Nonsensing Translation: How to Turn the Spotlight on the Blind Spots of Interpretation


The paper examines whether, how, and why the theme of translation can be used as a device to produce nonsense. Starting from the more conventional problem of translating nonsense, I introduce the opposite notion of nonsensing translation and present different possible expressions of this practice with the help of examples drawn from Morgenstern, Taylor, du Maurier, van Rooten, and the French cartoon Les Shadoks. I conclude by suggesting that the reason why translation lends itself so fruitfully to nonsense manipulations is that it itself relies on rather counterintuitive premises, such as pretending to carry concepts across linguistically incompatible universes or to be two texts at the same time.