Translating Recipes 9: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 3 – IF

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, see here and here!)

One of the most important aspects of a recipe is the work that it does to situate bodies and their possibilities in time. One possible way for this to happen is by opening up pathways for the possible. If X happens, then Y. If A happens, then B. If you don’t see improvement, if a patient’s body is too far gone, if the treatment doesn’t work: if, if, if. If is the engine of the imaginable, the machine that generates multiple futures, the opener of windows. If reminds us that we are entities in time, and that time creates divergences and multiplicities.

Manchu recipes were full of ifs. Like other medicinal recipes, there was no guarantee that any of the cures transcribed within the Si yang-ni okto-i bithe would work for any individual patient. Instead, the recipes were instruments: users were invited to consider them, to try them, to try again, to find what worked for themselves, if they found the ingredients difficult to obtain, if the recipe wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. The authors assured their readers of the efficacy of individual recipes by claiming that a remedy had been shown to work in some circumstances – if a person had been stung by a venomous creature, for example, or if a woman were pregnant. If created a space, here, that integrated repetition and multiplicity into the process of using a recipe. If transformed failure into opportunity: if drinking a potion didn’t work, try rubbing it on the skin. If that didn’t work, try it again. If THAT didn’t work… well, ultimately the blame could be laid on time having run out before the ifs were exhausted. A recipe was essentially a collection of ifs, always opening out into the possibility, when all ifs in one recipe were exhausted, of moving on to another.

In this way, if was a kind of when: it located and moved bodies in time. The body to be treated by a recipe was a body that extended into the future and related back to the past in very particular ways, marked by the memory of a wound or poisoning, anticipating a reaction to a medicinal drug. Translators working to render a hybrid collection of materials, names, objects, illnesses, and rules into the medium of Manchu documentary language were rendering not just terminology, then, but also were negotiating ways of being in time. How does one translate if? In doing so, is a translator helping to create ways of being-in-time for a reader? If so, are translated recipes tools of time-travel?

In the Englishing of the Manchu recipe provided below, I’ve emphasized some of the different sorts of if-ness that shape the recipe in an effort to show how important this kind of relationship is to the text. As we saw with with in the previous post, there are also implied moments of if-ness that I haven’t called attention to. And with that, here is the if translation of our ongoing series of translations of this Manchu recipe. Follow the links, which will take you off the page!

IF a person has just been poisoned use this recipe. IF not, go here.

Translating Recipes 8: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 2 – WITH

By Carla Nappi

This is the second post in a multi-part mini-series on Recipes in Time and Space. For previous installments in this mini-series, see here.

One of the most important aspects of a recipe is the work that it does to bring elements together. This can happen in many different ways. A recipe combines ingredients and objects, it combines bodies (human with nonhuman, living with inert, sick with healthy), and it combines directions and rules of practice, among many other kinds of combination that a recipe enacts.

Manchu medical recipes, specifically, combine much more than that. As we’ve seen, these texts function as translations that bring together object, terms, and bodily conceptions from several textual and medical cultures that don’t otherwise have the chance to meet and inform one another. Each Manchu medical recipe in our Si yang-ni okto-i bithe (Ch. Xiyang yaoshu 西洋藥書) [Handbook of Western Drugs] also functions in conversation with other recipes included in the text, and these recipes often reference one another in a wonderful inter-textual tapestry. In many ways, “with” – effecting combination, juxtaposition, conversation – is one of the key attitudes animating a Manchu medical recipe.

Future posts in this mini-series will consider the same recipe by zooming in on other attitudes (on, inside, etc.) to explore the ways that temporal and spatial orientations shape the kind of work that the recipe does to create relationships in the embodied world. We will conclude with a post that zooms back out to consider how these re-orientations can collectively help us read and experience medical recipes in general (and Manchu recipes in particular) in a new way, and ultimately generate new kinds of story-translations from them.

With that in mind, let’s return to the recipe that we’ve been variously translating over the course of this series and re-encounter and re-translate it in the spirit of celebrating the way that the recipe situates bodies in time and space in a “with” kind of a way. (You can find alternate translations of the same recipe from previous installments of Translating Recipes here and here.) This is appropriate to the nature of the recipe, which is (as you’ll recall) a remedy for poison. A poisoning, after all, is a relationship, and thus an event of with-ness: it is a meeting of substances and bodies whose coming-together creates an emergency. We might consider this a circumstance of being “with poison,” analogous to (and perhaps the inverse of) the way we describe pregnancy as being “with child”: in both cases, one body occupies another and transforms it. Both result from a with-ing of a body. Translation, like poisoning, accomplishes a roughly equivalent kind of work: the translators of a text, by joining with it, create an emergency that transform it into something new.

