It was always a mystery to me why the churches of Ireland were filled with women, and empty of men. I looked up at the crucifix and thought it was a bizarre thing for women to worship a man in a church run by men. As far as I was concerned being a Catholic was silly, and being a Jew meant so much more washing-up. What all religions do, however, is what most political systems fail to do — they prize and praise the figure of the mother.
She is the machine, the hidden power. She is the ideal, the revered one, the truly loved. Which makes up, in a way, for being skipped in shop queues and looking like a heap.
And more. On the third night of my child’s life I looked into her eyes and realised that nothing I believed could explain this. It was an embarrassing moment. I think I saw her soul. I suffered from the conviction that a part of her was ancient; and that part chose to be there with me at the beginning of something new. I had a wise child.
Carrying her out of the hospital and into the noise of the traffic; driving her home in second gear; feeding her in the middle of the night, and at the beginning of the night, and at dawn — so precious — I found myself shrinking in the face of her vast and unknowable future. How would she turn out? What would she do? When would she die? Not for many, many years, I hoped; not for the longest time. The mechanisms of fate, the grinding of her days that would lead to one end or another, became urgently opaque to me. There were a thousand things that could hurt this child, or even estrange her from me. What could I do? Nothing. My best.
These are all feelings that religion understands.
I had, I thought, become human in a different and perhaps more radical way. I had let something slip into the stream of time. What else can you do, but trust the river — put it all into the hands of a higher power?
Oh, all right.
And who else, but the suffering Christ, could know the suffering that motherhood brings?
Actually, I will resist the tug of it, if you don’t mind. Still, I will resist.
Anne Enright, ‘God’ in Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, London: Vintage, 2005, 111-12.
Children are actually a form of brainwashing. They are a cult, a perfectly legal cult. Think about it. When you join a cult you are undernourished, you are denied sleep, you are forced to do repetitive and pointless tasks at random hours of the day and night, then you stare deep into your despotic leader’s eyes, repeating meaningless phrases, or mantras, like Ooh da gorgeous. Yes, you are! Cult members, like parents, are overwhelmed by spiritual feelings and often burst into tears. Cult members, like parents, spout nonsense with a happy, blank look in their eyes. They know they’re sort of mad, but they can’t help it. They call it love.
From ‘Baby-Talk’ in Anne Enright, Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, London: Vintage, 2005, 138.
When source and target languages are very divergent, I think it’s better to think and translate from the perspective of culture. For example, in “God”, we can read a lot of words and scenes about religion. The religious belief is linked to the history, politics, economy and other aspects of Ireland. Discussions of religious belief and gender inequality are common themes in Irish literature. The mother figure represented by the Virgin Mary is even more common.
In the works of Anne Enright, the mother images can be divided into three categories: the mother who indulged in lust and eventually led to family tragedy, the mother who could not communicate with her children, and the mother of the new age who shouldered the responsibility of motherhood and could be independent. In the shaping of these mother images, Enright broke through the traditional mother image of Ireland with the Virgin Mary as the model, and no longer confined Irish mothers to the group image of selfless dedication, generosity and kindness, but lost the living characteristics. These mother images implied the requirement of Irish social culture on the role of Irish mother, and their breakthrough and innovation also reflected the change of Irish social reality.
In real life, men tend to be more privileged and women are less privileged and more vulnerable. But as an old Chinese saying goes, “to be a mother is to be strong,” the emotional strength and greatness that come with motherhood are the same in every culture. When translating this text, I also think of my mother and all the mothers I know. They are willing to endure hardships but do not want to let their children be wronged. They work hard to raise their children and pray for them when they cannot help.
The absence of male roles may express the author’s dissatisfaction and resistance to the weak position of women. It is clear that women are the key to the birth of new life. However, women in social life have not received due respect and praise. Since women are voiceless in politics, the author hopes to understand and comfort women in religion.
The mother in this text is sober and rational, and she can jump out of her gender limitations to speak for women objectively. She is well aware of the labour and worry of being a mother, as well as the inferiority and insignificance of human beings, so she can only bravely let her children go on the road, suffer setbacks, and grow up. At the same time, she also believes that women should speak up for themselves and resist some pains that can be avoided. Even at the risk of being questioned, she still dares to express her own thoughts and opinions. Her courage to do what she knows is impossible is admirable. I think it is the awakening of these women’s consciousness that will promote women to fight for the rights they deserve and then promote the progress of human civilization.