Nathanaël is the recipient of a 2012 PEN Translation Fund fellowship for hertranslation of Hervé Guibert’s journals, The Mausoleum of Lovers. Below she discusses Guibert’s life and her relationship to the work as a translator.
At the most instinctual and intimate level, the work of Hervé Guibert arrived as a sort of catastrophe—a coup de théâtre, to borrow from Guibert’s lexicon—with the translation of Catherine Mavrikakis’ A Cannibal and Melancholy Mourning (2004), in which the narrator’s friends are all, for the most part, dying of AIDS, and all of her dying friends are called Hervé. This refusal of the reduction of the body to a statistical unreality, stripped of its viscera, first forced me into the work of Hervé Guibert. It was this catastrophe or turnwhich led me to read him, first in the service of the Mavrikakis text, and later in the service of my own need, as both writer and translator. If translation is a form of desire intercut with grief and with grievance, then this text, Le mausolée des amants, makes every essential demand upon me; the sensual exigencies, and cruel untempered forms of address in this epistolary work—foremost an open letter addressed to Guibert’s lover, T., in which the entries are (we are to believe), chronological, and undated, forming a sort of novelavant la lettre— mark the rest of us as gilt intruders upon the romance, reinforcing a de facto relationship of exiguity to language, to textual indecency.
These selfish reasons of unmitigated textual pleasure and the desire for transmittal are coupled with other considerations as well. In the strictest bibliographic sense, the translation of Le mausolée des amants, one of Guibert’s most esteemed works, will redress a flagrant omission in the corpus of Guibert’s spottily available work in English. In addition, I am hoping that the publication of The Mausoleum of Lovers alongside other works by Guibert such as Ghost Image (out of print for too long now), will contribute to enlarging conversations among anglophone readers and thinkers around photography, and perhaps correct the tendency toward too great a reliance on Barthes as the sovereign thinker of this art form.