Orbit 13

by Matthew Jewell


  • Light cannot escape the gravitational pull of a black hole; thus black holes are not directly observable.
  • The gravitational pull of a black hole produces a “wobble” in the movement of nearby objects; thus black holes are indirectly observable.
  • It is possible to calculate the position and mass of a black hole by mapping objects in orbit around it and by measuring the wobble of nearby objects/systems.
  • Black holes create new matter by separating virtual particle pairs.  A virtual particle pair on the cusp of the event horizon will split, one particle being consumed by the singularity, the other being ejected into the universe as an actual particle.


  • Translation is an inherently flawed process. While the sense or effect of a text or unit of a text can often be preserved, it is rarely possible to preserve both.  ex:  Geroges Perec translated the title of Harry Matthews’ Tlooth as Les verts champs de moutarde de l’Afghanistan, preserving its effect and destroying its sense.
  • Literary texts are particularly resistant to the translation process because they often rely on effect to generate sense.
  • The differences in translations of the same text potentially carry as much information about the original text as the similarities.
  • If we conceptualize the original text as a black hole, then we are reduced to observing it indirectly. Mapping the differences in translations is, in effect, measuring the wobble of related systems.
  • Since black holes also emit new matter, then it is reasonable to expect this mapping process to generate new texts.

Project Description:

I aligned three translations1 of the 13th canto of Dante’s Inferno line by line. Thus the first three line stanza is comprised of three translations of the first line, second stanza the second lines, etc. Words which appeared in more than one translation of the same line were blacked out, leaving only differences. This text runs down the left column.  The original Italian end rhymes run down the center, and my rearrangement of the translations’ remainder runs down the right.

To open Orbit 13, click here (.tif) or here (.pdf).