Posts filed under 'spanish'

Translation Tuesday: “Suicide of the Fish” by Agustín Cadena

A school of suicidal fish. A lonely poet. A jilted wife.

A desperately unhappy woman pining for her ex-husband visits a solipsistic, lonely poet. In turns funny, intriguing and menacing, today’s story translated by Patricia Dubrava is a surreal love triangle. 

“Forgive the mess. I didn’t know…” Lopez said to his guest after switching on the light.

She observed the room while he closed the door and locked it with his key.

“No worries.”

The living room was full of household objects and cardboard boxes of all sizes, some big file cases. There was a computer, many CDs scattered on the rug, a CD player, a black sofa, an exercise machine and a stationary bike. A large aquarium with a variety of fish commanded the top of one cabinet.

While he took his sport coat and her jacket and purse to the bedroom, she continued looking around: in contrast to the floor, the walls were bare; a bookcase stood beside the sofa; topping a stack of magazines was one about fish.

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Translation Tuesday: An excerpt from “Colonel Lágrimas” by Carlos Fonseca

The colonel inhabits his century with the anonymity of a fish in water.

Today we present an extract from Carlos Fonseca’s dazzling debut about the demented final project of a brilliant mathematician. Recalling the best of Bolaño, Borges, and Calvino, Colonel Lágrimas is an allegory of our hyperinformed age and of the clash between European and Latin American history.

The colonel aspires to have a thousand faces. The file endeavors to give him only one. Now that he’s sleeping we can remove the folder from the cabinet where it is stored, remove the blue band that protects the file, and thumb through it at our leisure, study the case history hidden behind this tired man’s dreams. On the first page in this heavy, grayish folder, we find the fundamentals of an identity: a name, date of birth, and place of origin. Strange inflexibility for a man who dedicated his life to being many, to seeking happiness through a schizophrenic multiplicity of personalities. The colonel inhabits his century with the anonymity of a fish in water. And, nonetheless, a name and a date bring continuity to the archive. Clearly, the sleeping man is only one. We are left with the magic of perspective, looking at him from a thousand different angles, drawing a kind of cubist portrait of this tired man. At times, asleep though he is, it would seem that the colonel is posing for us: he turns to one side, he turns to the other, he changes positions as often as he changes dreams. We tell ourselves that we must look at the file with the flexible gaze of one who catalogues dreams, we must analyze the colonel’s masks from the elusive position of happiness.

***

In the midst of war, the weight of his heritage upon him, the little colonel learned to play with his masks. We find in the file, in almost indecipherable handwriting, a note that establishes the precise moment of what would be one of the great realizations of his life: to don a mask was to refuse a destiny. Dated in 1943 and signed by a certain Jacques Truffaut, psychoanalyst at a Parisian orphanage, the note is summarized in the following lines: “The boy refuses to answer in his mother tongue. He rejects Russian with an alarming rage. He seems to want to annul his origins. On the other hand, he caresses Spanish with an angelic fluency.” Truffaut knows little of those rainy Chalco afternoons. For him, Mexico calls up ideas of erotic barbarism, of adventure and expeditions with no return, and so, in an attempt to feel at home, he chooses to write, on the line for birthplace, the French name, Mexique. But the little colonel doesn’t like homes: he prefers a theory he discovers in a French copy of National Geographic, in an article about the tribal use of masks in northeastern Africa. He prefers to think that civilization originated with the simulacrum, feigned identity, anonymity with a face, endless flux. He thumbs anxiously, happily, through the article that tells of a certain Johann Kaspar Lavater, father of physiognomy, who thought he had discovered the moral outlines of personalities in people’s faces. The colonel sketches precise and fantastic drawings in which different faces are juxtaposed with animal physiognomies: a man with a pointed snout compared to a long-nosed dog, a man with a small nose beside a buffalo. He laughs in the midst of war, and his laughter is the first of many masks. Years later, the colonel will find in his love of butterflies a kind of final mask, a homeopathic remedy for this, his solitude of grand, dramatic laughter.

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Translator Questionnaire: Ilan Stavans

"To me, inspiration feels like a downpour."

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the publisher of Restless Books. His most recent translations are Mariano Azuela’s The Underdogs (Norton, 2015, with Anna More), and Lazarillo of Tormes (Norton, 2016). A recent conversation with him on translation, with Charles Hatfield, is “Silence Is Meaningful,” Buenos Aires Review, July 15, 2015.

What is the best translated book you’ve read recently?

