Slice mag multilingual translation

The folks behind Slice Literary have published the fourth instalment of their International Corpse series  – a kind of mutilingual fiction relay – in their latest flight-themed issue. Writers Claudia Salazar Jiménez, Pema Bhum, Krys Lee and Kanako Nishi wrote and translators Kang Daehoon, Tenzine Dickie, Allison Markin Powell and I got to translate the story sections from Tibetan, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

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María Jose Ferrada’s Kramp extracted at Nashville Review

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***Update 23/10/2018: Kramp receives Chile’s highest literary accolade as the Ministry of Culture’s Best Novel of 2018***

D began his career selling hardware items: nails, saws, hammers, handles and magic eye door viewers, brand name Kramp.

The first time he left the guesthouse where he lived with a sample case in hand, he couldn’t work up the courage to step inside the leading hardware store in the city, which back then was just a town, until he’d walked past it thirty-eight times.

His first sales attempt happened the same day man took a step on the moon. The townspeople assembled in the square to watch the moon landing thanks to a projector that the mayor had wheeled out to his office balcony, which cast the moving image onto a white sheet. As it played no sound, the fire brigade band provided the backing track.

When D saw Neil Armstrong take his first step on the moon, he thought that anything was possible—all it took was the right attitude and the right outfit.

So the next day, after approaching the hardware store for the thirty-ninth time, he stepped inside it in the most polished shoes the city had ever seen and offered his Kramp products to the person in charge. Nails, saws, hammers, handles and magic eye door viewers. He didn’t close a sale, but he was told to come back the following week.

D treated himself to a coffee and jotted down on the serviette: Every life has its own moon landing.

Later, when D told his father that man had reached the moon, his father said it was an out-and-out hoax, that God created man with his feet on the ground and with no wings to speak of, and everything else was lies spouted by the president of the United States.

Either way, the following week D made his own small step for mankind: he sold a half-dozen saws and a dozen magic eye door viewers. When he left the hardware store with the order inside his suitcase, he felt that all moments of happiness, large and small, deserved to be projected in a town square.

Read the rest at The Nashville Review.

A multilingual stitched-together story

So much fun to participate in PEN America’s Lit Crawl Brooklyn 2017, even if from afar! Words without Borders and Slice Literary teamed up to make a pretty special collaboration happen.

Writers Na Zhong, Lucrecia Zappi, Georgi Gospodinov and Claudia Salazar Jiménez were given the final line, translated into English, of the preceding author’s 200-word story segment, and were asked to continue the story in Chinese, Portuguese, Bulgarian and Spanish, respectively.  The segments were translated by Na Zhong, Eric M. B. Becker, Angela Rodel and yours truly. These were stitched together to form the short story “World Going to Fall Apart?”

And then we all got to read it!

 

Extract of The Palimpsests at PEN America

I fell hard for this erudite, madcap, astonishingly inventive book. A bookseller in Barcelona pressed it into my hands in February 2016, a few months after it was released by Editorial Minúscula. “If you want to read something that says this much”—he opened his arms wide—“then this is the book for you.” He couldn’t have put it better: Los palimpsestos’s slight dimensions belie how exceptional and ambitious it is.

Polish writer Aleksandra Lun wrote this novella, her debut, in Spanish after living 10 years in Spain. It tells the story of Przęśnicki, an Eastern-European immigrant writer who, having neglected to write his first novel in his mother tongue, is committed to a psychiatric hospital to undergo “Bartlebian linguistic reintegration therapy.” Within the walls of the asylum, he meets other patients likewise afflicted with foreign writer syndrome, including Samuel Beckett, Emil Cioran, and Joseph Conrad.

Los palimpsestos is first and foremost a book about literature: Via a daisy-chain of literary references, it offers backstage access to the phenomena of foreign writers and their decision to switch languages. It portrays Europe as a linguistic playground while offering sly commentary on the politics and privileges of artistic creation and reception, especially when shadowed by nativism.

And it more than lives up to its title: Przęśnicki and his roommate are Polish; they are in francophone Belgium; Przęśnicki wrote his first novel in Antarctic and is writing his second one on the pages of a Dutch-language newspaper; and the book itself is written in Spanish. Yet, while multiple languages are mentioned or presumed throughout, there is no trace of them on the page, with two exceptions: Wampir and Kaskader, the titles of Przęśnicki’s books. He says they are in Antarctic, though readers with a knowledge of Polish will have a head start comprehending this fantastical language. So Lun’s novella exists in a context of polyglossia while almost never providing linguistic evidence of it. In other words, in Los palimpsestos, everything is perfectly translated.