In the Englishing of the Manchu recipe provided below, I’ve emphasized some of the different sorts of combination, juxtaposition, and with-ness that animate the recipe in an effort to show how important this kind of relationship is to the work that the recipe does. There are also implied moments of with-ness that I haven’t called attention to, but that this re-orientation will hopefully help us be more sensitive to even when it’s not explicitly marked.

The Manchu text:

emu hacin. niyalma ehe horon bisire jaka de oktolobuci.  neneme ehe horon be geterembure ufa  okto be [gvsici fangdz de bi..] fangdz songkoi omifi. oksibufi. sirame ere nimenggi be guwejihe teisu bade ulenggu de iju.. aikabade jeke omiha  ehe horon umesi amba ofi. dolo wajime fathaxame gvwaliyaxame bucere de isiname ujen oci. ere  nimenggi okto be tofohon sabdan ci wesihun orin sabdan ci fusihvn gaifi. eici yali bujuha tarhv sile de. eici sun nimenggi suwaliyaha sun de suwaliyafi omi.. guwejihe teisu bade ulenggu de. ere nimenggi be juwe erin ome emgeri dasame ijume. jai inenggi geli juwe mudan iju.. aikabade ehe horon kemuni majige getereke akv oci. ere nimenggi okto be geli emu udu sabdan gaifi fangdz songkoi omifi fangdz songkoi ijuci sain..

The translation, in the spirit of “With”:

Here is a medicinal oil that will help a body part ways WITH the poison inside it. This should be used if a person is WITH poison. Before being WITHOUT the poison, after taking a flour-based drug that will interact WITH the one being prescribed here [and one which is found in the thirtieth prescription that is collected WITH this one in this text] in accordance WITH the prescription, and after that drug causes the poison to be vomited up and thus no longer WITH the body, spread this oil on the navel part of the stomach so that it interacts WITH the skin. If the poisoned person has consumed a lot of the poison such that it’s wreaking havoc WITH the body and the condition has become very serious WITH respect to what it had been earlier, combine 15-20 drops of the oil WITH either the fatty broth produced WITH boiled meat or butter combined WITH milk, and then drink the oil WITH the liquid. Having smeared this oil on the navel part of the stomach (blending oil WITH skin again) after waiting for one erin period WITH an additional erin period, the following day spread the oil two more times. If this has still not succeeded in removing all of the poison, take one or more drops of this medicinal oil and smear it on (blending oil WITH skin again) in accordance WITH the prescription. Good health will then be WITH you.

Translating Recipes 7: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 1

By Carla Nappi

…There is not a conjunction or a preposition, and hardly an adverbial phrase, syntactic form, or inflection of voice, in human speech, that does not express some shading or other of relation which we at some moment actually feel to exist between the larger objects of our thought…We ought to say a feeling of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of but, and a feeling of by, quite as readily as we say a feeling of blue, a feeling of cold.

– William James, Principles of Psychology

Welcome to a new year, dear readers, and a new installment of Translating Recipes! For this week’s experiment in translation and storytelling, we’re going to begin to consider the importance of time and space in reading and translating medicinal recipes.

As readers, our experience of a story can be profoundly shaped by those textual elements that are among the easiest to overlook. Terms like “to,” “from,” “with,” “above,” “on,” and others are some of the most important linguistic technologies that we use. They orient and move bodies in time and space. They create intimacies among objects, bringing them together and tearing them apart. They create communities by situating objects relative to one another: inside/outside, above/below, possessing/possessed by, before/after. Different prepositions accomplish this in different ways. And creates proximity. If raises conditions and counterfactuals. But suggests alternatives, removes things, or places them outside. By positions things in particular spaces and times, creates motion, and specifies conditions of means and method. Taken together, prepositions make simple juxtaposition take a narrative shape, they produce directionality in time and space, and they create movement. Prepositions thus allow mere co-presence to become a story.

This Translating Recipes series has repeatedly suggested that we need to take the recipe form (or more properly speaking, the plurality and multitude of different recipe forms) seriously as a genre and mode of storytelling. In the interest of doing that, we’ll now look at the work done by prepositions in producing a recipe’s narrative. As we are focusing on Manchu recipes here, and the Manchu language doesn’t include prepositions – instead favoring postpositions or verbal suffixes – we need to turn from prepositions to the many other kinds of language-technology that did the equivalent work. As I approach the kinds of relational technologies that do work equivalent to English prepositions in Manchu, then, I’ll be talking about the kinds of terms that may more properly follow or be attached to words rather than preceding them: postpositions and tense markers.