I am in the middle of a strange yet fulfilling experiment: I am rereading Madame Bovary in various translations at once (Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Geoffrey Wall, Lydia Davis, Adam Thorpe), along with the French original and a Spanish translation. I first read Flaubert’s novel in my teens, while still in Mexico. Coming back to it in all these dress-ups is, at times, an embarrassment of riches. Marx-Aveling was the daughter of Karl Marx. Wall wrote a biography of Flaubert. Davis is Davis. And Thorpe talks about the task as “the Everest of translation.” Unfortunately, the Spanish version (not the same one I encountered when young), in its title page, refers to the author as Gustavo Flaubert and to the novel as Madame Bovery. The rest, one might say, is indeed like climbing the Everest. READ MORE…

In Conversation with Isabel Allende

“In all my books there is a strong sense of place and my stories often have an epic breadth.”

The “eternal foreigner” sat down during the tail end of her U.S. book tour to discuss her new novel, The Japanese Lover, and writing across boundaries.

While working as a young reporter in Chile, Isabel Allende went to interview the great Don of twentieth-century poetry, Pablo Neruda. At least, she assumed as much when she accepted his invitation for a visit to his house on the coast.

In preparation for the event, Allende washed her car and bought a new tape recorder. She drove to Isla Negra. After she and Neruda shared a lunch of Chilean corvina and white wine, Allende proposed that they begin their interview. Neruda was surprised, and rebuffed her, saying, “My dear child, you must be the worst journalist in the country. You are incapable of being objective, you place yourself at the centre of everything you do, I suspect you’re not beyond fibbing, and when you don’t have news, you invent it.” He suggested that she switch to literature. Perhaps Allende never would have done so if she had foreseen how eager editors would be for her to repeat this fanciful anecdote over the years. Still, in radio interviews, her voice seems to soften into fondness during each retelling. 

The publication of her debut novel, The House of the Spirits, in 1982, allowed Allende to make a full-time career change. Her journo’s vice of placing herself “at the centre of everything” is transformed into a defining virtue through her fiction: she is an exemplar of using the third-person omniscient point of view. Allende’s works have been translated into 35 languages, and the Spanish-language edition of her latest book, El amante japonés, was released in September by Vintage Español. The English translation, The Japanese Lover, was released on November 3, from Atria.

*****

Megan Bradshaw: Prior to moving to California, what was your familiarity with the history of Japanese internment camps in the United States? How did your initial historical research for The Japanese Lover influence your assumptions and the direction of the novel?

Isabel Allende: I had not heard about the internment camps before moving to California but in recent years there have a been a couple of novels that mention them. My research gave me a much deeper understanding of what this meant for the people who were in the camps, how they suffered, how they lost everything and how they felt dishonored and shamed. Of course, their situation can’t be compared to the victims of Nazi concentration camps because there was no forced labor, nobody starved and certainly there was no intention of exterminating them. I had not intended to dedicate full chapters to the camps in my novel but the material was fascinating. READ MORE…

What’s New in Translation? December 2015

So many new translations this month! Here's what you've got to know—from Asymptote's own.

Mark Kongstad, Am I Cold (Serpent’s Tail, November 2015). Translated by Martin Aitkenreview by Beau Lowenstern, Editor-at-Large Australia

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Am I Cold throws you into a world of hedonism and extravagance. It is Danish author Martin Kongstad’s first novel to appear in English, and his second body of fiction after 2009’s  short story collection Han Danser På Sin Søns Grav (He Dances on his Son’s Grave). The story follows Mikkel Vallin, a recently-divorced, recently-unemployed writer who—toeing the line between unreliable narrator and protagonist—takes the reader through the moonlit halls of Copenhagen’s artistic elite as he attempts to find existential clarity through a lens of sex, alcohol and debauchery. Loosely held together through Mikkel’s polemic, endeavoring to destroy “coupledom” and the trappings of monogamy, the novel endures in a pre-2008 micro bubble of Denmark and seductively draws you into a chilling, often hilarious world that somehow exists in spite of itself.

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Translation Tuesday: Multilingual Poems by Peter Wessel

Translated by Elena Feehan.



Select translation:

Bedstefar

 

Ma petite fille,

Salome, mit barnebarn,

mi nieta

para ti soy “Bedstefar”,

tu única palabra en danés.

Le meilleur père, père

de ta mere,

ton grand-père danois

en danois.

 

Cubana de padre, francesa

de madre

y yo, tu raiz nórdica.

doce por cien

y medio, lo que hay de danés

en mi poesía

ou d’alcool

dans une cépage de bonne qualité.

