Originally published in 1969 by Les Éditions de Minuit, I first encountered Monique Wittig’s Les Guérillères when my dad brought home a copy of David Le Vay’s Picador translation (along with a copy of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch). Both books were decorated with the now iconic artwork of John Holmes, whose surrealist covers made quite the impression! But it was Wittig’s challenge to phallogocentric language that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I didn’t have the language to describe it back then, but could feel the furniture being entirely rearranged in my teenage brain.
Returning to it a few years ago, I became interested in pushing the pronouns of the translation a little further, as well as exploring Wittig’s position re white space and margins, and so began a slow and as yet unfinished translation of the book, which I dip in and out of whenever I have a quiet period in my own work.
I am delighted to say that Blackbox Manifold have decided to publish some sections of this ongoing translation in their Winter issue. The pieces included are the two lineated poems that open and close Wittig’s novel, and three short extracts from the main body of the text, the closest description of which would be ‘epic prose poetry’. The circle is an important motif of the novel, both graphically and thematically, and I have tried to convey that. For any ‘English-only’ speakers interested in reading the whole thing, I recommend Le Vay’s translation, some of the phrasing of which would be difficult to improve on.
I also recommend the whole of Blackbox Manifold Issue 21, which is filled with fantastic work – http://www.manifold.group.shef.ac.uk/
More about Monique Wittig and her work – http://www.moniquewittig.com/