07 October 2006


Before closing down shop in August, Brendan Wolfe of The Beiderbecke Affair was unable to find an English translation of a Cortázar story and had to resort to the whimsically imprecise Babelfish. It's taken me a while to get my act together, but with all my best wishes, here's the first paragraph of that story (hopefully a legible alternative):
I am Panamanian and have lived with Bix for a while.

I write it and go on to the next line; no one will believe it, if they did, they would be like me and I don’t know anyone like me. Not exactly me, but at least like me. At best, it’s an advantage because I can write it without it mattering if they read it or not, that in the end I’ll burn this with the last match of the last cigarette. Or I’ll leave it abandoned in the street, or I’ll give it to someone to do what he likes with it; everything will be behind, so far behind Bix and I. I write because I have nothing else to do and because it’s true or it would appear to be true to someone like me. These people exist, I’ve brushed past them in life nearby or at a distance, not everyone lives bound to what they’ve been taught. Look, Rimbaud said that he’d fallen in love with a pig, and professors think he was a great poet. They probably think so without believing it because they must in order to not appear wrong. But I know that he was a great poet and Bix also knew it, although he’d never read a line of French and I had to translate Rimbaud to him and he’d hold his head in his hands and sit thinking, or he’d go to the piano and would begin to play that thing that they now call In a Mist and it was his way of saying that he understood French poetry because it arrived via Debussy and because everything almost always arrived through music and that was his only way of understanding things that he didn’t understand when they came to him through other means--life for example, the order of what I myself called reality and which he only understood in C major or F sharp, sweetly blowing into his coronet or going to the piano and allowing Lost in a Fog to be born, burning his lips on the cigarette forgotten by the spider hands that spun and spun on the keyboard until everything ended in a curse and a leap, I always had a tube of cream nearby to cure his lips, afterwards we laughingly kissed and he went back to cursing because it hurt and because the coronet would hurt him even more in the evening when he had to play in the Blue Room for eighty dollars a night.
(Here's the complete piece in its original Spanish.)


Isabella said...

That's breathtaking, Ana Maria. I have really got to reread Cortazar — it's been at least a dozen years. But this summer I went through the volumes I have looking for a quotation, and was reminded how glorious he can be — specifically, I can't think of any other author who comes close to managing to express how music makes me feel.

amcorrea said...

Thank you! When I have some free time in December, I may take a stab at (informally) translating the entire story. I agree--he's wonderful. I've been reading Historia de cronopios y de famas for a while now, taking it in bits and pieces.

Another author that I love that writes about music this way is Ralph Ellison. The first time I read the prologue to Invisible Man, I felt like the doors of my perception were being thoroughly cleansed--and with a vengeance...!

Sandra Kingery said...

Ana Maria:
Just wanted to let you and your readers know I am currently translating this story. It will be published in the forthcoming Jazz Fiction Anthology.