Another presence at BAF 6(coming up on the 25th of February) will be Nick Davies/Nik DavEz’s translation of Roland Barthes’ book The Pleasure of the Text into the language of text messages and internet instant messenger services. Davies used the database at transl8it.com for some of the text, while other parts were done “manually”, such as the more academic terms, which were then added to the transl8it database for the benefit of future users.
Davies references the slang used in A Clockwork Orange as an example of language acting as the site of conflict between the values of one generation and the next. Even the title draws attention to this – the double meaning of the word “text” makes it an essential part of the academic’s vocabulary as well as the tech-savvy 21st century teen, as both a noun and now a verb. Davies is humorous as well as conceptual as he forces supposedly disparate parts of culture to speak each others’ language.
In the likes of A Clockwork Orange and Finnegan’s Wake, deviation from the English language as we know it and the constant generation of new words makes us work harder during the act of reading: here Davies’ translation forces readers to become translators themselves. On a purely aesthetic level the pages look completely unlike regular English: words are jagged and choppy and the use of capital letters and numbers pull our attention all over the page. Does Davies distil the ideas behind the text and create a more efficient way of writing, or is the result more distracting, flamboyant and decorative than what we’re used to?