The Uncanny Pleasures of Autotranslation


  • Dominique Hecq



Autotranslation, subjectivity, affect


If, as Walter Benjamin suggests, a translation must 'lovingly and in detail incorporate the original's mode of signification', translating is an act of creation predicated upon transference – a rewriting that entails a relationship with the other. This is in accordance with Benjamin's proposition that the translator must allow her language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. But what if the foreign tongue is one’s mother tongue? This performative paper explores what is at stake in the act of autotranslation when a writer returns to her mother tongue. I will use my own practice to identify what is recovered in this act, namely, a voice, a word, a letter threaded through the fabric of language. I ask why this act produces a linguistic and subjective destabilisation that opens up translinguistic play and suggest that autotranslation consists of a creation in each language with its own interferences, rhythms and affects. Though the theoretical frame of my investigation touches upon linguistic and translation studies, this paper is essentially underpinned by psychoanalytic concepts and concerns itself with experiential knowledge.

Author Biography

Dominique Hecq

Dominique Hecq grew up in the French-speaking part of Belgium. She now lives in Melbourne. With a BA in Germanic Philology, an MA in literary translation, and a PhD in English, Hecq writes across genres and disciplines—and sometimes across tongues. Her creative works include a novel, three collections of stories, and nine volumes of poetry. Among other honours such as the Melbourne Fringe Festival Award for Outstanding Writing and Spoken Word Performance, the Woorilla Prize for Fiction, the Martha Richardson Medal for Poetry, the New England Poetry Prize, and the inaugural AALITRA Prize for Literary Translation (Spanish to English), Dominique Hecq is a recipient of the 2018 International Best Poets Prize administered by the International Poetry Translation and Research Centre in conjunction with the International Academy of Arts and Letters.