aid comparative reading, which we highly recommend.

Translation, of course, always involves this sort of compromise, particularly when grappling with subtext or culturally specific connotations. With Lye Planet texts we can perhaps see this as a negotiation between capturing what the individual voice intended and re-creating the unique — and utterly alien — linguistic web that shaped their thoughts and (literally) encircled them. In either case, the Lye translator is re-inventing: they build for the author an individual identity that was never exactly realised, or they map an infinitely connected series of images onto a linguistic framework which follows a wholly different logic (the ‘jostling metaphors’ described by Leach in his ‘Propositions’).

Of course, reinvention is always necessary when relating stories from different places to new audiences. There are always ways to improve, to better attune, translation methods, and Dr. Linden speaks for all of us at the LPRU when she looks forward to ‘translations which are able to engage more fully with the complex mythologies, customs and philosophies of the Lye Planet communities’. Whether this will lead to a standardised, Lye-Earth hybrid form (as seems to be favoured by Prof. Leach) or a continuation of the highly diverse body of texts produced up to now remains to be seen.