Read the rest at PEN America.

 

Carlos Yushimito’s ‘Which Treats of Lázaro’s Account of the Friendship He Shared with a Blind Trafficker in Stories and the Misfortunes that Befell Them’

Weedon_TLB33_LORES-5316_square_largeEXTRACT

There was a time when I often gazed at the factory chimneys. Each morning they were the same height and their colour resembled zinzolin, a kind of purple that, lacklustre as it is, blended with the red of daybreak. Those details were important to me: they let me know that between night and day nothing had changed. The rain, for example, had not made one chimney grow taller than the other or effaced or discoloured the enamel. It soothed me to note that the black clouds that rose from the chimneys, though unrelenting, would never darken the rest of the sky; the smoke billowed and it seemed to me that I was watching a giant’s fingers as he twirled his hair.

On those occasions I spent hours waiting for the blind man to wake. Between the white eyes of sleep and the white eyes of waking I learned to distinguish a rift: the sun hastened the contours of the chimneys and shortly after his hands began to shake as if they were drowning in the light; after this, now with his whole body shaking and his eyes rolled back, he groped his way towards where I was watching him and, with a couple of blows to my head, cried:

“Open your eyes, Lázaro! With no energy there’s no voice, and with no voice there’s no appetite…”

You can read a longer extract online at The Lifted Brow.

You can also get a copy of the print quarterly over here. It’s our tenth birthday issue, hooray!

And here is the translator’s note:

Peruvian writer Carlos Yushimito (1977) burst onto the literary scene in 2006 with the collection Las islas [The Islands]. This story is from his third collection, Los bosques tienen sus propias puertas [Forests Have Their Own Doors], published in 2013. His atmospheric narratives, told by means of subtle and imagistic language, often inhabit dreamlike or foreign spaces and in this way hinge on displacement. The worlds they evoke are as concrete as they are strange and our view of them is almost always slightly unsure, our footing unstable.

Readers of the translation will note the echoes that play out suggestively in this dystopian story—the twirling hair, the piano playing—and a brief outline of some of its literary genealogy will add others. Foremost among its textual forebears is The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities, an anonymous, subversive Spanish Golden Age novella published in 1554, which tells the story of Lázaro, who, after his stepfather is accused of thievery, is taken in by a blind beggar.

It is also an homage to Uruguayan writer’s writer Felisberto Hernández (1902–1964), who published sparsely and died penniless. He was a pianist as well as a writer and his third wife, Africa Las Heras, was a Soviet spy. He made memory his subject and his stories resonated with unknown things. Here, her deception and his obscurity is avenged through a talking frog, and through the characters’ reverence for his work, in contrast to Yushimito’s sly lampooning of the poetry of Mario Benedetti (1920–2009), a gentle joke at the expense of the immensely popular fellow Uruguayan.

Yushimito’s beautiful sentences are the greatest pleasure to translate. I’ve made sure to maintain vocabulary that hints at an archaic world—zinzolin, an old literary colour that usually describes vestments; pallet, a crude bed—and especially the parlance of apothecaries: ampoules, vials, alembics. This last one, which describes a certain type of alchemical still, came into Middle English in the fourteenth century from Old French, via Old Spanish, from the Arabic al-inbīq, via Persian, from the Greek ἄμβιξ, which was in turn a word of possibly Semitic origin: its etymology is a striking reflection of the age-old, and cyclical, exchange of ideas between East and West. I think of the first syllable of the word we have today in English, that little ‘al-’ (the Arabic definitive article, the equivalent of ‘the’), as a modest intervention, smuggled and secreted into the English language along with the concept and the technology; a reminder that what I’m doing has been going on for as long as we’ve been talking to each other.

