20 August 2012

The art of self-blurbing

Caravana de recuerdos reviews César Aira's 1981 "Gothic" novel Ema, la cautiva. The review includes a translation of the author's letter to the "agreeable reader" at the back of the Spanish book.

17 August 2012

A la recherche du temps perdu soundtrack

Via the 2013: The Year of Reading Proust group at Goodreads, this Spotify playlist sets the Proustian mood. The songs are taken from an article by music critic Alex Ross. For the paintings referenced in the Lost Time series, Paintings in Proust, edited by Eric Karpeles, seems to be the art book museum to visit.

The "third" book of Hopscotch

Hopscotch was the book that got me started in transla­tion, that won me that National Book Award [for Translation, now defunct], and also led me to do One Hundred Years of Solitude. García Márquez wanted me to do his book but at the moment I was tied up with Miguel Ángel Asturias’s “banana trilogy.” Cortázar told Gabo to wait, which he did, to the evident satisfaction of all con­cerned. So Hopscotch was for me what the hydrographic cliché calls a watershed moment as my life took the direction it was to follow from then on. I hadn’t read the book but I skimmed some pages and did two sample chapters, the first and one far­ther along, I can’t remember which. Editor Sara Blackburn and Julio both liked my version and I was off and away.

What drew me to the novel and to Julio were the varie­gated interests he and I had in common: jazz, humor, liberal politics, and inventive art and writing. As I have said, I read the complete novel only as I translated it. This strange and uncommon procedure somehow followed the nature of the book it­self and I do not think it hurt the translation in any way. In­deed, it may have insured its success. ...

One stiff-necked critic was outraged that he should be called upon to read the novel twice. Julio wrote me and figu­ratively shook his head over the fact that the poor boob did not know that he was being toyed with. He went on to say that it was bad enough to ask people to read his novel once, let alone twice. He would never do such a thing. When I finished the translation I remembered the instructions at the beginning and realized that I had offered a third reading of the novel by simply barging through from the first page to the last. What that obtuse critic had not realized was that hopscotch is a game, something to be played. The version that Julio had sketched out on the cover of the novel was evidently the way the game is played in Argentina, starting on a square called Earth and following the numbers to a square called Heaven. It was only natural that his intellectual friskiness should have been noticed by his countryman, Jorge Luis Borges, who was the first to publish Julio’s work. Would that their poor, trou­bled and so often solemn birthplace had been more like them in its history. Cortázar also maintained that our species was misnamed and should have been called homo ludens (nothing to do with any coughing gays).

- Translator Gregory Rabassa writing about Hopscotch, from his memoir If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents. (Excerpts here)

16 August 2012

Margaret Jull Costa

In response to a question, her admission that her pleasure in translating wasn’t out of a particular interest in Spanish or Portuguese literature so much as it was an interest in the English language elicited a palpable reaction. Even if this seemed an obvious point, I felt I’d had an epiphany: a great translator is, first and foremost, a great reader – and, following that, a great writer as well.

Seraillon reports on a great talk by translator Margaret Jull Costa in San Francisco, a lecture organized by the Center for the Art of Translation.

14 August 2012

Hopscotch soundtrack

Via one of my groups in Goodreads, all the jazz music played in Julio Cortázar's Rayuela can be listened to in Youtube (playlist 1 or playlist 2).

The music is in the 2001 album Jazzuela. Julio Cortázar y el Jazz (song list).

Enjoy! And, yeah, you can hop around the songs.

08 August 2012

Translation talk with Chris Andrews

You could almost argue that [domesticating translation] brings the languages closer together, because it makes the original language version more familiar in a way. You can immerse yourself in the story when you’re not being alarmed by syntactic unfamiliarity.

You could make an argument for a certain degree of domestication in a first translation of an author to give the author a good chance of getting out there into the reading public. And I think what happens when an author becomes famous and well-loved and had a durable appeal, is that often a retranslation will be more foreignising and this has happened recently with Dostoevsky, for example people have retranslated Dostoevsky in a more foreignising way.

And does that alienate people?

Sometimes it alienates readers who are used to the earlier version. There’s also the issue of things being retranslated more for publishing reasons rather than literary reasons. There are already good translations out there but publishers know they can turn a dollar if they say, ‘this is the new and definitive version’, people will buy it.

More at Seemed like a good idea at the time.