Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Karen Lillis spent the end of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st working as a clerk at St. Mark's Bookshop; she inaugurates her new monthly column at Undie Press with some engaging reminiscences from that time and some reflections on independent bookselling in the US.
Update: Jen Michalski of JMWW has a great interview with Lillis about independent bookselling, about libraries and bookstores, about her memoir project and about her memories...
Michael Jacobson, blogger at The New Post-Literate, has started working on an "asemic novel" consisting (so far) of animated logograms -- he is documenting the work in progress at a new blog, Mynd Eraser. (I love the scribbles running off the page and reconstituting themselves...)
Sunday, September 26th, 2010
Radoslav Radoslavov Valkov of Bulgaria won the under-21 category of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management's Environmental Photographer of the Year contest for 2010 with this gorgeous picture of a fly taken in his back yard. (Thanks for the link, Djini!)
Saturday, September 25th, 2010
Something you will occasionally see in books translated from a foreign language and published in America, is that metric units of measurement are rendered as English units*, with no conversion of the number next to the units, e.g. "cinco kilogramos" is rendered as "5 pounds". I'm not sure how often this happens, I have noticed it a couple of times and it's driven me just batty. (Also have seen it with monetary units, "cien francs" being translated as "100 dollars" which does not make much sense either.) I believe the thinking behind it is something on the order of, someone reading this story in the original language would get an immediate sense of what 5 kg means, where a US reader would need to pause and convert it mentally -- at the very least it seems to me every time I notice this that it at least ought to be rendered as "ten pounds" or whatever, to keep the meaning the same.
Well: when Saramago was writing The Elephant's Journey he faced a similar issue in terms of translating archaic units of distance into metric, and he came up with a very tidy, winning solution. Check this out -- on the first day of the journey, Subhro is reckoning how far they have travelled:
How far have we traveled, a league, possibly two, he wondered. ...Let us consider the league, which was the word used by subhro, a distance that was also composed of paces and feet, but which has the enormous advantage of placing us in familiar territory. Yes, but everyone knows what leagues are, our contemporaries will say with an ironic smile. The best answer we can give them is this, Yes, everyone did in the age in which they lived, but only in the age in which they lived. The old word league, or leuga, which should, one would think, have meant the same to everyone at all times, has in fact made a long journey from the seven thousand five hundred feet or one thousand five hundred paces of the romans and the early middle ages to the kilometers and meters with which we now divide up distance, no less than five and five thousand respectively. It's the same with other measurements as well. ...Now, having presented the matter with such dazzling clarity, we can make an absolutely crucial, almost revolutionary decision, namely this, while the mahout and his companions, given that they would have no other means at their disposal, will continue to speak of distances in accord with the uses and customs of their age, we, so that we can understand what is going on in this regard, will use our own modern itinerary units of measurement, which will avoid constantly having to resort to tiresome conversion tables. It will be as if we were adding subtitles to a film, a concept unknown in the sixteenth century, to compensate for our ignorance or imperfect knowledge of the language spoken by the actors. We will, therefore, have two parallel discourses that will never meet, this one, which we will be able to follow without difficulty, and another, which, from this moment on, will remain silent. An interesting solution.
*Ooh and look! I did not know anything about this; but until the mid-19th C. there used to be an entirely separate Portuguese system
of measurement units.
Friday, September 24th, 2010
Strange though it may seem to anyone unaware of the importance of the marital bed in the efficient workings of public administration, regardless of whether that bed has been blessed by the church or state or no one at all, the first step of an elephant's extraordinary journey to austria, which we propose to describe hereafter, took place in the royal apartments of the portuguese court, more or less at bedtime.
And so The Elephant's Journey opens in the marital chambers of John III of Portugal and his queen Catherine of Hapsburg -- John III is (IIUC) great-great-grandfather to John V, in whose marital chambers Baltasar and Blimunda will open two centuries later. And The Elephant's Journey is seeming in its first few chapters like it is very much going to be a masterpiece on the order of Baltasar and Blimunda and The History of the Siege of Lisbon. I could hardly imagine anything better...
