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Translating the Gap: The Hungarian and Romanian "Fillings-in" of Bloom's "I. AM. A. " in "Nausicaa"

From: Joyce Studies Annual
Volume 2009
pp. 109-124

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This essay proposes an exploration into the Hungarian and Romanian renderings of Bloom's unfinished "I. AM. A. " message on Sandymount strand at the end of "Nausicaa." The passage (U 13.1256–68) is the epitome of grammatical and semantic indeterminacy, as well as an egregious narratological gap that solicits and forever frustrates the reader's attempts at filling it in. As such, Bloom's inscription constitutes a kind of litmus test for the (de)creative and vagueing possibilities of translation. Bloom's "empty" self-identification appears in line with the metamorphoses his name undergoes and with his constant recycling and bricolage of the words of others throughout the book. The essay will address the issue of how the target languages condition—and, as I will argue, considerably restrict—the range of associations, the rhizomes of spontaneous (self-) inscription, leaving less space to the play of indeterminacy. I will also explore in translation the valences of Bloom's deciphering of the "lines and scars and letters" (13.1261) on the rock surface. His reflections on inorganic shapes will be read as an interface with Stephen's reading of "signatures of all things" (3.3) in "Proteus," mirroring and encoding their fundamentally different, yet complementary, self-representation in language. This reading of the visual is set against a "translation"—i.e., linguistic transfiguration—of images interpreted.

The essay similarly proposes a mapping of the linguistic effects of Bloom's dislocutions, sents from the end of "Nausicaa" in translation, as well as of the translation of the lapsing (linguistic) consciousness. This mapping addresses such issues as normative versus non-normative language use(s), impact-sentences, grammatical and semantic anomalies versus correction, indeterminacy, the different stylistic registers observed/broken in the target languages, and the degrees of deviation from conventional language use achieved. The translation texts examined are the poet Mircea Iva.nescu's highly acclaimed Romanian Ulysses (Ulise 1984) and the two Hungarian versions available: Endre Gáspár's early, practically unavailable and unduly overlooked 1947 translation, and avant la lettre postmodern fabulist Miklós Szentkuthy's stylistically flamboyant "authoritative" 1974 version.1 I will focus on their encodings of sliding signification and the play on connotation, as well as on their dis-articulation of normative language use in translation texts that played an enormous role in the "prose turn" of Hungarian and Romanian literature in the 1970s and 1980s.

The episode at the end of "Nausicaa" where Bloom on Sandymount strand, alone, starts scribbling a message of unknown content and destination, only to erase it and, with it, all traces of his passage in that place, is not only an emblematic textual locus for the figure of writing and (self-) naming in the novel, but also one that showcases the tangled indeterminacies of language that every translator and foreign reader of Ulysses must address. Here, the ad canvasser, whose name is subject to continuous translation (into different languages, different media, and anagrammatical, acrostic distortions), declined like a noun, and tagged with relative pronouns in various inflections, attempts self-naming. This attempt results in what may be read as either an initial or an indefinite article. At the same time, Bloom's sand-writing attests to his practice of reading and inscribing himself into signs and objects external to him, as he does when erroneously projecting his name ("Bloo . . . Me?") onto the beginning of a word glimpsed on a paper throwaway (8.6–9)—an error that completes the series of earlier misapprehensions linked to the word "throwaway." At the heart of the "Nausicaa" passage lies an egregious gap—a narrative blank or Leerstelle that asks for a supplementing on the reader's part, yet which cannot be filled in by a reader, no matter how well-informed, and continues to call out for authorial assistance.2

Mr Bloom stooped and turned over a piece of paper on the strand. He brought it near his eyes and peered. Letter? No. Can't read. Better go. Better. I'm tired to move. Page of an old copybook. All those holes and pebbles. Who could count them? Never know what you find. Bottle with story of a treasure in it, thrown from a...

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