Extract from Aleksandra Lun’s The Palimpsests in Asymptote

…is featured in the latest issue of Asymptote. It starts like this:

Illustration by Naï Zakharia

 

My name is Czesław Przęśnicki, I’m a miserable Eastern-European immigrant and a failed writer, I haven’t engaged in sexual relations for some time and I’ve been committed to an asylum in Belgium, a country that has had no government for the past year. The reasons I find myself hemmed in by the cold walls of a psychiatric hospital in the north of Europe are as mysterious to me as the failure of my sex life, which for years has had me languishing in apathy and frustration. No one could have predicted that one day I would end up in a Belgian asylum when I was born thirty-five years ago behind the Iron Curtain in the confusing geopolitical space marked by Adolf Hitler’s hyperactivity. To be precise, the state that issues my passport is Poland, country of globe-trotting popes, frigid temperatures, and muscular war heroes among whom, hypocrisy aside, I don’t count myself. I have a submissive nature, a flaccid body, and am thinning on top, and my faint-hearted self falls a long way short of exuding sex appeal for healthful fellow specimens of the male sex, whether under totalitarian regimes or democracy. Before I was committed to the psychiatric hospital of Liège, a city located in francophone Belgium, I lived in Vinson, the capital of Antarctica, where I shared the sad destiny of other miserable Eastern-European immigrants who set foot on that white continent clutching their newly acquired passports. That was how I learnt Antarctic, a language I now speak confidently though with a strong foreign accent, and in which I wrote my first novel, Wampir, a critical and commercial failure.

You can read the rest, the translator’s note, and listen to an audio clip of the author reading the original aloud, here.

You can find the rest of the pieces in the issue here.

The same tree, the same iceberg

Edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike

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EXTRACT

[…] While the number of people fluent in both Zapotec and English who also possess the literary skills to translate poetry into English is no doubt tiny, there are of course many talented Japanese–English literary translators. New Directions has published Tawada titles translated from both Japanese and German, so the availability of translators from either language is not an issue here. For Memoirs of a Polar Bear, Tawada requested the translation be made from her self-translation into German. Unlike for Black Flower, the choice to translate into English from the self-translation is therefore not a necessary compromise but an authorial choice. The reason Tawada gave for this preference was that she had already done the work of translating her novel from Japanese into a Western language.

This justification draws on interesting ideas around the perceived lexical and cultural propinquity of languages—how much overlap they share. In choosing the self-translation—in requesting that the translator ‘fix’ it rather than the original—Tawada does not cast the original Japanese version as inchoate but as remote, or at least remoter-than; this postulates a hierarchy of translatability in which less cultural and lexical overlap corresponds to more translational complexity. Tawada’s request is also an aesthetic decision that foregrounds the self-translation because, I would argue, it best expresses the work. If form is meaning, then, unlike Toledo’s self-translation, Tawada’s self-translation is more meaningful than her original because its translation of the self puts into practice the thematic that her novel explores.

Read the rest at Sydney Review of Books.

Translator’s note to Blood of the Dawn

Edited by Will Evans

EXTRACT

In an article in El País, Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina noted contemporary Peruvian novelists’ aptitude for creating narratives infused with historical and political reality: novels that set out to capture the real. Blood of the Dawn’s allusions to events of the recent past—some oblique, others named, but all with real-world equivalents unmistakable for Peruvian readers—make it not out of place, I don’t think, to name those events here so readers of the translation are better equipped to find out more.

There is another reason to do so. Historian Cecilia Méndez G. has argued that, while the Shining Path insurrection has had an indelible effect on Peruvian society, it is a period that many Peruvians, especially those who live in the capital, do their utmost to forget. Dwelling on this “time of fear,”—or, for Quechua speakers, the “sasachakuy [difficult] time”—which claimed at least 70,000 lives, is too painful. The urgency of representation present in Blood of the Dawn is a courageous response to this amnesia, a demand to remember as much as an attempt to represent, a pointing toward the real as well as a transformation of that real by means of the imagination.

So, a list: the 1983 Lucanamarca massacre, the 1985 Accomarca massacre, the 1986 prison riots and massacres (including at the women’s prison in Santa Mónica), the 1991 Barrios Altos massacre and the 1992 Tarata bombing. Reference is also made to a 1989 video that features the Shining Path leader dancing to “Zorba the Greek” with the high command.

The Quechua words I decided not to gloss mostly represent complex ideas from the Andean cosmovision, where features of the landscape are invested with spirit. Some rough approximations: Apus are sacred mountains or powerful mountain spirits; Pachamama is something like Mother Earth; and Pachacuti is a space-time turnover, a chaotic time where everything is turned on its head after a thousand-year cycle of the earth ends and the next begins. Another Quechua term derives from Andean experiences of colonialism: the Pishtaco is a mythological bogeyman, often a white stranger, who kills Andean individuals to steal their body fat. Body fat is a sign of vitality and beauty in the Andes. Add to this the Andeans’ horror on observing the way Spanish conquistadores treated their wounds with the fat of their enemies’ corpses and you have the makings of a myth set to endure. Its modern incarnations include the belief that sugar-mill machinery uses human fat as grease—a critique of Western capitalism if ever there were one.