 

De moi t’as déjà herité

Plus que ta mere:

un mot, an

heirloom du nord:

“Bedstefar”

avec tout ce que celà

veut dire

y con todo lo que tu dirás

cuando me llames,

quand tu m’appelles.

 

When you call my name.

 

Blodets bånd, siger vi.

Barnebarn, grandchild, petit en–

fant,

blood of my blood

a bond which cannot be severed.

Más que un vincula, plus que un lien,

yet nada

nothing

rien

unless we invest it with meaning.

 

So, what sense

qué sentido tuvo para mí

tu nacimiento?

Hvad betød din fødsel for mig,

en far

der aldrig er blevet kaldt, har

hørt sig kalde

far

og kun sjældent

rarement

a pu agir, actuar,

como père?

 

¿Qué tal te sientes como abuelo?,

me preguntaban,

and I was at a loss, no supe contestar

comment je me sentais.

I didn’t feel any different, no notaba

ninguna diferencia

and could not see why I should have changed.

 

Pasaron cinco años, cinq ans

sans practiquement se voir

y solo ahora me doy cuenta,

only now,

gazing back at a gap of five years,

do I realise how you, ou plutôt

ta presence,

changed the perspective of my life,

gav mit liv

et dybere perspektiv

making both past and future unfold.

 

Probablement, je n’ai jamais occupé

la place du père,

dans la vie de tu mama.

Like a fool I offered her up

as a sacrifice for my love to her mother

y su abuelo, mi suegro, me la arrancó.

 

That man, tu bisabuelo, now dead,

rife with heirs and hardly mourned

stole my daughter and supplanted me

leaving me,

dejándome,

a childless, self-deceitful

papa chatré.

 

Salomé, nieta mía,

para ti soy todavía poco más

que una palabra, but a word which,

ahí dedans,

contains,

esconde,

gemmer et løfte, a

meaning and promise

that we both must explore:

 

din “Bedstefar”,

la meilleur père

de ta mere.

***

Offering

 

The pain,

el dolor de esas dulces disonancias.

Le ton aigu, den skærende

intonation

pa nippet til… a breath

from keeling over.

 

Et smertefuldt, jublende skrig.

 

Like Coltrane

we must squeeze the reed, estrujar

nuestra alma

hasta que la nota se quiebre, indtil

kernen spaltes, permitiéndonos

seguir fluyendo

 

indtil

sjælen kælver

og døden os skiller

 

until we cave in

and death do us part.

 ***

Django’s Lullaby

 

Toutes les chansons d’amour,

todas las flores de primavera y los

colores de otoño

que je t’aurais cueilli

se me han marchitado.

 

The songs that my thoughts of you

stirred in the wind

are now a dry rustle, an autumn lullaby

perhaps.

Fugle som trækker mod syd,

pájaros,

birds of passage.

 

Que venga la nieve, la

neige, la manta suave y blanda,

the sweet, forgetful snow

that will cover all the wounds

calmará el ardour de las heridas

and the broken stems

with its cool whiteness,

su fría blancura.

 

La neige de noviembre,

november

sur les petals bleus de mes pensées

de nous.

Bedstefar

My granddaughter,

Salomé – ma petite fille,

mit barnebarn,

mi nieta –

for you I am “Bedstefar”,

the only word you know in Danish.

The best father”, your mother’s

father,

the Danish for

your Danish grandfather.

 

Cuban on your father’s side, French

on your mother’s

and me, your one Nordic root.

12.5%:

like the Danish in my poetry;

or the alcohol content

of a fine wine.

 

You’ve already inherited

from me

more than your mother ever did:

a word, a Northern heirloom:

“Bedstefar”

and all that word means

and all that you mean

when you call me,

when you call me it.

When you call my name.

 

Blood ties, we call them.

Barnebarn, grandchild, petit en-

fant,

blood of my blood

a bond which cannot be severed.

More than a bond, more,

yet nothing,

nada,

rien

unless we invest it with meaning.

 

So,

what did it mean for me,

your birth?

What did your birth mean for me,

a father

who has never been called,

never heard himself called

father,

and has only

rarely

been able to act

as a father?

 

How do you feel about being a grandfather?

people would ask me,

and I was at a loss, I didn’t know how to answer,

how I felt.

I didn’t feel any different, nothing

tangible,

and could not see why I should have changed.

 

Five years passed

and we scarcely saw one another,

and only now do I realise,

only now,

gazing back at a gap of five years,

do I realise how you, or rather

your presence,

changed the perspective of my life,

made that perspective deeper,

making both past and future unfold.

