Savoir y faire
Editing a publication in a language unknown to the editor is a strange and powerful experience of otherness. Polemos in Israel – Zadig is a bi-lingual digital publication in Hebrew and Arabic. Sometimes posting a text on the site brings about technical problems such as the fact that words may seem to stick one to the other, which necessitates separating them manually one by one. How does one go about it if one does not know the language, in my case – my total ignorance of Arabic? My only way was to strictly adhere to the graphic form of the words, comparing them visually with the printed-out text of the original. Beyond the challenging task of separating words, a technical task, it represents the radical encounter with the hors-sens, with a pure form, which demands reading it differently, one may say to reading the letter. This reminds me of the idea of the fractal object, that semi geometric object with a basic structure, fragmented or irregular, which repeats itself on different scales. In “Reading the Symptom” J.A.Miller highlights the reiteration of the same, of the One, as the symptom’s root, and gives us the fractal object as an iteration’s figure. Facing the hors-sens, the limit which delineates the impossible, leads to the “savoir y faire” playing a role.
And what about the term “Polemos”? Why has it been chosen as a name to this publication? Regarding this we are in the field of meaning. In his: “Introduction to Metaphysics”, Heidegger states that in Pre-Socratic culture polemic in the sense of “Polemos” means struggle through which Being is discovered. He adds Greek culture regards a person’s entry into the differential position from the known to the unknown as the only way through which one can know who and what a person is. In other words, know what his ethical position is. It seems to me this point is related to the idea of Savoir y faire.
All the activities of the publication are conducted by members of the Israeli society of the NLS, as an independent activity which does not rely on any institutional resources. The activity places us not only vis-à-vis our position as analysts regarding social and political issues, chiefly local ones, but also vis-à-vis issues pertaining to relations between local analytic institutions, within which we operate, and the publication itself, its place and echo in the community, namely, constantly examining the dimension of the Savoir y faire. Generally speaking, a publication emphasizes the place of writing, which may operate not only as a means of presenting an idea or opinion, but also as a way of resisting any expression of abjection of democratic principles. Writing in general, as Lacan teaches us, acts as a kind of sifter of discourse, which, among other things, stresses the place of master signifiers, constituting a key for reading a text. It is worth noting that on the one hand, written contains the letter, the pure material form that fixates on paper or on screen a formulation, an opinion regarding the presented subjects. On the other hand, the written as sifter exposes the place of truth as semi-told, which draws the border of that which cannot be written, of not-all is written. Publications, as products of language, also make room for the Lacanian aphorism, il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel, especially in the gaps between the various attitudes expressed in the articles, in the unanswered questions, the contradictions exposed, as well as in the gap existing between writing and the reading that can be made. Polemos is an open invitation to read and write. You are invited to take a glimpse at it and be impressed with the potency of the letter despite its not being understood: www.polemosisrael.com
Between Hebrew and Arabic – “Polemos in Israel – ZADIG” a space of discourse and connection around the gap
The names of the Hebrew and Arabic languages are similar, and, in both languages, they are composed of the same letters. What distinguishes between their names, in both languages, is a small change in the order of two of the letters that make up their names עברית, ערבית, عــربـية، عـبرية)). A small exchange in the letters’ order, a small difference at the letter level creates two different names. Despite the closeness between them, which is anchored in the names that are alike, the cultural exchange between the two languages continue to be restricted to very limited circles in the shadow of the tension and conflict between the two peoples of those two languages. It may be argued that access to each language remains blocked and is not accessible to large parts of those who speaks the other language, although the picture is not the same in the two cases and comprises differences, that are not to be addressed here nor to be analyzed in this context. In general, I would like to point out that the choice of “Polemos” to be a bilingual journal (Hebrew-Arabic) in the local context, is a significant political choice, and subscribes with the Lacanian politics whose paths are expected to be channeled in ways that contradict the discourse of segregation and national polarization, a discourse that acts to maintain and empower the distance and the alienation that exist between members of both groups and their positioning to the different other, and therefore to his language and discourse in the deepest sense of the word.
