研究論文  Research Article

“I felt …the ghost of my father”: Trauma and Translation in Atom Egoyan’s A Portrait of Arshile and Ararat

Juey-Fu Hsiao
Atom Eyoyan, A Portrait of Arshile, Ararat, pragma, dark room, Narchtraglichkeit (after effect), (counter-)transference, translation, post-memory




Human beings in the last century have accomplished great things but we have also caused irreversible damage and harm to all forms of life. Genocide is one such example of atrocities on a scale unprecedented in previous human history. Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s Ararat(2002), since its release, has aroused debates and accusations in terms of sacrificing historical truth for the sake of aesthetic effect. As the first internationally produced and distributed full-length film about Armenian genocide(1915-1923), the critical opinions and debates are to be expected, since the anxiety and the following question is always there: Can speeches, words, and images sufficiently represent, interpret, and translate the referred object or event? On the other hand, as the survivors and people who experienced the genocide first hand gradually faded away, Ararat seems to be more concerned with the after effect caused by the denial of Armenian genocide. Thus, this film, involving Armenian Diaspora and other ethnic groups in the context of multiculturalism in Canada, launches the quest for and examines the multiple meanings of the so-called “cultural heritage.”

Egoyan and Ian Balfour in their collaborated work, Subtitles: on the Foreignness of Films, point out succinctly, “[e]very film is a foreign film, foreign to some audience somewhere—and not simply in terms of language.” This makes us wonder what it means to Egoyan by translation, why we need translation, and how the subject and object are both changed and transformed in the process of translating. To try and figure out the answers to these questions, we need to adopt an interdisciplinary strategy to connect (1) the conception of translation that strives to preserve the foreignness of/in language (e.g. Water Benjamin and Paul Ricoeur’s theory on translation), (2) Andrew Benjamin’s philosophical reflections on words and meaning in relation to translation, and (3) Jean Laplanche’s insistence on the unconscious as the “à traduire” (to translate/to be translated). Finally, by invoking Marianne Hirsh’s concepts of “post-memory” and “familial looking” as supportive argument, I will read and discuss A Portrait of Arschile and some key scenes in Arart to highlight that the possible answers to the previous questions may lie/hide in the dialogue between Raffi and Celia when Raffi visited her at the detention center. The event in and surrounding the dark room mentioned in their dialogue may be an allegory for film-viewing and remembrance.

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