The talks gathered in Asclepias: The Milkweeds are all concerned with discrepancy and extinction. Polylingual and transdisciplinary, each essay addresses translation as a form of disagreement and photography as its mis-fitting corollary. Calling up an indiscriminate range of thinkers and artists--philosophers, composers, photographers, filmmakers, poets--including Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Derrida, Dmitri Shostakovich, Galina Ustvolskaya, Sergio Larrain, Gunther Anders, Alejandra Pizarnik, Antonin Artaud, and Friedrich Holderlin, among many others, the resultant montage repeatedly abandons the reader to an empty, incriminating, theatre.
Slim and strangely musical, this collection of lyric essays by prolific writer Nathanael (Sisyphus, Outdone) serves as a sustained investigation of translation, photography, death, divergence, and intimacy, among other subjects. Nathanael's work is the kind of embodied philosophy in which the multiple valences and intricate meanings within each sentence will give readers pause, yet her intriguing insights will pull ambitious readers forward. There are short lines of theory so sharp as to make the recurrent topics of photography and translation seem new--"With its vital concern for proximate agonies, translation owes something crucial to vigilation for its protean form." There are also long bits in which the promiscuity of Nathanael's thinking will incite a thrill, as when French artist Claude Cahun's double-exposed photograph of herself leads to "an unusual architecture of bodies, a questionable landscape from which to think queerly about translation." Similarly, a comparison of French and German, the concept of hermaphroditism, the geographies of a body, and the value of the unintelligible all play roles within a few quick pages. This collection does not accept the limits of academic disciplines, but instead gifts to the reader Nathanael's idiosyncratic mind. Its consideration of translation as "a poetics of equivocation rather than equivalency," is an important contribution to Nathanael's substantive body of work.