The Translation

Nate Pritts

Here, this: a man with no knowledge of the French language decides to turn away almost fully from his actual life to submerge himself in it so as to translate a novel he wishes to read. This should seem to be a whim, a glimpse of a notion that hardens mysteriously, resolving itself slowly & disturbingly. At night, icicles form from cold air hitting cold air. Insert here a few sentences, straightforward in style, about his life that allows transition to—but downplays—the moment of crisis.

Several factors influence this decision, though he is not completely cognizant of them. His small daughter, estranged, living more than one thousand miles distant, learns French through immersion at her elementary school. Add here a lyrical passage recounting some scene from the past before the sad distance interposed itself. Elicit resounding waves of emotion. Perhaps the reader imagines a feeling that is not unlike a painting they had seen once, years ago, but turned from quickly. The dreary image, of crude black boats against a grey sea underneath a shrouded moon so that it is mostly just wisps of light suggested by feathery strokes, has stuck with the reader for unknown reasons but strikes here the same deep & resonant sense of palpable deserved loss, or justified sorrow without blame. This develops to include an imagined scene—a present that the man cannot know, has no access to—pertaining to his daughter. So perhaps he thinks this act, an act he won't publicize or discuss openly, will help conjure a softer image of her in his heart.

Also, a writer himself, he has reached a crossroads. At times, he feels as if his own language has failed him. Here follows a barrage of staccato sentences. Impressions. Images, half-formed ideas. Frenetic glimpses. Or rather, he experiences his relationship to his own language as one does to a sturdy & tired beloved. There is tenderness & compassion in each caress, a wondrous history in every dappled inch of the adored body, but the enthusiasm has dulled. The rush & vigor of possession has faded. Possibility has dimmed through constant usage. Perhaps he seeks to reinvent himself, to discover new facets to his creativity through learning a new music, a new expression. Or, perhaps, in limiting his perceptions to those found in the novel he seeks to translate, in sublimating his own choices, he hopes to uncover a new interior road, previously untrammeled & fresh with verve & revelation.

Now a paragraph or two detailing specific examples of the weather at various times of the year so as to evoke a sense of the passage of time.

He sets upon this impossible task. Phone calls & emails go unreturned. Those few who called him friend find themselves neglected. He distances himself from his old habits, from his previous life. He might be recognizable to a once dear friend, familiar in a physical sense. Here, a brief example can be included. A particular meeting or evasion that occurs on a December afternoon. The styling of the sentences, the very choice of words, should indicate that the man has become estranged from himself even. The heft of his presence, the weight of his soul. Writing with the tenor & dexterity of a heavily gloved hand. Clumsy. Months pass & then a year, two. The man finds himself standing anew, ridiculous, unmoored. Exhausted with his quiet retreat from a life that had grown untenable—or just mild in its joys & sorrows—he attempts to return to his previous problematic existence. He seeks a new project undeterred by the mess he's made which is really all the mess there is.