 

I suspect I never really fulfilled

the role of father

in your mother’s life.

Like a fool I offered her up

as a sacrifice for my love to her mother,

and her grandfather, my father-in-law, tore her from me.

 

That man, your great-grandad, now dead,

rife with heirs and hardly mourned

stole my daughter and supplanted me

leaving me,

dejándome,

a childless, self-deceitful

papa chatré ­– a castrated father.

 

Salomé, little one,

for you I am still scarcely more

than a word, but a word which,

deep inside,

contains,

conceals,

holds a

promise and a meaning

that we both must explore:

your “Bedstefar”,

the best father

of your mother.

 

***

Offering

 

The pain,

the pain of this delicate discord.

The pitch set high, the intonation

cutting,

on the verge of… a breath

from keeling over.

 

A painful, joyful cry.

 

Like Coltrane,

we must squeeze the reed, wring out

our souls

until the note cracks, until

its core is cloven, so we can

keep on flowing

 

until

our souls cave in

and death do us part.

 

***

Django’s Lullaby

 

All the love songs,

All the spring flowers and

                  autumn colours

I gathered for you

have withered in my heart.

 

The songs that my thoughts of you

stirred in the wind

are now a dry rustle, an autumn lullaby

perhaps.

Birds that fly south for winter;

birds of passage.

 

Let the snow come,

its soft and tender blanket;

the sweet, forgetful snow

that will cover all the wounds,

soothe the stinging cuts

and broken stems

with its cool whiteness.

 

November snow,

on the blue petals of my thoughts

of us.

 

***

Illustration by Dinah Salama.

******

Peter Wessel is a Danish-born poet who has divided his life between his homes in Madrid and the Medieval French pilgrim’s village of Conques-en-Rouergue (which he considers his second birthplace) since 1981. He teaches a university course titled “Rooted in Song—the Role of African Americans and Immigrant Russian Jews in the Creation of the American Dream” and defines himself as a musician who expresses himself through poetry. Peter’s last two books Polyfonías (2008) and Delta (2014) are multilingual poetry collections both of which include recordings of his readings in dialogue with the musicians from Polyfonías Poetry Project. He blogs at www.pewesselblog.com.

Different Beauty, Equal Beauty

Can you translate beauty if it isn't beautiful otherwise?

A Ming Dynasty vase and an ancient Greek urn share beauty but not aesthetics. The artisans of the different styles might have appreciated each other’s work—and yet they might have stuck to their own ways, perhaps because they saw no reason to change or perhaps because they simply lacked the material and equipment to produce anything else.

Languages also have different rules for beautiful prose, based both on cultural inheritance and on the possibilities and limits of each language within its grammar and vocabulary.

I translate Spanish to English, and I often face the delightful task of transforming beautiful Spanish prose into beautiful English prose. To do that, I have had to learn to appreciate the standards of beauty for each language, which share little in common due to different historical trajectories.

Spanish emerged from a local dialect of Latin. King Alfonso X the Wise, who reigned from 1252 to 1284, made Spanish (Castilian, to be precise) the preferred language for scholarship in his realm, replacing Latin. To cement that change, he funded scholars in Toledo and elsewhere to translate literature from other languages into Spanish and to write new books. He himself wrote some important works, knowing that a language must have literature. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Poems by Irma Pineda

Love / my belly is now a dry tree / that once wanted to bloom stars for your nights.

On waking from your death
here you will see me
awaiting your hummingbird’s return
transformed into an old tree.

Al despertar de tu muerte
me verás aquí
convertido en un árbol viejo
que espera tu retorno de colibrí.

Dxi guibáni xquendagutilú
rari’ nga suuyu’
naa ma’ naca’ ti yaga yooxho’
cabeza’ guibiguetu’ sica ti biulú.

 

READ MORE…

Making Narrative Witness: A Caracas-Sarajevo Collaboration

A revolutionary collaboration spanning countries, languages, and memories

THE SCENE

The scene is an online video meeting. (Does that qualify as a scene?) In it are several Venezuelan writers and photographers gathered in a classroom in Caracas (all men but one, though not everyone is present) and their counterparts in and around Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, gathered mostly in twos and threes at laptops in apartments (all women but two; everyone is present).

A couple of Caracas photographers also tune in from what appear to be their flats. One Bosnian is in the town of Bihać. A Croatian writer from the Sarajevo group joins from Spain.

The Venezuelans in the classroom are having technical difficulties with their audio, and people move close to the room’s single computer to be heard. We make introductions. A few jokes. We lay out our plans. At least one Sarajevan, a redhead perched on a sofa, enjoys a cigarette.

