The OF Blog: Exercise in translation: Roberto Arlt's "El jorobadito," part II

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Exercise in translation: Roberto Arlt's "El jorobadito," part II

Now a bit more of my ongoing draft translation of Roberto Arlt's "El jorobadito" ("The Little Hunchback").  Part I is here.  Edited part in bold below:

Se ha echado sobre mí la policía, los jueces y los periódicos.  Y ésta es la hora en que aún me pregunto (considerando los rigores de la justicia) si Rigoletto no estaba llamado a ser un capitán de hombres, un genio, o un filántrop.  De otra forma no se explican las crueldades de la ley para vengar los fueros de un insigne piojoso, al cual, para pagarle de su insolencia, resultaran insuficientes todos los puntapiés que pudieran suministrarle en el trasero, una brigada de personas bien nacidas.

No se me oculta que sucesos peores ocurren sobre el planeta, pero ésta no es una razón para que yo deje de mirar con angustia las leprosas paredes del calabozo donde estoy alojado a espera de un destino peor.

Pero estaba escrito que de un deforme debían provenirme tantas dificultades.

Recuerdo (y esto a vía de información para los aficionados a la teosofía y la metafísica) que desde mi tierna infancia me llamaron la atención los contrahechos.  Los odiaba al tiempo que me atraían, como detesto y me llama la profundidad abierta bajo la balconada de un noveno piso, a cuyo barandal me he aproximado más de una vez con el corazón temblando de cautela y delicioso pavor.  Y así, como frente al vacío no puedo sustraerme al terror de imaginarme cayendo en el aire con el estómago contraído en la asfixia del desmoramiento, en presencia de un deforme no puedo escapar al nauseoso pensamiento de imaginarme corcovado, grotesco, espantoso, abandonado de todos, hospedado en una perrera, perseguido por traíllas de chicos feroces que me clavarían agujas en la giba... 
 Es terrible..., sin contar que todos los contrahechos son seres perversos, endemoniados, protervos..., de manera que al estrangularlo a Rigoletto me creo con derecho a afirmar que le hice un inmenso favor a la sociedad, pues he librado a todos los corazones sensibles como el mío de un espectáculo pavoroso y repugnante. Sin añadir que el jorobadito era un hombre cruel. Tan cruel que yo me veía obligado a decirle todos los días:
     –Mirá, Rigoletto, no seas perverso. Prefiero cualquier cosa a verte pegándole con un látigo a una inocente cerda. ¿Qué te ha hecho la marrana? Nada. ¿No es cierto que no te ha hecho nada?...
    –¿Qué se le importa?
    –No te ha hecho nada, y vos contumaz, obstinado, cruel, desfogas tus furores en la pobre bestia...
    –Como me embrome mucho la voy a rociar de petróleo a la chancha y luego le prendo fuego.
    Después de pronunciar estas palabras, el jorobadito descargaba latigazos en el crinudo lomo de la bestia, rechinando los dientes como un demonio de teatro. Y yo le decía:
    –Te voy a retorcer el pescuezo, Rigoletto. Escuchá mis paternales advertencias, Rigoletto. Te conviene...

The diverse and exaggerated rumors spread as the result of the behavior that I observed in the company of Rigoletto, the hunchback, in Mrs. X's house, in time turned many people against me.

However, my peculiarities did not incur greater misfortunes until I perfected them by strangling Rigoletto.

Wringing the hunchback's neck has been for me a most ruinous and reckless act for my interests, one that threatens the existence of a benefactor of humanity.

The police, judges and newspapers have fallen on me.  And at this hour I still ask myself (considering the rigors of justice) if Rigoletto was not called to be a captain of men, a genius, or a philanthropist. Nothing else explains the cruelties of the law in taking revenge on the arrogance of a good-for-nothing, which, in order to pay for his insolence, it is insufficient for a brigade of well-born people to administer all the kicks they can to the rear.

I am not unaware that worse events occur on the planet, but this is no reason for me to stop watching anxiously the leprous walls of the dungeon where I am housed awaiting a worse fate.
But it was written that from a deformed man many difficulties would arise for me.

 I remember (and this bit of information for fans of theosophy and metaphysics) that from my tender infancy hunchbacks grabbed my attention. I hated them yet was attracted to them, as I detest and yet it calls to me the open depth under the balcony of a ninth floor, to which railing I have approached more than once with trembling heart of caution and delicious dread. And so, like in front of a vacuum I can not escape the terror of imagining myself falling in the air with my stomach contracted in asphyxia from crumbling, in the presence of a deformed man I can not escape the nauseous thought of imagining myself hunchbacked, grotesque, frightening, abandoned by all, housed in a kennel, pestered by the leashes of ferocious boys that stick needles in the hump...

It's terrible ... not to mention that all hunchbacks are evil beings, possessed, wicked ... so that by choking Rigoletto I think I have the right to say that I did a huge favor to society, for I have liberated  all sensitive hearts like mine from an awful and disgusting spectacle. Without adding that the hunchback was a cruel man. So cruel that I was obliged to tell him every day:

 "Look, Rigoletto, do not be perverse. I prefer anything to seeing you with a whip hitting an innocent pig. What has the sow done? Nothing. Is not it true that it has not done anything? ..."
"Why do you care?"
"She has not done anything, and you stubborn, obstinate, cruel man, you vent your fury on the poor beast..."

"Since she has annoyed me for a long while I am going to sprinkle gas on the sow and then set her on fire."
After saying these words, the hunchback discharged lashes on the beast's long-maned back, grinding his teeth like a theatrical demon. And I said:

"'I'm going to wring your neck, Rigoletto. Listen to my paternal warnings, Rigoletto. It suits you..."

The previous draft translation (including the bolded revision) is in a different font from the new section.  I likely will tinker with the wording here some to smooth it out, make it sound more fluid in English, but hopefully this second part will lead to some wanting to read future translated passages.  I will try to work on 2-4 pages a week, with hopes of finishing it by the end of the month.  Feel free to suggest alternatives for revision.


Anonymous said...

Would I be trolling if I said it needed more squrriels?

Larry Nolen said...

Ha! No, but we'll see what happens later on...

C.D. Gutierrez said...

I'm curious to hear if you have made any progress with "El jorobadito." Arlt is one of my favorite writers, and I wish he was better known in the English-speaking world. I'd come across your post several months ago. Having come back to it and noticing you had not mentioned the topic again had made me curious enough to ask.

(I have tried my own hand at translating another one of the stories in the collection, "La luna roja." )

Larry Nolen said...

I've paused working on it until the school year here is finished in late May. I work two jobs and it's difficult to find the time to resume this while working on other planned projects. But I will return to it before the year is out.

Will look at the link shortly.

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