“What is the Burmese word for cockroach (kar-chwa)?”
Auntie Moe Moe interrogated in a mixture of Mandarin and Hokkien dialect. My brother glanced at me haplessly as I rummaged through the repository of my memory, biting my lips as my live-in domestic helper, nanny, and aunt tapped her feet impatiently.
There it was. “Po heart.”
The romanization under my childish scrawl appeared in my head, and I triumphantly recited the two syllables hiding beneath my tongue. READ MORE…
“For a long time, I went to bed early.”
With these words (in Lydia Davis’s translation), Marcel Proust began his exploration of memory and perception now known as In Search of Lost Time, formerly titled Remembrance of Things Past.
The two titles bookend a similar concept: was he actively seeking time that had somehow escaped, or was he more calmly remembering things that were simply no longer? Or was he splitting the difference: thinking his way out of the mirror dividing the two positions?
The past, it is said, is another country. Is translation, then, a form of time travel?