Translation is an act of radical optimism.The attempt to transfer meaning and sound—verbal contraband—from one language to another, across time and cultural context, is ultimately a ludicrous endeavor. Translators are the underacknowledged daredevils of literature, responsible for its audacious flights beyond cultural, national, and linguistic boundaries. But translation is literature’s salvation from provincialism, from the stagnancy that flourishes with insularity.
Manifestos, too, are optimistic acts. To challenge the hegemony of established literatures, to take on the lauded masters of the language, is, for the writer whose material subsistence depends on her acceptance by an audience large enough to support her work, as stupid as it is courageous. To believe that the establishment can evolve, that literature itself can transcend its recognized boundaries, requires ambition, talent, wit, and a pinch of vitriol.
Language evolves more quickly than any species in the natural world. New translations should be regular occurrences, routine celebrations of linguistic evolution. The manifesto, which might be the first truly novel postmodern genre, has too often been relegated to the world of academia. Most aren’t worth translating, and those that are too often appear in stilted, academic translations, bridling their linguistic and ideological innovation with heavy-handed literalism. Radical documents of empowerment deserve radically empowering translations, and that is the editorial goal of Manifestoh!
From the Russian Futurists to the Brazilian Modernists, from Hora Zero to the French Symbolists, Manifestoh! will commission and publish the best translations of the most enduring and influential manifestos of world literature. A celebration of the genre and an incitement to perpetual literary innovation, Manifestoh! continues and extends the Insert Blanc Press tradition of innovation and rebellion: slapping Pushkin in the face, cannibalizing Shakespeare, and—like the Spanish Ultraists—rebelling against the eunuchs of the status quo to break the hymen of the Future.
—David Shook, Manifestoh! series editor