French Book Week: TOPOLALIA by Cléa Chopard, translated by the Author


A land made out of spillings.

Here, and out of place

Where no body can stand.

Day by day

The impossible grasp 

Of one’s own image

The face is a confusing 

And painful zone, always

Waiting to be exhibited: showing

all these things from herself 

that she would rather not see.

With makeup 

Face daily life.

And discard

All the things that exceed her: 

bits of skin 

and of fingernails

itchy spots

and uneven surfaces.

The lack of surroundings

Gets thicker

And dismisses all possible


Getting ready

is always




Using balms



and colored pastes,

Della tries to recreate 

the effect of a skin.

Grounds are unsafe

As if mined

As if ready to explode

Topography is a nearly-white picture

Where to set foot

Promises danger

In the language if cosmetics

‘to be natural’ means ‘with no visible effects’.

Della says that she is always behind

Her body’s naturalness.

Creams and pastes dry

And become crusts on her face

Suffocating her.

Without skin (that skin which she puts on every morning)

she wouldn’t go out, of course. 

But her incapacity of ever being natural 

– this repeated proof of her inability to be 

exposed –

prevents her from approaching others. 



It won’t be said that she is superficial, though. 


That she is made out

Of mistakes – 

making up for her broken body

for her broken language

using makeup on her face. 

The anguish pours through

each of her pores –

Something we’d rather push aside

with a few words: 

‘It is absolutely forbidden to look closely’

– Distance as the only possible relationship –

A body caught


In the map

Of its temperatures


In feverish lands

Excesses in all directions

Make for the boiling point 

Of self

Della speaks halfway

As though she weren’t entirely sure

That what she says really belongs to her.

It is as if she was speaking in lyrics,

Making up for the lack of words

by using overheard songs and melodies. 

From this place:

Outrageous vocabularies

Where speech comes

From afar

Blood pours on her outside

As if blood could outline

her figure.

And pretend she is there.


skin is missing

Between threats from the inside

Between threats from the outside

Della’s body gets


in a fragile inter-

facing –

And her borderlined world

can have no name

Except for a mirror-name

That makes it an impossible place.

To the borderlands

Where the body has an accent

But where skin

Is lacking

A suspicious porosity

Tothe environment

A disturbed surrounding

Where everything 


Where symptoms

Are the only things


To map

The image

Of a body



Echoes’ effects




Words can be heard

As a karaoke – 

By Cléa Chopard

Translated by the Author

Here is Cléa Chopard reading TOPOLALIA for the French Book Week:

Cléa Chopard is a poet, performer and translator based in Geneva, Switzerland. Her work is mostly concerned with questions relating to the body and its disorders. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in visual arts from the Geneva High School of Art and Design in 2012, she completed a Master’s degree in contemporary art, specialising in literary writing and translation. Her artistic work has several facets: it takes the form of texts, books, micro-editions, performances, sound pieces and videos. Her texts often consider a spatial dimension: that of the page, the book, or the place where they will be read or performed. She finds her sources in literature, poetry, scientific or medical textbooks, botany, anthropology, sociology,  the history of decoration, translation studies, feminist studies and so on. Through her works, she tries to redefine the image of bodies by using language as a disruptive factor and by integrating elements from various fields as ways to reinvent its representations. She is currently working on a PhD in creative research in Bern and Paris. 

Photo of Cléa Chopard by Tristan Chopard

Category: TranslationsLiterally SwissLS ExtractsFrench Book Week


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