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.

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.