Sunday, December 17, 2006

Paul Grant on Postcards From the Cinema

It seems that Berg have released Postcards from the Cinema, the English translation of Daney's posthumous book Persévérance. I've ordered my copy from Amazon UK yesterday!

To mark the occasion, I've asked Paul Grant, the translator, a few questions on how he became involved with the publication of the first Daney book in English.

Merry Xmas and Happy new year every one!

To which extent is Daney known in the English-speaking world? He is obviously read by some professional movie critics but who else knows him?
My sense is that there is a growing number of anglophone cinephiles both inside and outside the academic world who are at the very least anxious to know more about Daney and his work. It seems that his name has a continually developing aura that points to some sort of cultural status.

Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote that the main reason for the lack of translations of Daney was that he “is too academic for mainstream publishing and too literary for academic publishing”. Why do you think Daney is not more widely translated and published in English?
Oddly enough this is what the majority of my intro to the book is about. One of the possibilties, and I really need to stress that this pure speculation, is that the lack of systematization makes it difficult to generate a minor industry around him. Deleuze produces, for better or for worse, an immense amount of secondary work, and guarantees a modicum of revenue, he is in himself a minor academic industry. Daney, perhaps as Rosenbaum suggests, is too popular while being not popular enough. But for me the issue isn’t just about translation. If we look to France for examples, we find that even the most likelely candidates to speak about Daney productively are at some loss to do so. The seconday literature that has appeared in French is not necessarily genrative and usually takes the form of hommage and personal anecdote. There is however as of a few months ago a secondary work on Daney but it is unbelievably critical, and says preciely that we should abandon Daney.
Not to ramble too much but it does seem worth remarking that most of the Cahiers (excluding Bazin, Rohmer, Godard, etc) and Trafic critics remain relatively unknown. Comolli’s essay is of course published in pieces in a number of anthologies, Bellour has been translated and also shows up in anthologies. But what about Douchet, Bergala, Schefer, Phillipon, Brenez, Narboni, etc.? We see pieces, just as we see pieces of Daney, like you have been showing on your blog. I think the crisis is really more one of criticism in general, and there I’ll stop because that is simply too huge to address right now.

How did you discover Serge Daney?
His name was referenced by everyone I loved to read and watch, and I think it was the interview in Histoire(s) du cinéma, along with Ethan Spigland’s astonishment at his not being translated that sent me looking to find out more.

How did you come about translating this book and finding a publisher?
The translation end up a result of both working with you on the Tracking Shot, and having a Fulbright in Paris to do research on Daney. I was using sections of Perseverance for the research and suddenly had enough sections translated that I figured I would complete it. I do have to say that I’m not a professional translator and Bill Krohn’s caveat that only someone who translated Proust could translate Daney has loomed over me ever since Berg Publishers accepted to take on this project. Ultimately, the book was meant as a kind of gift for my cinephile friends who couldn’t read Daney in French, and so far everyone has been really pleased.
I approached Berg because they had just done the Godard-Ishaghpour book and were slated to publish the Rancière, so they seemed the logical choice to me. Tristan Palmer was very enthusiastic about the project and I enjoyed working with them.

How did you find the experience of translating Daney? What difficulties did you face? What advice would you give to future translators or translation attempts?

The translation was a pleasure. In the end though there were a few difficulties, things I couldn’t unwrap or get others to figure out either. It’s very obvious what sections these are in the book. But the biggest difficulty arose after the fact, right at the time that POL and Berg were working out the contracts. Berg suddenly sent me an email saying that there was a problem with the American rights, and I suddenly had this very teleological sense that Daney was destined not to be published in English. The issue was someone else had apparently submitted a manuscript of Perseverance to be published at the same time. The great irony was that they were both my manuscript, but Semiotext(e), and here it was as much my fault as theirs, was submitting it to be published. I had sent it to Sylvere early on and he seemed enthusiastic but never really got in touch with me. Apparently he had been going ahead with trying to publish it.
I’m not sure what to suggest for translation attempts, perhaps just get it published, and if it is bad, honestly, it can be retranslated, but I don’t think poor translation is a real hindrance at this point, the work just needs to be put out there.

his is the first Daney book translated in English. How do you think it will shape the recognition of Daney in the English-speaking world?
Its too difficult to say, I hope that the translation does it justice, and at the same time I think other work needs to come out because Perseverance is an interview, just like Itineraire d’un cine-fils, and the thing that must be born in mind is that when some one reflects on their own work that reflection is different than the work. In that sense Perseverance is really an introduction, and to fully evaluate the future of Daney more of the written work needs to be translated and published.

Do you have plans to translate other texts from Daney? What do you think needs to be done to advance the recognition of Daney’s writings?
There was talk with both Berg and Semiotext(e) about working on something in the future, some more Daney, but I imagine that they want to see how this first book sells. Right now I am working on a Jean Paulhan translation, as well as my own work on the cinéma militant of groups like cinéthique, cinelutte, etc. I would like to have the opportunity to work on L’exercice as well as Schefer’s L’homme ordinaire…

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