In that spirit, the next posts will unfold in a mini-series of reflections that each take on a prepositional attitude in the context of the Manchu recipe that we’ve been variously translating and retranslating: on, while, from, etc. In each instalment of this mini-series, we’ll explore the significance of parts of recipes that we tend to take for granted by creatively translating with them in mind. Check back tomorrow for the first experiment!

How to Translate a Recipe (2)

In my previous blog post, I discussed a recipe for a sweat potion that was used for the treatment of the plague as described by Jan Baptista van Helmont. I was surprised by the fact that the names for the ingredients were given mainly in Latin, interspersed with some Dutch, even though the entire book was in Dutch. In this current blog post I will look at the way translators dealt with this issue of a bilingual source text. Were they able to convey the correct names of ingredients to their readers?

Van Helmont’s Dutch treatise on the plague was published as the second part of his book Dageread, of which there were two German translations. The two translators worked at the same time (during the late 1670s and early 80s) in the same town, Sulzbach, on their translations, but made very different choices. The first translation was published 1681 as a separate treatise on the plague, under the title Tumulus pestis, das ist Gründlicher Ursprung der Pest. The translator, Johan Seyfrid, found a solution for the bilingual problem by giving only Latin terms in his translation, as can be seen in this image:

J. B. van Helmont, Tumulus pestis, translated  by J. Seyfrid, Sulzbach 1681, p. 325
J. B. van Helmont, Tumulus pestis, translated by J. Seyfrid, Sulzbach 1681, p. 325

Where Van Helmont had given the first ingredient as ‘Rad. Valeriane, dat is baldriaen, Ρεω in ‘t Grieks’ (= ‘Roots of Valerian, i.e. valerian, Ρεω in Greek’), Seyfrid decided to select only the Latin terminology. Seyfrid relied on the comprehensibility of Latin terms, instead of giving some explanations of the terminology in German. This is generally the case in his translation of Van Helmont’s plague treatise, as he often retained entire quotes from Van Helmont in the original Latin. This means that despite the fact that he was making a Latin text available for a German audience, he could apparently assume that his readers had some Latin knowledge, and what is more, that the generally accepted language for terminology was Latin rather than any German translation.

Christian Knorr von Rosenroth; Painter: Unknown.
Christian Knorr von Rosenroth; Artist: Unknown.

The second translator Christian Knorr von Rosenroth (1636-1689) saw this differently. In collaboration with Van Helmont’s son, Francis Mercury, he translated all the Latin works of Van Helmont into German. He complemented the translations of the Latin Opera omnia, with translated passages from the Dageraed, at places where the Dutch and Latin were different. This massive translation, the Aufgang der Artzney-Kunst, was published in 1683, only two years after Seyfrid’s translation of the plague treatise. Nevertheless Knorr von Rosenroth took entirely different decisions than Seyfrid:

J .B. van Helmont, Aufgang der Artzney-Kunst, translated by Chr. Knorr von Rosenroth, Sulzbach 1683, p. 658
J .B. van Helmont, Aufgang der Artzney-Kunst, translated by Chr. Knorr von Rosenroth, Sulzbach 1683, p. 658

As you can see in the fragment above, Knorr von Rosenroth translated every term into German and, on top of that, he included the Latin in brackets, just to be sure that his readers would have understood him. His translation of the first ingredient became ‘Wurzeln von Baldrian (Valerianae auf Griechisch Phu)’, what shows that Knorr did not only include a German term for valerian, but includes also the comparative Greek as given in Van Helmont.

What does this tell us about the use of Latin in vernacular recipes? Both translators thought their audiences needed the Latin to be sure about the ingredient. For Seyfrid the Latin is even sufficient. In continuation of my hypothesis at the end of my previous blog, I would say that in the seventeenth century Latin terminology was used for identification within vernacular medical texts. In other words, at a time that vernacular languages gained ground in the fields of medicine and science more general, Latin was in this way still very present. However, not so much as the language of describing actions, but as the language of definitions and terminology. What follows is that the Latin used for the ingredients  served as the untranslatable, yet comprehensible ‘language’ of terminology.

And to finish with another untranslatable phrase, although this time in German – one of my absolute favorite sentences – and entirely appropriate on this last day of the year: I wish you all ‘einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr’!