Jim Jacobs: The Imperfections That Render Us Visible
This is my gift to you, this story that is also a song, these words that are a part of Fokir. Such flaws as there are in my rendition of it I do not regret, for perhaps they will prevent me from fading from sight, as a good translator should. For once, I shall be glad if my imperfections render me visible. —Kanai, the translator in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide
In translation, the voice of the translator is generally considered an imperfection, an inbetween that, almost by definition, generates background noise or static. The original, the ideal, becomes impure. The magical transformation is disturbed, the imperfection an unwanted sign of life disturbing its environment of language.
Part limb or trunk, part processed lumber, these translations of tree forms show signs of humans: tools, furniture, hair, squared and planed lumber. In Crest, branches extend, not from a trunk, but from the legs of a chair that has tipped over backwards. The white desiccated blossoms foam like the crest of a breaking wave. In American Cherry, a species of tree that is part of America’s mythology of presidential honesty, the tree is inverted. Its trunk transforms into wire-form lattice and slumps, perhaps melted. While the transitions from the natural to the human-made can be subtle, the change is obvious, the voice of the
We are embedded in our environment and are a real part of nature. Yet, ironically, it seems to be a human tendency to create idealized visions of the natural world—visions that are romantic and unrealistic and, hence, projections of our species’ desire for perfection and flawlessness. Our visions often overlook, or at least try to ignore, what we consider imperfections.
Perfect translation is an illusion. The value of imperfection is lost when we blindly adhere to ideals of purity, especially at the expense of honesty.
October 24, 2019
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018
“The best novel ever written about trees, and really just one of the best novels, period.” ―Ann Patchett
The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of―and paean to―the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours―vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels. In addition to his recent Pulitzer Prize for The Overstory, he is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Award, and he has been a four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.