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Cross-pollination
 
Gioia Costa is Valère Novarina's Italian translator. She shares some thoughts about her own work, taking the specificity of Novarina's writing as the starting point.


Playwright Valère Novarina's singularity comes from his use of a new relationship between actor and stage. His plays preclude taking an ordinary approach to a text, and an actor must proceed differently before trying out his voice and body on a form of speech that is resistant to words.
Rather than staging situations or recounting events in his plays, he uses words to bring out the sounds inherent in the actors' bodies. That is the great innovation in his writing. His plays are not about characters. Instead, they feature idioms with words made of flesh, meaning the characters' flesh is made up of words that construct and take apart the world by naming it. Rhythm plays a central part in the play, even down to the page layout with its echoing words that draw our attention "outside the box" through an oral trajectory of inspirations, pauses and intertwined movement.
By using the page as a kind of stage made of words, he succeeds in regenerating language. In grafting the power of sound back into words, Novarina gets back to their primal root. The words handled in this way reappear with a more urgent meaning obtained by digging down and going deeply into a style of writing that never deviates from its divinatory source nor from its rhythmic logic.
The determining role of rhythm can be seen very clearly in the play L'Opérette imaginaire, in which the songs are energy clusters. They cannot be removed from the context, as they are the backbone of the play, providing it with flexibility and movement. Yet they also enable the play to stand upright. They are used as punctuation, clearing up the page and the stage, and creating the movement, pace and gait of the situation.
When you choose to enter Valère Novarina's dark, uninhabited world full of images, you come to realise how his plays grow out of the depths of the French language, which he ceaselessly confronts in an attempt to bring out its original purity.
In order to do justice to this confrontation in Italian, one must listen to the words and find the numerous ramifications between French and Italian, which are based on very old rules of language. Only then can the old root common to the two languages reappear, suggesting an unknown movement. But sometimes an image resists being tamely transferred into the other language, for words are not always prepared to swap referential worlds and may take on another appearance after their voyage. To get beyond the problem of literal faithfulness to the text, the accent must be shifted onto its "body" in trying to bring out in the translation the movement that was present in the original; for the movement in a language is inherent in its "body", or its most deeply hidden nature. Translation is enriched when it succeeds in finding equivalents that may not erase the verbal flesh of the original, nor its rhythmic and cultural roots - the echoes and blanks that constitute the text.
Valère Novarina's writing presents a variety of challenges in going from one language to another. In translating his essays (Le Théâtre des paroles and Devant la parole), the challenge was to transfer the writing style into Italian, making it possible to grasp the ancient linguistic knowledge that Novarina refers to and develops under particular lexical and stylistic disguises (by creating words, bringing out forgotten etymological roots, and combining rhythms and sounds).
For his plays (L'Espace furieux and L'Atelier volant), the difference in sounds between the two languages gives rise to the main translation challenge. The same scansion had to be created in Italian, as well as the same memories that were in the original, in order to bring out its essence. For example, the prayer in L'Espace furieux had to sound like an Italian prayer; thus "Notre crâne qui est en nous" became "Cranio nostro che sei in noi".
Likewise, when Novarina invents a word (which is never a play on words), a hidden etymology emerges. Creating words is a way of stripping the language of the poverty of communication in order to restore its prophetic power. Rhythm springs from this, dropping a word into a particular place in a phrase and thus generating movement in the entire page. Waves from one word set up a vibration, calling forth other words. They combine mysteriously and reveal a spoken body that invites silence and contemplation.
The precision of his form of writing has made Valère Novarina a reference in contemporary writing. In his plays he constructs a world in which words are the basis for stage development, and the different moments are like clusters around which the performance is built. His plays do not follow chronological or dramatic rules, nor do they delve into the dangerous waters of psychologism or naturalism. Rather, he creates a balance based on an oral distribution of weight. When he writes as a critic, however, he allows himself to get carried away, to suddenly go into a rage or become quite sweet; and his way of examining a worldview suggested by a Piero della Francesca painting, or of grasping the emptiness brought out in a Nô play, comes from a vision that belongs to him so completely that it is unparalleled. It is through his writing as a critic that he reveals himself and gets closer to the reader. Usually critical writing requires a certain distance, whereas playwriting is supposed to be freer. Through this process of reversal one can reinterpret all of his work as a need to create a new language, which can be followed from close up or from far away, through either his passion or his precision.

Gioia Costa