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Interview with Cristina Burneo

An interview in Spanish and English about literary Ecuador and the bilingual poet Alfredo Gangotena

Scroll down to read the interview in Spanish. 

How did you become interested in translation?

When I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I was in my last year of high school, and our German teacher—a man named Herbert Wöhlers, who was my German teacher for six years, and one of the most amazing teachers I had (now he lives in Heidelberg)—had us read and translate a Rilke poem. I found myself reading, interpreting, deciphering, re-writing, and I was fascinated, it made me happy. Especially because it was poetry, already my favorite kind of writing. I haven’t translated Rilke again, and I’ve almost never translated from German since, but it doesn’t matter. That drive to translate had been built into my writing and my reading.

You’ve done a lot of work with the poetry of Alfredo Gangotena, who lived in France and wrote in French. Did those things complicate his relationship with Ecuadorian society? Do you think that translations of his work into Spanish have been important for that reason?

Yes, of course, writing in French and then coming to the Andes poses a problem. What sense does it make for an afrancesado poet to come back to Quito and keep writing in French? It felt like a slap in the face to the “well-to-do” members of the Ecuadorian cultural circles. Benjamín Carrión referred indirectly to the afrancesados as decadent, prisoners of complacency. He even suggested that francophiles and effeminates were dangerously close to each other.

Gangotena was out of place in that sense. When he died, a close friend of the poet, Riofrío, announced that his work would be translated… but the emerging translation project only came into being in the hands of other poet translators, Gonzalo Escudero and Filoteo Samaniego, in 1956, twelve years after Gangotena’s death.

It’s very important that we have wanted to keep translating Gangotena. Without translation there’s no revision, or culture, or the option of doubting the official versions of history and literature. Today, I wonder how it is that standard image of the hard, masculine, and committed intellectual excludes other figures, like that of Alfredo Gangotena. For that reason, translating his poetry also requires us to question our own ideas about Ecuadorian culture, ideas that require us to perform our nationality and our intellectual lives in the prescribed way. Gangotena, to a great extent, resisted that obligation.

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In Conversation: George Henson, Translator

Rosie Clarke chats with George Henson, translator of Sergio Pitol's "The Art of Flight"

George Henson is a senior lecturer at UT Dallas, where he specializes in literary translation, translation theory, Spanish language, 20th century Latin American poetry and narrative, and queer literature. His translations of short stories by Mexican author Elena Poniatowska have appeared in Nimrod, Translation Review, The Literary Review, and Puerto del Sol. His translation of Carlos Pintado’s short story “Joy Eslava” was published by Zafra Lit, and his translations of poems by Francisco Morán have appeared in Sojourn and The Havana Reader.

His translation of Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight, the first of Pitol’s “Trilogy of Memory,” was published last month by Deep Vellum. Recipient of the Cervantes Prize in 2005, Pitol is considered by many to be Mexico’s greatest living author, but this is his first appearance in English translation. I spoke with George via email about why this could be, and discussed his translation practice and the challenges of working with a multigeneric work like Pitol’s. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Poems by Pilar Fraile Amador

Translated by Elizabeth Davis

from YOUTH

 

The way the snow falls

 

and covers the plain

 

that’s how I grew up

at the hearts of your eyes.

 ***  READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Poems by Martín López-Vega

Translated by the author and Genevieve Arlie

The corpses of Orto dei Fuggitivi speak

 

No bones or shreds of toga,

even less flesh, or blood, or semen:

what’s left of us is the shell

of our corpses in lava, and don’t say

lava saved us: rather condemned us

to eternal sudden death.

 

You won’t think of us often:

your century wants a culprit

to commemorate the dead.

We remain because our nothingness

remains: there’s the rub.

READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Four Poems by Enrique Sacerio-Garí

“We turn our faces / And feel the states / of this doubling: / Two Earths / Two Worlds / Night and day”

Multiple Places
…greater poverty than yours shall you see.
“Exemplo X,” El conde Lucanor

Neruda taught us
To see two worlds
On Earth
And to enter the atom
With a telescope
To open the door
Of the elements
And to reveal paths
Of green fire.

The faded maps
Suffer the external debt
Of the changes imposed
By the globalizers
Of the steel shovel…
And there is no heaven
Of peace and joy
Or mothers without the scourge
Of war but rather the bitter
fortitude of Evaristo Estenoz,
the external debt we all owe to color
the segregation that obscures
the stars buried in our breast.

READ MORE…