Forgetter

baldio Translation Group Session 2: in which I am given "esquecer-forget" as material to work with

For those not acquainted with the baldio translation group, this is an informal group composed of (variably) something between 5 and 10 people at any given time, with (predominantly) arts and humanities-related backgrounds, who occasionally meet to discuss issues related to translation, in the widest possible sense of the word.

We have an ongoing game in which we offer each other words to work with, to translate, as it were, in whatever way we choose. One word per person, one word at a time. Each of us ruminates for a while on their word, and then we meet and present the group with our conclusions, ramblings, games and evidence of procrastination.

The second session of this working/playing translation group happened in Lisbon on the 17th of March. I had been previously charged with the Portuguese word “esquecer”, which translates as “forget”, with the suggestion that I should explore both “esquecer” and “forget”, the Portuguese and the English. Two words with, as I found out by briefly researching their etymology, very similar meanings: both originally meant something like “to drop” or “lose” something. Then I was utterly distracted by two synonyms, the English “obliviate” and the Portuguese “olvidar”, which turned out to have a common Latin root meaning “to wipe over” or “smooth” something.

The idea of there being two distinct procedures through which forgetting can be accomplished made me want to enact them, to reproduce the effects of forgetting and obliviating on written text. I then wrote this small javascript program which takes a text input and ouputs the same text, minus a few of its words. Words can be either dropped, so they disappear completely, or erased, which means all their component letters are substituted by blank spaces. I then ran the notes I had gathered on esquecer/forgetting through this program a few times, printing out a bunch of different versions of the text. These were presented to the group so that they could collaboratively reconstitute the original text from the differently forgetterized versions.

Feel free to play with the program here.