Blood of the Dawn manages to compress a great deal into very little space, which has made translating it an absorbing and sometimes daunting challenge. One remarkable feature is the way a single idea is expressed twofold through content and form. For example, the plot’s focus on women as drivers of history is reflected in how their stories are told: Salazar Jiménez reminds us that language is a means of articulating systems of domination, patriarchy among them, through her steadfast refusal to use the full sentences dictated by standard grammar. In another example, Blood of the Dawn wrestles with how we might begin to represent violence in light of the physical and psychic damage it wreaks. The fragmentary nature of the narrative—its rapid switching among scenes, perspectives, grammatical tenses and persons, and especially the sections that turn away from grammatical organization almost completely—articulates the near impossibility of relating trauma while at the same time offering up an ambitious attempt to do the same.

A key challenge in bringing across all this compressed complexity was trying to reflect the different voices of the protagonists. These voices are painted with Quechua-inflected Spanish (in sentence structure as much as vocabulary), Maoist ideology, echoes of Catholic catechism, the language of elitist prejudice and racism, and much more besides. Through the rhythm of Modesta’s voice, I hope I have conveyed something of the repetitions that call to mind predominantly oral cultures, where lodgment in the listener’s memory is often favored over economy of expression. With Marcela/Marta, I have tried to emphasize the sense of indoctrination into Shining Path ideology. For example, when the word “encarnado” (“in the flesh,” “embodied,” “personified”) is used to describe the way she exemplifies the revolution, I opted to include a biblical allusion by translating “revolución encarnada” as “the revolution made flesh” in an echo of both the 1611 and standard versions of the King James Bible, “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14).

Read the rest by purchasing a copy of Blood of the Dawn in Australia or elsewhere in the world.

Blood of the Dawn

…is now out in the world.

Such a thrill to think that a book I have lived with for the past 3 years can now make its way into the hands of readers. Claudia Salazar Jiménez has, I think, made something very special, and it has been supremely satisfying to get to grapple with some of the creative and intellectual challenges of bringing her powerful debut to life in English.

Here’s the blurb:

The fate of three women intertwine and are ripped apart during what’s known as the “time of fear” in Peruvian history when the Shining Path militant insurgency was at its peak. This powerful and poignant debut novel rewrites the armed conflict through the voice of women with a mixture of politics, desire, and pain told in lucid, brutal prose. Salazar stimulates the reader’s imagination through visual and narrative references that hit us by delving into the personal stories of these three quite different women. The social trauma of Peru is full of personal tragedies like these, and while Salazar’s characters may be fiction, the pain they all endure is completely real and universal.

Blood of the Dawn is a tremendously lyrical and ambitious debut, a highly accomplished, moving, beautiful novel that serves as an example of what art can do to help us not forget.

And the first words of the novel:

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blackout total darkness Where was it? all over Where did it come from? high tension towers fell to their knees bombs explode all raze blast burst Were you with the group? cooking at home while I waited for my husband blackout typing up the meeting’s minutes blackout developing some photos blackout get candles I don’t have enough six pages two towers the outskirts of the capital What did you say? you can’t sign comrade darkness excluded from history submit or blow up bomb Did you find out what they did? wow you cleaned your whole plate smile no candles eat three towers they say now more time more towers When will there be light again? candles turn on the radio I can’t find the matches three candles no matches make a spark with flint just kidding bomb we have a generator go to the epicenter where what we can’t see is happening bomb report what’s happening on the other side of the towers see Where were each of the three of them? blackout

○●
They brought me to this jail in the capital not long before our leadership fell. They almost always bring me to this room so Major Romero can interrogate me. Everything is white, whiter than a hospital. The three chairs. The table with the white melamine top. White walls, too. It’s already almost two weeks since I found out they’d caught them. I wonder what they’ve done to Comrade Leader. Fucking dogs. If they touch him, they’re all going to die; one by one we’ll take them down.

The only sound is the clock. Romero hasn’t shown up yet. It’s a bit chilly in this white room. Such a difference from that sandy place where I started my social work. I especially remember one day when the sun tested us. Unbearable, hellish. That’s what the heat felt like on that long stretch of sand settled by so many people. I was there with the engineer who coordinated the construction projects and with Fernanda, the social worker. I’d also taken along my four-year-old daughter. I thought it would be good for her to play with children who had little or nothing.

The sandy ground stretched on and on, a boiling yellow cloak. The heat was stifling. I felt the sweat of my girl’s tiny hand in mine. One of the people in charge of the housing committee handed me a glass of water to relieve her thirst. Water was sold at the price of gold, offloaded from trucks that came barely once a week. The glass that my daughter had just finished meant less water for one of these children.

She was more settled now so I left her with the other little ones and joined the community members to discuss the upcoming projects. They needed a network of potable water, drainage and public lighting to cover at least ten streets. They had also asked the municipality for a health post with basic services and for a school to be built. Education is fundamental to breaking free from the structural inequalities that social organization is founded on; without it, the potential for change Mami!!! is practically non-existent. My years of experience as an educator give me the authority to confirm Mamiiiiiiiiii!!!! that without the appropriate level of Señora Marcela, your daughter!

I ran to where the children were playing. My daughter was stock-still in the middle of the sandy area, her little legs trembling in fright, almost not breathing, hiccupping, her face soaked in tears. She had fallen over in a spot where sand had mixed with compacted earth and it was hard to stay upright. When she saw me, she stretched out her little arms and let fly a loud, distressed wail: Mami, there’s no ground here, carry me!

And, its first review is over at NPRover at NPR.

If you’re in Australia and would like a copy, you can support the good folk at independent bookstore Readings, who will deliver it to your door.

If you’re elsewhere in the world, you can purchase it over at publisher Deep Vellum’s site.

New gig & interview w Alison Whittaker

Exciting news: I’ve joined the Lifted Brow team as their translations editor!

And I got to interview the super smart and fabulous poet and self-translator Alison Whittaker.

The Lifted Brow: To start with the general picture: How, if at all, does translation or self-translation inform your creative practice?

Alison Whittaker: In a way, it’s all the creative practice I’ve got! I work mostly in the English language, so I’m always changing concepts and codes from this Gomeroi formulation I have of the world. Even when I’m working in my own language, Gamilaraay, my understanding and my expression is mediated through English as my first language. So, even though I’m working from a language frame that’s at the foundation of being Gomeroi, using Gamilaraay in my cultural practice is almost a double translation. That’ll change as my language knowledge grows, I hope, and I’ll be less bound by this colonial language frame. Translation’s at the core of what I do, wanted or unwanted!

TLB: ‘Wanted or unwanted’: This makes me wonder what the relationship is between language and oppression in your opinion. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s decision to forsake English to write in Gikuyu springs to mind. He said in an interview,

It was a revelation for me, in a practical sense, that you could write in an African language and still reach an audience beyond that language through the art of translation. Through the act of translation we break out of linguistic confinement and reach many other communities.

This view might be putting a rosy filter on things, but do you think translation can be a tool to work through the relationship between language and oppression? If there are losses along the way, how do you think these can be mediated, challenged or counteracted?

Read the rest over at The Lifted Brow.

Letter to Salvador translation

By Claudia Salazar Jiménez, translated by Elizabeth Bryer

Edited by Jennifer Mills

EXTRACT

[…] This was what happened, Salvador. You summoned me and I came back to life. I should clarify that you are not the first to do so since I coughed up that haemoptysis discharge for the last time. I still recall the pain. It always happens like so, someone talks about ‘the Kafkaesque’ and I open my eyes again, my body reanimates for some hours and then, nothingness. I fall again into non-existence. But this time is different. This time it has not been something ephemeral, a matter of the minutes someone’s attention has been held by that adjective. This time I have been able to remain. My body is still the same as before, with all its burdens of pains, creaky joints and spasms. I write you this and have a coughing fit once again. As I said, I find it hard to accept the shape of my hands and I won’t tell you how difficult it is to make them do all I want. I have noticed that my body is not very well preserved. Death does not happen to one without consequence.

This is how I was the morning you summoned me, watching my body as it came back to life. The sun on my face was the best sensation I have ever experienced. To look towards the source of that brilliance was to bathe in tranquillity. There was the world, in its entirety, for me. No more father, no mother, no Felice or Milena. Disconnected from every familial or romantic link, I could be free, finally, could submerge myself in existence, not accountable to anyone. I, alone, in this new land. I thought long and hard about it, and I felt I was an explorer, I would not let anything terrify me (I made an effort to forget my hands). An entire territory in this new continent, in this northern country, offered any number of possibilities.

