8:56 a.m. - August 29, 2004
The phone has been ringing more often than usual and I wonder who calls. Joel left a message - I think we speak together via messages more often than having a direct connection - but others haven't. A Saturday night alone felt good, as though I had made the effort to ensure solitude instead of solitude by default. Spent the night reading Anna Karenina and recalling the days I studied Russian when I went to school in Albuquerque (why, why didn't I take Navajo? Stupid, stupid Jason). I made flashcards with medical terminology in Russian, to double-test myself. The days of preparing for medical school were a long time ago, and I don't remember too much Russian aside from the alphabet and select phrases. The translation of Anna Karenina is stunning because it captures particular rhythms that aren't quite English which I hope reflect elements from the Russian. That reminds me of the Mbia play I translated from French into English, the one I did for part of my honors project. Trois pretendants, un mari by Ferdinand Mbia-Oyono, translated into English. What a hellish project, translation of the corpus into English and then writing the analysis in French, and having to produce another translation of the analysis in English because Gallagher couldn't read the French well enough. What's this memory lane jaunt for? Translation, African studies, postcolonial literary theory - all of this was a long time ago. I think I was showing off in a way; I liked being ranked first in the program and having a certain status in the English department, collaborating closely with professors because what I was doing was unique at the time. Postcolonialism has become passe in many ways, another one of the numerous theories du jour that waft through academia, but in the early 90s it was hot stuff and I was in the thick of it.
Ngugi wa Thiong'o came to school and I stunned him when I greeted him in Swahili, and later Jacqui and I were invited to go to dinner with him, and I invited Gallagher to join. Ha. That makes me laugh, recalling how nervous I was that my accent wouldn't be right, that I'd mispronounce something and look a fool. How fun to discuss African literature and the disconnect of indigenous culture via the translated word, often the word of the cultural and linguistic oppressor doubling the disconnect between the authentic and the representational, so was there an actual African anything at all? Seems so trivial but we maintained that correspondance and I guess that's how I got into Berkeley - a letter (note, really) from Ngugi ha/s/d pull, eh? Those were the days when I believed I was cut out to do something, go somewhere, isolate myself in a cramped garret office with dusty books and advise students, teach courses in literature, urge students to read texts not normally anthologized not simply for academic exercises or decanonizing the canon, but just to read beyond the syllabus. Nothing infuriate/d/s me more than an English major who only reads what s/he was directed to read, something I still don't understand when I meet former or current English majors who don't read voraciously.
What the hell am I talking about?
I miss Stanford. Even though it killed me, at least I belonged somewhere, had a place and a purpose. Right now the compass dial spins in circles and I've yet to find my bearings. When I am comfortable with that, then there will be a door handle leading somewhere. I hope.