Outline of Fish

In this drawing of a fish, the fish, whose eye is just visible, is surrounded by a marked line. This reminds me of the account of creation in chapter one of the Book of Genesis, when God created the dry land, scenery and vegetation, fish, birds, land animals and humans. He drew lines around individuals, so that we were one. In English, this is represented by the indefinite article, “a/an”. We use the indefinite article when it is something we can (literally or metaphorically) draw a line around. If it is something abstract, too large to be contained, such as love, then we don’t. Objects with a line around them are known as countable, and I often think that a lot of human life is about how things that are countable relate to each other.

 

Meanwhile, in language, I used to think the act of translation (which is everything we do) involved activity, doing things. There is the horizontal act of preparation over time, tending the ground, when we look up unknown words and references, consult the author and so on. But the act of translation itself should be vertical, a question of listening, a slit in time, from which we extract and pass on meaning. And to listen, to hear the voice of the translation, we must be silent. Listen-silent.

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