Mar 24, 09
Read in March, 2009
If you’ve seen Satyajit Ray’s great Shatranj Ki Khiladi (The Chess Players), you’ll remember how chess works as a metaphor for Britain’s imperial encroachments upon the Indian kingdom of Oudh. At the same time, the game becomes an image of cultural exchange, having originated in India (or was it Persia?) and returned in a speedier British version to its first home.
In chaturangik/SQUARES, poets Pat Clifford and Aryanil Mukherjee set Ray’s image to work to probe the collaborative but also inherently conflictual nature of translation. Each page contains nine squares in a chessboard pattern, with Bengali and English appearing in different, and gradually shifting, boxes on the grid. The layout reflects the unusual “real time” nature of the poets’ collaboration, the Bengali lines often written as response to the English, then the English translated into Bengali, and the Bengali into English—not unlike the migrations of chess itself, and the complex moves and counter-moves the game allows.
“Conduct of this sort makes a mess,” but look “how they have disabled rivalry,” finding an intricately abstract poetry by “timing the small varieties of/ ‘resistance’ onto the/connected tone of ideas.” A winning instance of two languages keeping company outside the usual rules.