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
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
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