As a speaker of both languages, and as a member of the editorial board of “Polemos”, it was my task to edit the translations of texts from Hebrew to Arabic and sometimes from Arabic to Hebrew. I did some of the translations myself. Through editing and translation work I did, I encountered more than once difficult challenges. It contained elements of satisfaction and pleasure from the possibility of translating text from one language to another. Satisfaction from the very re-creation of the text, with your “own language”, which makes it despite being of another, a personal creation in a sense. Alongside this satisfaction, this work enabled me to encounter the impossible task of translation, which is an act of interpreting what the text is trying to convey. From analytical practice, we know that the act of interpretation always touches upon what is elusive and cannot be encircled or formulated, in fact, which evades the intent of the person who speaks or writes for our purposes, and therefore always involves the risk of misinterpretation. In addition to this, or in continuation, I will note that, as it is also for me, the translation process always meets with the gap that creates the signifiers discrepancies existing between the languages and the transition from one to the other, an irreducible gap, that cannot be bridged at times and which makes the work of translation impossible at some points. This is the same symbolic gap which Freud connects to the necessity of being “from the same village” for a joke to be successful or to reach the other. This element of discrepancy or difficulty of loyalty to the source in the translation work, is also addressed by the Italian quotation saying that the translator is a betrayer. George Tarabichi reminds us of this citation in his preface to the almost complete collection of the Freudian texts he translated to Arabic. He did the translation work relying on the French version of the writings, and relying on the same metaphor he refers to his translation work as a “double betrayal”; “Betrayal” that he was willing to take on, despite the risks involved in it of “distancing himself from the letter of the original text and his spirit,” and when he had no access to the original language of the text. Tarabichi justified his act by seeing great importance in the fact that Arab culture would also “spill from the spring” of the Freudian text, and that the alternative was that this culture would “remain detached from the great scientific conquest that Freudianism represented.”
In contrast to the judgment of the Italian metaphor, I would point out that for me a positive element was revealed especially in those areas of “betrayal” to the original text. Throughout the translation work I did, the encounter with those points of gap, lack of understanding, deliberation and difficulty with the translation, brought precious moments for me to read in depth and uniqueness of the original text. What is certain, is that these gaps were not a defect in any sense, but rather an element that fostered the reading of the text and the approach to it. My work in “Polemos” was, on my personal level, a point of interest and connection to the texts of colleagues from the community who took part in the writing task; Interest and connection that arose through the effort of interpreting, reading and trying to transfer their texts to another language.
In the local context “Polemos” offers a basis for a space that can be a place of connection and conversation, a space of contact and experience of encircling or embroidering around the gaps, the varieties and differences; or in another formulation relating the various manifestations of non-sexual relation within the local social and political context.
Message in a Bottle
For me, editing “Polemos in Israel – ZADIG” is an experience of an act, maybe a political-psychoanalytical act, independent of its addressee.
Often we engaged with the question of how to catch the attention of our potential readers, arouse their curiosity, and drive them to not only read “Polemos”, but also take an active part in it. However, most of the texts were written by the editors, with our desire, and it seemed that only a few colleagues were interested in our articles.
It was very difficult for me to continue and invest my energy and faith in a project that receives such little interest from his potential readers. But then, there was a moment when the other editors, my colleagues, who were part of the Lacanian psychoanalytical community for many years now, have told me: “We have to keep going with this project, we have to insist on its publication, in spite or because of its few readers.” Someone might even have said: “We have to keep putting our bets on it”, or at least this is how I heard it.
To speak out, to make your voice be heard, without being captured by the thought about the number of addresses, without being discouraged by the circumstances. That is almost like a bottle you throw to the sea. You send your message from an isolated island to the unknown space, wishing for just one single reader, knowing that somehow, a letter always arrives at its destination. For us, the isolated island is Israel 2019.