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
(Well not until next summer, but still...) I got word today from Words Without Borders that they love my translation of Réquiem and are going to publish it in their "Homages" issue next July. I'm tremendously excited about this! I remember a line of Edith Grossman's to the effect that the way to be a translator is to assert that you are a translator, to just go ahead and do it; and now I feel like I am a translator, like I am going ahead and doing it. I also heard from John Carvill of the brand-new site oomska that he wants to publish my translation of Pablo Antonio Cuadra's "Black Boat". This is great... I think I will look around for a new story to start working on, maybe something by Soledad Puértolas.
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Speaking of Altazor, I found on YouTube a reading of the Prologue that I've been translating over the last few weeks. Clémence Loonis is reading:
My translation of this section below the fold.
"And I created the mouth and the lips of the mouth, to imprison ambiguous smiles; and the teeth of the mouth to keep watch on the absurdities that enter our mouths.
"I created the tongue of the mouth, the tongue which man tore from her proper role, making her learn to speak... She, she, the gorgeous bather, torn forever from her proper role, aquatic, purely sensual."
My parachute began to fall vertiginously. Such is the force of the attraction from death, from the open sepulchre.
You must believe it, the tomb holds more power than the eyes of my beloved -- the open tomb and all its charms. And I'm saying this to you, to you who when you are smiling, you make me think about the beginning of the world.
My parachute became entangled with an extinguished star, one which went conscientiously about its orbit as if it were not aware of the futility of its efforts.
And making good use of this well-earned respite, I proceeded to fill in, with my profound thoughts, the blank squares of my gameboard:
"Authentic song is arson. Poetry weaves herself through every thing, she lights the way for her consumations with her shivers of ecstasy, of agony.
"One must write in a tongue which is not one's mother tongue.
"The four cardinal points are three: the South and the North.
"A poem is a thing which is coming into being.
"A poem is a thing which never exists, which must exist.
"A poem is a thing which never has existed, which could never exist.
"Flee from the sublime external, unless you want to die brought low by the wind.
"If I did not commit some madness at least once every year, I would surely go mad."
In Canto V of Altazor it seems like Weinberger is really coming in to his own -- this is the first Canto where I can really read the translation without constantly looking back to the original to see what rhythm and meaning Huidobro was getting at, the point at which Weinberger's poem becomes a poem of its own.
Here begins the unexplored land
There is one point though, where I think his translation could really be improved upon. The long repetitive, chanting section that begins
Round on account of the eyes that behold it
Profound on account of my heart
Filled with likely sapphires
And aerial burials
Eerie as the dreams of dwarfs
As the branch snapped off in infinity
The seagull carries to its young
Jugamos fuera del tiempo
Weinberger renders as,
Y juega con nosotros el molino de viento
Molino de viento
Molino de aliento
Molino de cuento
Molino de intento...
We play outside of time
(and keep in mind that this goes on for another 200 or so lines) -- I love his word choice but think it would flow much better together if every line is turned end-to-end, thus:
And the windmill plays along
The wind mill
The mill of inspiration
The mill of narration
The mill of determination
The mill of proliferation...
We play outside of time
With that singsong rhythm set up I can plow full steam ahead through the pages filled with just Exaltationmill/ Inhumationmill/ Maturationmill/ etcetera etcetera...
And the windmill plays along
A couple of lovely lines from earlier in the canto, in my own translation:
So let us light a pyre beneath the oracle
To placate destiny
Let us feed solitude's
With our own flesh
So in the cemetery, sealed off
And beautiful, like an eclipse
breaks its bonds and blossoms beyond the grave
Laugh, laugh, before fatigue arrives.
(Speaking of translation, I had some potentially very good news from an editor at Words Without Borders, about my submission of Zupcic's Réquiem. Should know more next week.)
Dark Roasted Blend has a collection of photos of gargoyles from all over the world -- this is billed as part I, so hopefully we will get more soon. (via cleek)
Sunday, September 19th, 2010
Sylvia's birthday party at the Raptor Trust was great fun and for me, a chance to see something new; I had never been there before. Sylvia got this great shot of a turkey vulture peering out at us.
Mountain Station played the Lenox Pl. block party and we had a ball with it. Several mix-ups on both our parts in terms of what lyrics were coming next... But from where I was standing it came out sounding very good. In the next few days I should get a chance to listen to what the recording sounds like.
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Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.