St Jerome on Translation as Hostage-Taking

There are probably as many strategies of translation as there are well-wrought translations, but there are grosso modo two principles to choose. The first is to reflect as transparently as possible the content of the original text, expunging any trace of alterity or otherness, so as to convey with minimal interference its unadorned or naked substance. Ironically, this known as the path of « la belle infidélité » [beautiful disloyalty]. The reader is left comfortable, untroubled, firm in the belief that a window has opened into another world which might be his or her own.

Jerome, the patron Saint of translation, had a rather military view of this first strategy, one betraying the imperial Roman culture he inherited. « The translator, » he wrote, « considers thought content a prisoner [quasi captivos sensus], which he transplants into his own language with the prerogative of a conqueror [iure victoris]. » [1]

There is indeed something appropriate in Jerome’s simile to this translation of two novels (Mourir pour Haïti and Les Vèvès du créateur) by the Haitian writer Roger Dorsinville. By all evidence, Dorsinville came to think of himself and his compatriots as captive to an alien power, that of « Papa Doc » Duvalier, and was poignantly aware of how he had, for a short while, been the conqueror’s unwitting translator.

George Lang, The Rule of François Duvalier in Two Novels by Roger Dorsinville


Music as Earworms

I always have experience music as earworms. It follows that my playing a classical guitar is really more a neuro-physiological activity than an appropriation of pure sound.

Readings on Black Literature

Following up on the BLM moment, I read in and around the topic, starting with  Jeffery Stewart’s The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Paul Beatty’s Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor and his novel The Sellout.


Likewise, Black US literature is US literature and has followed a course roughly analogous to “mainstream” US literature. From the 20th century on entire literary culture has evolved  from aspiring modernism to a state of facile identitarian subjectivism..


George Schuyler’s 1929 Racial Inter-Marriage in the United States, called for solving the US race problem through interracial marriage, then known by the odious term of “miscegenation”, which was illegal in many states until a 1967 SCOTUS decision


In The Walls of Jericho, the first novel by Rudolph Fisher, the lawyer Ralph Merritt buys a house in a white neighborhood bordering Harlem. In their reactions to Merritt and to one another, Fisher’s characters—including the prejudiced Miss Cramp, who “takes on causes the way sticky tape picks up lint.”

In 1929, Schuyler’s pamphlet Racial Inter-Marriage in the United States called for solving the country’s race problem through miscegenation, which was then illegal in most states.

He also published the highly controversial book Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia, a novel about the slave trade created by former American slaves who settled Liberia in the 1820s.

In early 2020, The New Group (

announced it was developing a musical adaptation of Black No More directed by Scott Elliott with a book by John Ridley and choreography by Bill T. Jones. Rapper Black Thought is contributing music and lyrics and will appear in the production, originally scheduled to premiere in October 2020.

John McWhorter’s old piece on reparations: