The feelings of guilt and uncertainty that dominate this stand-alone addendum to Alberto Ruy-Sanchez’s 1987 novel, Los demonios de la lengua, wrestle with the tension between religion and eroticism that was central to the author’s Jesuit upbringing. The story’s prose-poetry style prioritises diction and imagery over narrative, making for a complex and rewarding read.
Not words but serpents emerged from his mouth. And some of these vipers had the heads of goats, of iguanas, salamanders, toads; they were eagles without wings, fish without rivers, tongues without saliva. One tongue divided in two, in three, in ten, in six times one hundred and eleven nightmares. And the odor that emanated from these tongues, reminiscent of the rotten fish that serve as a delicacy in Sweden and an omen of tragedy in Denmark, was so dense as to be visible—and it looked back at us. It was a cloud with eyes, horns, jaws, a bristly beard and pointed ears. It looked like Satan on the verge of unleashing his fury, but it was only the scent of Don Marcelino’s breath as he dozed at midday.
Happy Sunday! Today, we continue with our spotlight on our Close Approximations contest by showcasing the first edition’s winners. If you’re interested or know someone who might be interested, bear in mind that we’ll be awarding $4,500 total in prize money to six emerging translators, and our deadline closes in just sixteen days. Visit our contest page for full details.
The second of our two runners-up in the fiction category, Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, gives us this prize-winning translation of an excerpt from Mexican author Alberto Ruy-Sánchez’s Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador.
What a thrill it was to see a sample of my translation from Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador by the Mexican writer Alberto Ruy Sánchez, published in the January 2014 edition of Asymptote—complete with the beautiful Arabic calligraphy created by Caterina Camastra for the English translation of Nueve veces el asombro and an excerpt of the author reading a passage from the novel in the original Spanish.
I believe this recognition helped Dennis Maloney, editor of White Pine Press, secure a PROTRAD grant from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA). With funds from FONCA’s Program of Support for Translation, Poetics of Wonder was published in July 2014 in the “Companions for the Journey” series of White Pine Press. In September 2014, Alberto Ruy Sánchez and I were invited to Washington, D.C. by the Mexican Cultural Institute to present a bilingual reading of the novel, and we’ve been invited back to D.C. by the Mexican Embassy for an encore book presentation this March.
Shortly before Christmas 2014, Texas Tech University Press published my translation of the Argentine writer Perla Suez’s novel La pasajera in their Americas Series, titled Dreaming of the Delta. I hope that being selected as a winner of the Close Approximations Competition will help me secure grants and publishers for future translation projects. I am truly grateful to Howard Goldblatt, Lee Yew Leong, and the Asymptote editors for this honor that truly has been the gift that keeps on giving!
—Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, Runner-up in the fiction category, Close Approximations