Monday, March 01, 2010

Correspondence with Al-Hallaj

I've decided to just call these translations "correspondences", since they're clearly not attempts to transfer the syntactical structural of the original into English -- an impossible task, as many have noted -- but efforts to recoup the sense of language meeting itself.

This is a feeling one gets from reading most Arabic poetry, since the language is so overwrought with semiotic correspondences that it seems capable of saying the whole world in a sentence. But this sense is especially important to the poetry of Al Hallaj, who uses language so stark with meanings that it appears, for a moment, appears translated. There prepositions become personal encounters with the Venerated. There one's own organs are thought to reside within the one provoking the sensation. There meaning addresses itself back to origin, but an origin that refers only to itself endlessly. There, at the "semiotic core" of the poem, is a lunatic encircling himself.

It would be a mistake then to approach these poems by translating the literal. If for Al Hallaj language is always already pointed towards its origin, then translations cannot consist of the correspondences between two languages, but one language, passed and back and forth between corresponding souls. How do they find each other? The one calls out to the world, shouting "You there," the other calls back "You there."

ﻓﻴﻚ ﻣﻌﻨﻰ ﻳﺪﻋﻮ اﻟﻨﻔﻮسَ إﻟﻴﻚ
ودﻟﻴﻞ ﻳﺪلّ ﻣﻨﻚ ﻋﻠﻴْﻚ
ﻟِﻲَ ﻗﻠﺐٌ ﻟﻪ إﻟﻴﻚ ﻋﻴﻮنٌ
ﻧﺎﻇﺮاتٌ و كله ﻓﻲ ﻳﺪَﻳْﻚ

In you is a meaning that keeps souls
and signs, from where they came, guided back

towards you; the heart I have has only
eyes for you -- beholding all, while all is in your hand.