The OF Blog: Shadow Translations: Books That I Would Love to Translate if Others Hadn't Already Done So

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shadow Translations: Books That I Would Love to Translate if Others Hadn't Already Done So

Before I commence with the essay proper, I just want to make a self-observation:  I am a "musical" reader who "hears" a rhythm beyond that of mere vocalization of words.  Some prose is like music; if exotic, it can cause a sense of semantic ecstasy for me on a few, too rare occasions.  I thought of this post possibility after beginning a read of Daniel Sada's 2008 award-winning novel, Casi Nunca (to be released in English translation in April 2012 as Almost Never).  The opening is just the sort of challenge that I'd love to tackle as I continue to refine my nascent translations now and (hopefully) in the future.  So with that in mind, I thought I'd list some books, some of them not readily available in any English translation, that would be sort of fun to imagine translating, even when there are excellent translations already available in English:

Rubén Darío's poetry

Roque Dalton's Las historias prohibidas del Pulgarcito

Antonio Machado's poetry

Julio Cortázar, Rayuela (Hopscotch in translation)

A few more of Augusto Monterroso's short fictions

César Aira, Los Fantasmas (available as Ghosts)

Alejo Carpentier, Los pasos perdidos (The Lost Steps in translation)

A select few of Gabriela Mistral's poems

And of course much of the œvre of Borges, García Márquez, Fuentes, and Rulfo.

Maybe not the most imaginative of "shadow" lists, but I think most, if not all, of those works would really tax a translator's ability to render into his/her native language the beautiful, poetic power of the Spanish-language originals.  Years before I ever had my translations of Leopoldo Lugones' "El escuerzo" and Augusto Monterroso's "Mister Taylor" published in anthologies, I began by translating some of Machado's poetry for a close female friend:

Nunca perseguí la gloria
ni dejar en la memoria
de los hombres mi canción;
yo amo los mundos sutiles...

I never pursued glory
nor to leave in memory
of men my song;
I love subtle worlds...

Each time I revisit Machado's poem, I discover new depths, new expressions that bring the translation a bit closer to what I experience when I read/hear it.  Much the same holds true for those quick, rough translations that I am wont to do for a few reviews here; I find that a bit of tinkering is like a jeweler cutting a gemstone to reveal hidden facets that sparkle afterward.  Maybe I'll practice a bit more on those titles listed above, although none of them would ever see the light of say outside of handwritten journals marked heavily with pencil lead and rubber erasures.  "Translation" does imply the act of "bearing across;" what that might be is more than half the fun of engaging in it.


Anonymous said...

I think it needs to be "in the memory of men", no? "In memory of men" sounds like "in remembrance of men", but that's not what the Spanish intends.

Gabriel M

Lsrry said...

I went back and forth on that, Gabriel. I see your point and I found myself wondering if the article would shift the meaning enough to justify leaving it in or deleting it so it sounded less stilted in English. It's something that I'll probably vacillate over for quite some time.

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