Andrea Abreu’s writing hand is neither soft nor measured. It punches through the film of language and lands, hard, on concrete. Julia Sanches’ translation of Abreu’s novel “Dogs of Summer” (Panza de burro, in the original Spanish) does not stop or stifle the forcefulness of this punch. It responds to it with equal parts fervor and frenzy, preserving the cuts and bruises that Abreu takes care to point us toward with the book’s narrator, affectionately called Shit. How can one possibly reveal this punch in English, save for getting out of the way?
While “translation fictions” are not exclusive to Latin American literature, I did find their publication to be very consistent and prominent in its contemporary production in Spanish, and I believe their portrayal of translation relates very much to this locus of enunciation. Fictional translators would tamper with meanings, deviate conversations, and produce miscommunication on purpose. Fictional translators would tamper with meanings, deviate conversations, and produce miscommunication on purpose. Translators are thought to be unbiased, faithful, a bridge between languages and cultures, right? But that’s not what I was finding in these books.
It’s All Relative: The Multifold Self in Sergio Pitol’s “The Love Parade,” Translated from Spanish by G.B. Henson
“The Love Parade” is like a Japanese fan that slowly opens, revealing a beautifully painted landscape while still concealing the face behind it. What we learn about Miguel del Solar is divulged by the huge cast of characters he interviews for his book, each of whom embodies a fragment of his past. He is investigating a murder (or murders) that took place at the Minerva building where he lived as a child, a European-style mini-castle built in 1908 to house the representatives of foreign governments in Mexico City.
The Poetics of the Fluid Self: Mónica-Ramón Ríos’ “Cars on Fire,” Translated from Spanish by Robin Myers
Arguably, reading literature in translation can be compared to a leap of faith. Faith in the skilled voice and resources of the translator, faith in the power of the narrative to work its spell independently of the linguistic code it is set to traverse. Ultimately, faith in language itself to create for us a world we can inhabit, for as long as the reading experience lasts. “Cars on Fire,” in Robin Myers’ eloquent English-language rendition, provides just that. Through a succession of 18 stories written originally in Spanish by Mónica Ramón Ríos, we are allowed into an uncertain space that is both alluring and unsettling. It questions our sense of the immovable nature of the self, uncovers the precariousness fabric of identity and the complex, double-edged power and frailty of human connections.
It is not for us as translators to smooth the way, to explain, or to make things easier for the English language reader. Translators have to trust that good readers will prefer to work a bit harder rather than be denied the chance to experience the writer’s voice as directly as possible.
Translation as Capitulation: Mario Martín Gijón’s “Sur(rendering),” Translated from Spanish by Terence Dooley
Surrendering, giving in, letting go: if Martín Gijón’s poems stage, at the formal level, the poet’s handing over control to language itself, letting etymology and morphology steer his associations, their thematic content also underscores the role of rendition as an act and attitude of romantic love. Dooley, in turn, manages to strike a fine balance between the translator’s obsessive pursuit of the original’s meaning in the target language, on the one hand and, on the other, the acceptance of the original’s ultimate elusiveness.
Comforting Revelations: Juana Rosa Pita’s “The Miracle Unfolds,” Translated from Spanish by Erin Goodman
By Kristin Dykstra In this historical moment when many readers are turning to poetry for traditional words of comfort, a new bilingual edition from The Song Bridge Project will meet that need. The Miracle Unfolds: Selected Poems (2010 -2019) presents excerpts from seven books by Juana Rosa Pita, with English-language translations by Erin Goodman. As […]
The appearance of this collection is a statement of intervention into the canon of Latin American poetry. Its contextual materials, which include Weaver’s description of meeting Magda Portal in Berkeley in 1981, attest to a long lineage of intentional stewardship of women’s poetics inspired by Portal’s own fierce advocacy, beginning with the book’s initial publication in 1927.
By Melanie Broder Forty-seven women were murdered in Argentina in the first two months of 2021, according to a report by Telám, the national news agency. That’s one femicide every 30 hours. An article by Reuters put the figure at 12 women per day across Latin America. While Latin America has the highest rates worldwide, […]
A Lesson in Resilience: Selva Casal’s “We Do Not Live in Vain,” Translated from Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas
By Gabriella Martin When we read a book—the particular, personal or historical context in which we carry out our reading—holds the power to shape the lens through which we do so. At present, we are reading in the midst of what for many has felt like a wasted year, burdened by missed opportunities, delayed gratification, […]
Zero Is a Lens to See: Karla Suárez’s “Havana Year Zero,” translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
By Dorothy Potter Snyder I have learned that the lines we draw to contain the infinite end up excluding more than they enfold. I have learned that most things in life are better and more beautiful not linear but fractal. Love especially. – Maria Popova What’s the sum total of anything – food, gasoline, hope, or […]
By Jeannine Marie Pitas “And time ah time that disjunctive / factor that almost runs out here / and therefore impedes us / from reaching the great why / and the superhow of this thing / almost holy / so tam tam almost holy / so almost almost / almost so holy,” states Argentine poet […]
Parallel Lines Can Converge: Víctor Rodríguez Núñez’s “from a red barn,” Translated from Spanish by Katherine M. Hedeen
By Conor Bracken Although from a red barn by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez and translated by Katherine M. Hedeen (co•im•press, 2020) was originally published in Spanish in 2014, it comes to an Anglophone public at an opportune time. Consisting of 77 sonnets, it immediately invites itself to the table that Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My […]
By Robin Munby “Maybe some of that night’s fear and fleeing had been passed on to the part of her that once gave her life” (274), the ex-guerrilla at the heart of Slash and Burn reflects, towards the end of the novel. She has returned to the place she fled to many years ago, when […]
Growing Pains in Tough Times: María José Ferrada’s “How to Order the Universe,” Translated from Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer
By Emma Jones This past year was a year of disappointment for many of us, but especially for children and adolescents who had their life plans dashed before their eyes. For some, higher education has been postponed, employment has proved difficult to find or keep, and the world seems like an altogether darker and unfriendlier […]