The Task of the Translator
Take a book and write all over it—put things in the pages—fill it with fragments of your time spent reading—make it into a new object, no longer just another copy. A “prepared book.” Like John Cage’s “prepared pianos,” prepared books are unique instruments for creative practice; not simply works of sculpture or collage, they are starting points for experiments in performance.
Nick of Time, by M.T.C. Shafer, is one such preparation of Anne Carson’s Antigonick, a translation of Sophocles’ Antigone that itself explores the fractures of fiction. In our current moment of heightened moral contestation of political and legal structures, the story of Antigone has renewed relevance for considering the competing demands of state and self; Carson’s adaptation—which blurs history and myth, fact and fiction—even more so.
Our work manifests in textual object and a performance of the book’s preface, “The Task of the Translator of Antigone.” In this dense reading—layered with notes, memories, and thoughts—the performers (channeling Shafer, Carson, Sophocles, and Antigone herself) also translate and recreate. They both reinforce and invert traditional hierarchies of interpretation and citation, and explore the role of subjectivity and memory in encounters with purportedly objective information.