The Magazine #3, 180128, Farès / Thompson

Peter Thompson

I doubt this press would exist– at least not in its current form– without the help and consultation of Peter Thompson, Professor of Romance Languages at Roger Williams University. It was out of conversations with Peter a decade or so ago that the Diálogos imprint was born, and he is my go-to, always, for advice on all matters concerning the art of translation and on what ought to be translated. So we’re happy to see him embarked on a new project and giving us an early preview.

Nabile Farès

What follows here is an excerpt from Peter’s in-progress annotated translation of The Olive Grove (Le Champ des oliviers)— the first novel in Nabile Farès’s trilogy La Découverte du nouveau mondeFarès (1940-2016) is Algerian-French (complete bio and other works here), and the experience of exile colors all his wildly various writings. He is poet and novelist and everything in between; his language can whirl in imagistic torrents, relax in lyrical simplicity, or engage philosophical discourse… sometimes all at once, as you will see below. 

If you like what you see, you can pick up copies of two other Farès titles, the novel Exile and Helplessness and the more recent poetry, Exile: Women’s Turn, on our site, today only, for half price. Today only, also, pick up any of Peter’s other translations and/or his own books, also half price.


From: The Olive Grove (Le Champ des oliviers), by Nabile Farès, translated by Peter Thompson

I. … 8:57 at night. February 8, 1971. Track 10. A train leaves Paris, headed for Barcelona. My garnet-colored suitcase (Brandy Fax speaking, also writing, reading, staring, living, weeping, longing, puking, also…) carries within it some red wool pants, a shirt, five pounds of oranges, a cartoon of cigarettes, briefs, a pair of shoes. A chunk of Paris, Three Books. One of these treats primitive societies. The suburban trains (Brandy Fax observing) (Brandy Fax is the name I’ve given myself in order to fully sketch out (me, a primitive from the Old World) the framed panorama of Westernness: that edge between two worlds) sport strange, glowing signals as, switching tracks, they branch off from the Main Lines and veer toward the tenements you see (Brandy Fax here) all lighted up like radios. His right hand (Brandy Fax is writing this) rests on the cover of a paperback. Entitled The Steppes. Followed by other accounts. He gazes through windows above the tracks (Brandy Fax doing the looking) and his image trembles, his forehead furrowed like autumn land waiting to be plowed. He’s not on the platform. But on the train, on a train that doubles his body with a rail reality, a real reality. He’s alone. The compartment is Deluxe Second Class. Where he can read or write under a white fluorescent light. The SNCF blankets are merely part of a universe run through with power lines that bring the night right up to you eye. The impossible winter nights are beginning their hellish rounds (Brandy Fax thinks about the two freezing months he’s just spent in Paris with the most astounding person it had ever been his fate to encounter) while the SNCF conductors fret over this passenger who fills a solitary compartment with pen, notebook, volume. “Yes.” “That will take you a while?” is asked. Who’s asking? Who asks? “A while of what?” One could say? A long time of what? Of launching words into the air? (Brandy Fax’s own culture is one of orality.) But he says. Brandy Fax. He says. To keep on being what in fact he is. He says. “No, I don’t have much more to do. An hour or two. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll stay all night. My night.” “OK. OK. We’ll decide later. You have a berth?” “Yes. And more… my couchette is number 45.” The conductors leave. Night waxes around the train while the billboards retreat from the tracks, toward the roads, lobbing flashes (sharp) of white light across my eyes. This is his third trip to Barcelona and he, Brandy Fax the Fifth ( ) ( ) has put aside what he wanted to write about one of the most central figures North Africa had ever known. The O… A doubt persists. This dissertation on the meaning of a rare Ogress, little known in Europe, will never get anywhere (where) (see the light of day) (night) (perhaps not) (?) (Who knows?) Obsession? The slow task of remorse, as the poet said (You’ll devote the bulk of your time to obsession) Obsession! The quality of the works that arise from it. May obsession go fuck itself along with all its creations. “That’ll take you a while?” I’ve seen it all. An hour or two. I’ve seen it all. And I’m leaving. Me. Brandy Fax ( ) ( ) For Barcelona. As I’m leaving I think “I must have been a victim (I am a victim) of a global thought. Not mine. But one belonging to everyone else. Everyone who wanted to keep me under the ground. Down in the barely-reachable loci of mystery. (rarely visited). (of mystery) The mystery of my eloquence. This eloquence that has (already) run me through a good many wars.” Yes. Who can speak about an Ogress without having one. On top of the ability (that faculty!) to avoid the all-consuming work on the Ogress. Certain artistic gifts. Utterly artistic. Scientific, even. Because I’m a scientist. Me. Brandy Fax ( ) ( ). I’m sewn together from all the cloaks of science, scientificness. And the audience was huge. Hardly smaller than a movie’s. They wanted the movie version. Probably. Thought they were going to see a movie. I stepped forth. But not at all as they had wished. And such is, was, the Truth the Irony of this question “What do I signify? Me? The Ogress of Obscure Name…” since I’ve spoken of a being whose reality everyone knows or suspects and yet who doesn’t exist. Enigma! Yes. Enigma. The Ogress doesn’t exist. She doesn’t exist. “Like a railroad A house A tree Power lines A traveler A fluorescent light A tangerine A cigarette A cigarette butt A glance A star A thought A book A conductor An Austerlitz Station A month A day A February An omelet A winter Paris A nice hot shower Peanuts A typewriter A night of love A doctorate A backyard A Monsieur-le-Prince Street A Metro ticket A bus An espresso A few bad days A meal at Claude’s A brawl Private lessons An OK Bar A pimp’s life Pastis drinks Pastis drinks triple strength Brown hands Potatoes Ragouts Potato ragouts A manuscript A railroad crossing” Yes. The Ogress exists.

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