“After all the natural way to count is not that one and one make two but to go on counting by one and one.”
—Gertrude Stein, “Poetry and Grammar,” Lectures in America
“I start explaining at the top of my voice: ‘2 and 2 make 2 and 2, and not 4. Join 2 Grandfathers to 2 other Grandfathers and they make 2 and 2 Grandfathers, not 4. Or rather, they make 1, 2, 3, 4. If you stir them all together in a saucepan and boil them, then, yes, the 1, 2, 3, 4 Grandfathers will become 1 Grandfather, round and swollen out, and maybe younger too.’”
—Margarita Karapanou, Kassandra and the Wolf
We chose to call this blog after this passage of Karapanou’s—and with a nod to Stein—because it seems to us it says something about translation and about what we’re up to. At Clockroot we want to foreground the act of translating, instead of, as sometimes seems to be the case in American publishing, trying to pretend it never happened. We do this by rolling up our sleeves and committing ourselves to the importance of translation, viewing it as an art and not a mechanistic act. So in this sense, the original text and the work of translation are one and one—not two, and not just one either.
We also thought this way of counting could be a way of describing a kind of stubborn, resistant literature—a literature that, doesn’t fit easily in “the market,” doesn’t look right on well-kept lawns. Nothing could be more important to commercialism than that one and one make two, after all—how else can a profit be made? We’d like to try a different way of counting, where things don’t add up, can’t be subtracted, but are persistently individual.
To return to Stein for a minute: the phrase “a vital singularity” is threaded throughout The Making of Americans, as an alternative to what is “middle class”: “for middle class is sordid material unillusioned unaspiring and always monotonous, for it is always there and to be always repeated.” “Vital singularity,” on the other hand, “is as yet an unknown product.” How do we move toward it? “Custom, passion, and a feel for mother earth are needed to breed vital singularity in any man and alas how poor we are in all these three.”
It’s these three that we’ll aim for—wish us luck, or better yet, please join in: read our books, write us, send your work, join our newsletter, check out our blog here and below, and tell us what you think.