Lost in Translation
Yael Pilowsky Bankirer
In her book Lost in Translation, Eva Hoffman describes a childhood game that encapsulates something about what is encrypted underneath the overt content of any translation. ‘I want to tell a story, every story, everything all at once’, she writes, ‘not anything in particular that might be said through the words I know, and I try to roll all sounds into one, to accumulate more and more syllables, as if they might make a Mobius strip of language in which everything, everything is contained’ (Hoffman, 1989: 11).
The inherent impossibility to contain it all within language, as so beautifully described by Eva Hoffman, became apparent to me during the last few years in which, after moving to England, the linguistic matrix of my life turned into a mosaic amalgamation of both Hebrew and English. Although born into a Hebrew-mother-tongue, in the last few years, personally and professionally, I drift in-between the two languages never to reach the safety of shore. In what way has my analytic work changed with this transition? I will explore in this paper my movements within the ‘Mobius strip of language’, to quote Eva Hoffman, during these last few years. I would like to ask: how did my continual movement between the two different languages alter my listening and my position as a therapist? In what way has the ongoing trans-passing between Hebrew and English shifted my relation to psychoanalysis, as a form of therapy that is committed to the ongoing translation of unconscious murmurs? Touching on different theoretical threads, and exploring linguistic echoes of various meanings in-between languages, I will attempt to give an account of the intricacies of this transition in my clinical work, this ongoing translation, that was revealed to be, paradoxically, both ungrounding and fruitful.