By Carla Nappi
Last time we met, we talked about the importance of recipes for situating bodies and their possibilities in time, and we looked at the ways in which if did this kind of work. Today, we’re going to maintain that temporal focus but turn our attention to another time-making technology: after.
After is the friend (or enemy) of all storytellers and crafters of narrative. When we read, we read in time. Even the most self-consciously non-linear and a-chronological of narratives is ultimately constrained by the experience of the reader who reads one word (or line, or page, or chapter) and then reads another, and then another, and so on. This comes after that. Unless you’re Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen, it’s probably going to be the case that you feel time (and thus narratives in time) as a succession of experiences or events. Here is where after comes in: it describes and enacts this aspect of temporal experience.
In the context of a recipe, after is crucial: it orders our practices and physical actions in time. Thanks to after, a recipe becomes an architecture of activity, a way to choreograph time and sequentially relate bodies together. The use of a recipe becomes a kind of dance or ritual practice: directions dictate the movements of a body, the creation and consumption of substances, the intermingling of materials in time and space.
After takes us out of the simultaneous, creates the possibility of cause and effect. And the realm of cause and effect is precisely the realm of a recipe. Here, the flavor of after takes on a very particular cast: it’s not this comes after that and that’s that, but instead this comes after that and you need to pay attention to the ordering here because there are consequences, there are reasons for and outcomes that result from this particular ordering. By doing this, you lay the groundwork for that: part of the nature of this depends on that happening first. In this way, after becomes a technology for making this and that.
In a very fundamental way, after is vital to the existence of the recipe we’ve been translating and the larger group that it’s part of: here we have a recipe for a drug that is indicated in cases of poisoning. The act of poisoning (or rather, of being poisoned) is the kind of critical event that generates a before and an after: in other words, it creates after. Once that happens, the recipe moves into action. Though the prescribed practices that follow the recipe aren’t critical events in the same way, they still mark paths in time, and thus mark possible ways of being after.
With that in mind, since we’re in the business – here in this “Translating Recipes” series – of considering the creative possibilities of translation by creating multiple translations of our handful of Manchu medical recipes: what would a translation that emerged from and in the spirit of after look like? You’ll find it in the next post in this series. Stay tuned, and I’ll see you soon!