CHLORIS IN MORE VOICES

My third blog post for the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet is a continuation of the second: it thinks through Amelia Rosselli’s imagination of the nymph Chloris, and the ramifications of treating Chloris, represented by both Botticelli and Rosselli in choked polyphony, as a figure of translation.

“Translating, and retranslating, Rosselli’s late distressed pastoral over the years has led me to regard the Chloris figure as the chlorophyll of literature. And it’s led me to propose this image of forced inspiration as a figure for translation. Zephyr, appearing as half dead, blue-grey, can be compared with the translator: Zephyr forces breath, life into the textual matrix, the mold and vessel, again, reversing the clock, making Flora-as-Chloris look back once more in flight—but this act is a species of rape whose violence cannot be neutralized. There is “a vital connection” between an original text and its translation; Benjamin, in his still inspiring essay on “The Task of the Translator,” writes of a translation’s issuing from the afterlife of the original, ensuring its continued life. Yet there is a fundamental incommensurability between the parts in commerce, and often an injurious one. Chloris didn’t necessarily ask to be the bearer of a new world.” Read more here.

 

Detail of Chloris in Sandro Botticelli's La Primavera, Galleria degli Uffizi, tempera on panel, circa 1483

Detail of Chloris in Sandro Botticelli’s La Primavera, Galleria degli Uffizi, tempera on panel, circa 1483

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