Taking an improbable caracol or snail as a guide to thinking about translation, this essay ponders the sensation of tongues touching and entwining, like hermaphroditic mollusks making love. Advancing in successive whorls, rather than along the straight line of argument, it touches on, among other things, the translator’s modesty or “invisibility”; on the chance of the lucky find or fortuitous encounter; on the “passion for translation” (Derrida); on modern foreign language instruction that harbors the vain ambition to suppress the experience of translation; and on Virginia Woolf’s snail on the wall.

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