Prelude 2

Translating the color of the subject
Dominique Marin 

In 1973 Lacan asserted that the analytic interpretation invented by Freud pertains to «the order of translation», which always causes a loss, and added: «well, what this is about is in fact that we lose it; we touch, don’t we?, that this loss is the real itself of the unconscious.»1 This loss is real, it comes from the sexual relationship that is impossible to write, and it emerges at the end of the treatment as what I call the untranslated leftover. It happens that this residue of interpretation is approached quite closely in the procedure of the passe.

 As Elisabete Thamer reminded us in her presentation, the cartels of the passeare meant to be resolutely multilingual.This dimension seems to me all the more valuable because it allows us to break away from a movement emerging in our time. The case of the poet Amanda Gorman, which occurred in spite of herself, concerning her poem The Hill We Climb, written for the inauguration of President Joe Biden, is instructive. Since Gorman wears a skin colour called black, some demand that she be translated by a poet of the same colour. We know the logic behind these demands for social recognition. The analyst is not there to judge social phenomena but to try to interpret them. Poets are not sheltered from the identity prisons of the imaginary. Does this mean that a poet can be properly translated only by another poet of the same colour? And should this colour be limited to the colour of the skin or should it also concern gender, knowing that «there can be a woman the colour of a man, or a man the colour of a woman»2 ; and, why don’t make it also a question of generation, or even of geography? In this logic, which is purely identity-based, a poet can only be translated by a fellow human being of the same skin colour, the same gender, the same generation, the same country. Only he could finally be allowed to translate himself.

If our School, which means each analyst in their practice, is oriented, it is indeed by the real of the non-existence of the sexual relationshipto which the object a, precisely defined by Lacan as «loss in identity»3. Our School cannot go in the direction of the segregationist and identity-based mainstream of our time, because the analyst knows Lacan’s recommendations on what he should know: « where his time takes him in the continuing work of Babel, and he knows his function as interpreter in the discord of languages.»4 The discord of languages has nothing to do with national languages because it lies at the heart of every speaking being. The analysand, necessarily in search of himself in his cure, stumbles upon these fragments of nonsense language that the inner discourse of his unconscious thoughts harbours in his depths.

The cure, like the international system of the passe, works against any inter-self by taking into account the not-all [pastout] translatable colour of the speaking being. The «being of the colour»5 of sex does not say much about the subject, Lacan reminds us. The French poet and essayist Yves Bonnefoy wondered how to translate, poetically, the red colour of a particular ephemeral flower using the word red, which expresses the eternal concept of a colour.


1 [literally translated]. « eh bien ce dont il s’agit, c’est en effet, que l’on perde ; on touche, n’est-ce pas, que cette perte c’est le réel lui-même de l’inconscient. »  J. Lacan, interview sur France Culture en juillet 1973, à l’occasion du 28èmeCongrès international de la psychanalyse, à Paris et publié par Le Coq-Héron, n. 46-47, Paris, 1974, version du site de Patrick Valas.
2 [literally translated] « qu’il peut y avoir une femme couleur d’homme, ou homme couleur de femme», J. Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XXIII, Le sinthome, Paris, Seuil, 2005, p. 116.
3 [literally translated] « perte dans l’identité», J. Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XVI, D’un Autre à l’autre, Paris, Seuil, 2006, p. 21. 
4 [literally translated] « où son époque l’entraîne dans l’œuvre continuée de Babel, et qu’il sache sa fonction d’interprète dans la discorde des langages.», J. Lacan, « Fonction et champ de la parole et du langage », Écrits, Paris, Seuil, 1966, p. 321.
5 [literally translated] « L’être de la couleur»,  J. Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XXIII, Le Sinthomeop. cit., p. 116.