It attracted my attention the fact that the texts we had to read for the class about sexuality, desire, and bodies have, in some degree, strong ties with the effort of translation.
In the case of the main theoretical texts, translation is linked with what we understand as spoken languages. Both authors give us different points of view about translating from one language to another one. Among many other things, while Peri Rossi, as writer, says that translation is a process of love (through suggestive approaches to (in)fidelity and desire), Bellesi, as translator of poetry, struggles with sacrifices, choices, and feelings of betrayal by reconstructing both physical and conceptual meanings of the texts she rewrites.
But in reading Gossyâ€™s text â€œSkirting the Question: Lesbians and Maria de Zayasâ€?, I could find what, in my opinion, enacts another type of translation. In commenting on the treatment many scholars have given to lesbianism as topic in Golden Age Hispanism, she asserts: â€œMany Golden Age scholars would rather not see or hear from lesbians, and many lesbian and queer theorists have never heard anything about the Golden Age, so doing lesbian feminism and Golden Age Hispanism requires a lot of translation.â€? (P. 19). Such work of translation makes us to look at silences, disguised clues, and absences in fields where it seems, because of the use of such tactics, oppressive situations do not occur. However, as Gossy points out, it is starting from such absences which scholars can detect different signs and levels of oppression.
â€œSometimes very troubling facts produce very little outcry, and the lack of outcry in facts frequently signals big trouble, this whole process is called repression.â€? (P. 20).
So, how to translate properly the silence imposed by repression in texts that refer to both desire and sexuality as a way to resist heteronormativity that rules both literary canon and society? While Gossy takes Maria de Zayasâ€™ example from Golden Age Hispanism, I would like to comment on the case of Molloy, who is also editor of â€œHispanism and Homosexualitiesâ€?. As we have seen, â€œCertificate of Absenceâ€? enacts lesbian desire in a very particular way and it seems to me possible to establish connections between this novel and the effort of translating lesbian desire thorough silence and absence. We can see an interesting aspect of this text through the fact that the character Writer experienced not only relations with women but also with men (second paragraph of the P. 109 in the Spanish version). Thus, Molloy avoids binary oppositions between heterosexual and homosexual models: the story goes beyond such polarizations and perhaps because of that enacts a different possibility before heteronormativity. If she just wanted to portray lesbian relationships in a conventional fashion, the text would satisfy the male heterosexual gaze, linked with a society rules by notions such as spectacle and entertainment. In explaining why Fontanellaâ€™s satire about Zayasâ€™ cross-dressing is not enough to grasp both Zayasâ€™ work and sexuality, Gossy asserts that â€œthere is more to and under the skirts, and in lesbian desire, than meets the phallocentric eye, and it takes a certain kind of gaze to spot it.â€? (P. 27). In a contemporary way, Molloy also knows very well how to avoid such phallocentric gaze to express lesbian desire. While during the Golden Hispanic Age, the risk of expressing this desire lied in physical punishment (something that still nowadays occurs in countries like Iran, as well in some others); the current risk in Western societies lies in the trivialization of both female body and her desire. And here the metaphor of the translation seems to be useful when we recall another meaning of it: â€œtranslation is above all an attempt at alterity.â€? (Bellesi, p. 26)
â€œComo anotar, como escribir alguna vez la uniÃ³n salvo en funciÃ³n de la ausencia? Y por que, si Renata ya no estÃ¡, se empeÃ±a en convocarla, en fabricarla dentro de este cuarto donde la desnuda, pidiÃ©ndole una y otra y vez lo que ahora sabe que le dio y que no le volverÃ¡ a dar? Necesita marcarse en ese cuerpo ausente, en esa mente ausente, no olvidarlos como no olvida sus muertes, sus voces, sus pieles. No olvidarlos, y pedirles que no la olviden.â€? (P. 122)
Since lesbian desire is the Other for (and within) hegemonic system, writing about it enacts the effort of translating an alterity into something possible to name without unveiling it. How to do that without being incorporated by the dominant system, which is over all an affirmative system? The above fragment can give us some clues about the desire developed in this text: one connected with absence, as well as death, instead of presence. Since memory embraces both past and presence, the act of writing not only is used to recall past desire, but to embody the desire of wanting a love that the Writer wonâ€™t possess anymore. The writerâ€™s desire operates within the dialectical relation between union and loss: â€œBorronea con dificultad porque quiere recrear, no disecar, y no lo logra. Quiere volver a unirse porque ahora comprende la uniÃ³n: acaba de perderla.â€? (P. 122). The Writer needed to lose Renata to grasp the deepest meaning of her desire. Thus, Molloy avoids the trap of depicting lesbian desire through conventional descriptions about explicit presence of female bodies, since what she reconstructs is the desire by the bodyâ€™s absence. This is something connected with the fact that Molloy does not mark womanâ€™s desire for another woman as lesbianism, despite all the clues given to the reader to suppose that the character the Writer is constructed based on Molloyâ€™s lesbian experiences.
Besides the absence, we can also detect occlude signs, as that of making the Writer an active subject, through the way she describes her own hands (Pp. 107-108). Hands are here clues because they enact an opposition to the male gaze. Writerâ€™s desire connects itself not with the act of seeing or being seen but with touch, a less associate sense with female desire, which transforms this passage in a meaningful moment about gender and desire. Those are examples of acts of translation - through words, silences, meaningful gestures and absences â€“ about an oppressive situation Molloy seeks to challenge by using difficult devices to be seen by heteronormativity eye. â€œLesbianâ€?, Gossy states â€œis by definition not visible to the gaze that looks for castration. Lesbian is about something more than castration; looking for castration or the lack of it misses the lesbian point.â€?