Read the rest online at Overland or purchase a copy of issue.

Seizure Online Edition 4 Editor’s Note

I used to think of translation as a process, as what happens when you move words from one language to another, recreating meaning, effects, echoes. Creating new elements, too, out of potentials buried in the source text.

Now I’m starting to think of translation as a place. Part of what makes it conceivable as a locality is your constant effort to get to know it and imbue it with meaning. To fashion it out of meaning, first, and then to layer it with more. Words are responsible for its strata and its topography, and then for its weathering.

Edition 4 brings together seven translation places. It opens and closes with experiments in self-translation that, as the author-translators will tell you in their accompanying notes, come close to drifting free of meaning altogether. To my mind, their willingness to teeter on this precipice is one path for newness making its way into a culture. Hold your breath: skirt the edges of meaning with them.

The edition is arranged into two suites of translations, hinged by one other. The first suite, from Gamilaraay, Indonesian and Georgian, has a post- and anti-colonial thread. The bridge piece is a story translated from youthful, suburban Parisian French. And the closing suite is propelled by movements symptomatic of our globalised world: there is poetry by an ethnic Albanian Kosovar writing from Mexico in non-native Spanish, a multilingual text that is a collaboration between friends, and an act of creation born of travel across both space and time. Let me introduce them to you.

Read the rest, and the incredible contributions, at Seizure Online.

‘Journey to…’ companion essays

Edited by Gillian Terzis

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It’s the year 921 and Ibn Fadlān, a theologian in the court of Abbasid Caliphate al-Muqtadir, is making a 4000-kilometre journey from Baghdād to the encampment of the semi-nomadic Bulghār khan on the Volga River. He is serving as secretary to the caliph’s envoy.

Rare for his time and later—fabulator Marco Polo will come centuries afterwards—he doesn’t invent wonders in the account he jots down in spare moments.

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Illustration by Nancy Liang

The party comes across people with a language like the cries of starlings. The Amu River freezes, and horses and carts slide over the ice as if on roads. They reach a land so cold that beggars don’t wait at the door but step inside, a land where his beard turns into a block of ice. His face freezes to his pillow. The cold splits trees in two.

When the ice melts, they buy camels and boats made from camel skin, three months’ supply of millet, bread and salted meat. Each of them wears plain trousers, padded trousers, a tunic, a caftan, a cloak of sheepskin, a felt outer garment and head covering, and two pairs—one over the other—of horse-hair boots. They can hardly move because of all the clothing. The camels flounder in snow up to their knees.

Read the rest of the essays by purchasing a copy of The Brow #30 or viewing it online.

 

In this fruitful darkness

Edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike

EXTRACT

[…] ‘In this betwixt-and-between period, in this fruitful darkness’, wrote Victor Turner of liminality, the ambiguity or disorientation of the middle stage of rituals. Don’t look down; there’s an abyss yawning just before your toes. Don’t force it, let the words come. Shift, make it fluid, back and forth. The Latin ‘translatio’: a ‘carrying across’: just a simple relocation, no labour of transformation, no alchemy involved here. Likewise the metaphor of the translator as a bridge: so passive! But the liminal space of translation as a fruitful darkness, now that bears greater reflection.

In the middle of this fruitful darkness, you could take the unusual privilege of looking to the work’s protagonist for advice. Makina herself has to contend with equivalence and the unstable nature of isomorphism; she too must try to fix routes between words. She packs what she calls a ‘latin–anglo dictionary’, which she describes as ‘by old men and for old men’ but still useful, ‘like people who don’t really know where a street is and yet point you in the right direction’. Routes between words are more rivers than highways in that their course is always shifting. Revise, and revise again. Make sure you keep up. Maybe all a translator can do, in the end, is point the reader in the right direction.

Makina muses on Spanglish, that language-between-languages, dependent on the existence of both Spanish and English and also on a large enough community of speakers who know both; it is a manner of communicating that is, of course, a kind of language-in-translation. She names it ‘a nebulous territory between what is dying out and what is not yet born’, which recalls, again, liminality, the point at which the old self is dead and the new self, not yet birthed. There are creative possibilities in this space; translational decisions can reinvigorate the world, can make it new: ‘if you say Give me fire when they say Give me a light, what is not to be learned about fire, light and the act of giving? It’s not another way of saying things: these are new things’.

Read the rest of the essay online at Sydney Review of Books.