Friendling Translation


  • Cole Swensen Brown University


Tiberghien, translation, etymology, stylistics, friendship, French poetry, Walser


In this text, originally delivered as a keynote address at the American Literary Translators’ Association in October 2013, poet and translator Cole Swensen examines and experiences the translatability of the neologism Amitier—the title of a monograph by the French philosopher Gilles Tiberghien—through the lenses of historical etymology and translingual semantics. Swensen places “friendship” under etymological review, tracing the historical transformation and dispersion of the concept, by way of morphological mutation and sociolinguistic application, from Sanskrit to Japanese, Danish, Proto-Germanic, Arabic, and American Englishes. In working dialogue with the contemporary French poets and prose artists Suzanne Doppelt and Jean Frémont, Swensen explores what friendship and translation elicit from and engender in one another.

Author Biography

Cole Swensen, Brown University

Swensen is the author of 13 books of poetry, including Gravesend (University of California, upcoming 2012) and a book of essays Noise that Stays Noise (University of Michigan, upcoming 2011). She's also the co-editor of the 2009 Norton anthology American Hybrid and the founder and editor of La Presse, a nano-press dedicated to contemporary French work in translation.