Posts filed under 'obsession'

Translation Tuesday: “Platini’s Free Kick” by Vassilis Alexakis

The more I studied the unbelievable curve of the ball, the more I found it sublime.

This week’s Translation Tuesday features work by Greek writer Vassilis Alexakis, who is known for his self-translation work: translating his own work from Greek to French and vice-versa in order to study the lived experience of moving through cultural and linguistic boundaries that recalls Beckett’s experimentation. “Platini’s Free Kick” offers a vision of a man obsessed with event and form. As the story twists on, the free kick is stripped of its content as it becomes the focal point for the speaker, a movement of concentration on an object that invokes idolatry and addiction. Rebecca Dehner-Armand’s apt translation brings out the mundane terror of Alexakis’ story, which offers a critique of the persistence of an object and the effects of transfer, wear, and social tension on the way that objects create meaning for the viewer and how that meaning can change and dissipate over time. This dissipation and wear hint at the anxiety of a text or concept being used and reused. Alexakis’ story forces us to ask: Can the original effect of an event or form hold its sway over an individual without both the viewer and the viewed dissolving?

Michel Platini scored the most beautiful goal I’ve ever seen in my life with a free kick against the Dutch team. I’m almost certain that it was the team from the Netherlands: on the videotape, there are still a few traces of orange, the color of the Dutch jerseys. It was not merely a magnificent goal: it seems, in fact, that it ensured the French team’s qualification for the World Cup, which must’ve been held that year in Mexico, or in Argentina. Or in Italy, maybe. No matter. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this historic goal changed my life.

I saw the match at home. I didn’t even regret not finding a ticket for the Parc des Princes, because some goals are shown exclusively on TV in slow motion. Fortunately, I thought to record the match, as if I’d sensed that it would be exceptional. I watched the match alone, because neither my wife nor my daughters like soccer. Was it during the first period that Michel scored? Actually, I think it was during the second half, I would even say during the last fifteen minutes, because things had grown very tense and anticipatory as much on the field as in the stands, as is always the case at the end of a game.

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Translation Tuesday: “The Logic of the Soap Bubbles” by Luna Sicat-Cleto

. . . actually, it has now become more complicated because I now get imaginary enemies and lovers.

The mania present in this week’s Translation Tuesday is forceful and visceral, poured forth with a tide of senses, memories, tastes, smells, and visions. Upon the arrival of a spectral personification named Sandali, the inner monologue of Luna Sicat-Cleto’s narrator detonates, threading seamlessly through the past, the present, and the future. The word sandali, in Filipino, can be roughly translated as “moment.” In this story, we are reminded of exactly how broad, and how various, a moment can be.

That moment comes, unexpected, uninvited, she just appears, like a visitor, a visitor whom I cannot shove off, I let her inside, offer her coffee, she will not drink the coffee, she will merely stroke the cup’s ear, and will look at me from head to toe, like a child, she will stare, and I know that she is sizing me up because I too am sizing her, she will look out the window and whisper something about the weather, I will nod, as if I had heard what she had whispered but actually hadn’t, I have been deaf for a long time, I don’t recognize the noise I heard, I no longer know if birds still sing in the morning, whatever noise I heard, I’m sure that my eardrums have already burst, a noise that had pierced through to my brain, but it’s funny that I still recognize the sound of my own name, and this gives me hope, hope is a dangerous thing, they say that it is what thrusts people to madness, and when the visitor called my name, I did not know if I was dreaming, I lifted my head up and smiled, I was about to mention something about the weather, or our weight, whether we have gained or lost some, but I had forgotten what I was about to say as soon as she squeezed my palm, where the pulse lies, where the welt from the blade rested and she whispered: flee, flee and I will know what she wanted to happen, she wanted to sleep with me, I will not object, I will be even the one to usher her to bed, and I will feel her trembling, I will take off her clothes and she will do the same and we will begin our voyage, that’s how I see it, a voyage I will not object to, I will try not to think, I will let it be, she will come again tomorrow, my door will be open, I will not refuse, for I want our world to be filled with our children, the whole universe even, so that I wouldn’t feel lonely anymore, isn’t it right, Sandali, for that is her name, Sandali, she has neither parent nor sibling, neither home nor job, she is not bound to anything or anytime. Sandali, her name does not suit her, perhaps I needn’t give her a name, she is like a poem, a poem that does not have a name, if a person labels a poem a poem, it vanishes, it disappears like bubbles that can no longer be touched.

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Translation Tuesday: “The Physiology of Memory” by Ricardo Lísias

The most torturing memories aren’t necessarily images, frozen, but films of about three minutes each.

In this haunting short story by Ricardo Lísias, the narrator contends with multiple stubborn memories, around which his narrative revolves. From an injured taxi driver in Buenos Aires, to overwhelming loneliness in Krakow, these memories are strung together to create a potent, overwhelming mixture.

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I have determined why I am so upset by writers of clear sentences: they don’t struggle with memory. Their transparency denounces a simplistic intelligence. If someone cries because they are not able to render trauma into words then that person is a deep person.

I identified the root of my issue with clear-writing writers when I was in Poland. It is a very stark memory. I felt, standing more or less five hundred metres away from a small bus terminal in Krakow, the most intense loneliness I have ever experienced.

A year later, when I decided to dig up the loneliest moment in my life, I realized that it is not a bad feeling. It doesn’t hurt me or make me suffer.

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Translation Tuesday: Wanich Jarungkitanand’s “We Both Live Here . . . in the Same Soi”

She’s totally unaware that she has a secret admirer, an ardent observer.

Aree Manosuthikit’s translation of this short story by renowned Thai writer Wanich Jarungkitanand takes us to the urban slums of Bangkok, where a university student falls in love with a young woman who lives in his neighborhood. A poignant commentary on the social ills facing contemporary Thai society, “We Both Live Here . . . in the Same Soi” is one of Jarungkitanand’s best-known stories.

My house is in a soi (a narrow street branching off a main road). It’s like a thousand other cramped and congested sois in Bangkok’s Thonburi district. Since I have no time to mingle or make friends with anyone, I know only two people in this soi: the lady owner of a coffee shop and another from a small restaurant I frequent. We’re just acquaintances. Though I know them both by name, I don’t see why they should know mine or why I should bother to identify myself.

This soi is like all other sois, harboring boisterous gangsters and delinquents. They sit idly around in the coffee shop waiting for the weekend to come. Then they scoot over to the racecourse, come back flat broke at sunset, cry like babies over the money they’ve just squandered, and then plot a way to get it back in the darkness of the night.

This soi is a safe zone for drug pushers and addicts who abuse all sorts of illicit substances, from painkillers and marijuana to opium and solvents. It’s also a haven for all classes of thieves, from bandits-in-chief to rookies and the whole gamut in between. Frequenting this coffee shop has given me the idea that if I wanted to get involved in illegal activities, I could be an agent for the experienced criminals infesting this soi who steal cars, burglarize, brawl, rob, and murder. Once I witnessed two nonlocal gangsters getting beaten to a pulp right in front of the coffee shop.

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