This week’s Translation Tuesday features a befuddling slice-of-life translation from the Telugu Writer Tripura. The movement of the dialogue is through a flow of floating statements and people that occurs over an hour in the dining room of a hotel. As if the hotel itself is listening, snippets of conversation drop readers into mid-century southern India. The effects of modernism inform the layout of this story, and the semi-public space of the hotel demonstrates the use—and imposition—of English in speech, as well as the untranslatable cultural particulars of the Telugu. It is a statement to the density of subjectivity and the messiness of codes. Sparse narration and memorable voices place the reader well within the confines of a time of great change and exploration in this genre-bending piece.
At the Hotel
Eight in the morning. The patter of rain above. Wet inside.
“My pop said he’d bury me if I did shit like this. Brainless.”
“That’s old people, ra. These old hags need to be shot by a firing squad, like Hitler
massacred the Jews.”
Empty cups in front, cigarettes at the ends of lips.
“Have you guys read Dharma Bums?”
“Leave it. These Beatniks are just rootless fellows. The Angry Young Men seem better.”
In the cups, coffee getting cold.
“Fucking idiot. Said there was no touching the file if I didn’t give him a tenner. And a kid, an upstart to boot. Got him to sign it after throwing the ten at his idiot face. What to do. Can’t die, no.”
“Idiots nowadays are like that only. Work’s done only if the money’s in their hands.”
Empty idli plates on the table. The first man’s pockets are searched for a beedi. READ MORE…