06 June 2007

Translation goodness

Issue 8 of The Quarterly Conversation is up and I very happily read great interviews with three Spanish-to-English translators: C.M. Mayo, Natasha Wimmer, and Chris Andrews. Also, there's Javier Moreno's excellent essay on his Bolaño diagram (which I spent some time with earlier), Derik Badman's review of The Last Novel by David Markson, and many more good things. I've quoted some highlights below, but all of these interviews should be read thoroughly. Fascinating stuff.

C.M. Mayo:
The whole idea of Tameme is to make the literature accessible to someone who reads only English, and at the same time, accessible to someone who reads only Spanish. So writers are together whom, normally, would not be. For example, the first issue of Tameme featured Margaret Atwood and Jaimes Sabines. These are great names--yet many even very well read Mexicans have never heard of Margaret Atwood, while few English speaking readers have heard of Jaime Sabines. At the same time, having the text side-by-side makes the reading experience that much richer. Many people have told me they read Tameme to help them improve their Spanish. It's also an exercise for literary translators. Literary translation is an art; five literary translators would translate a given piece in five different ways. So, as a translator, one can engage with the text critically. I find the translator's notes the most interesting.
(Thanks to this piece, I've added a couple items to my wishlist and have discovered the wonder that is Tameme. I look forward to the day when something similar exists for Colombia.)

Natasha Wimmer:
There are lots of things I try to avoid, but I mostly try not to slavishly adhere to general rules--translation is all about exceptions. Often, though, I try to avoid automatically using cognates when there might be a better translation of a particular word. I'm not generally too worried about putting too much of my own voice into the translation--I don't think there's really much space for that, except possibly in dialogue, which tends to require a freer translation than expository prose. When it comes to words and phrases in the original language, I certainly try to avoid the Spanglish effect, but I think a few carefully chosen expressions left in Spanish (and most place names, too) are inevitable and even desirable. [...]

One of the main challenges of the translation was getting the rhythm of Bolaño's sentences right. He is never predictable and can be intentionally awkward, and sometimes it was hard to strike the right balance in English--I often felt an urge to smooth over ungainly constructions, but restrained myself, then realized in reading them over that they were perfectly calibrated. Ultimately, this was probably one of the most satisfying parts of working on the translation, too. Otherwise, I loved the humor. It's always more fun to translate something funny.
Chris Andrews (on the translator "getting in the way"):
I mean producing a translation that is unduly distracting, which I guess can happen if it isn't quite complete, so that the syntactic patterns of the source language creep into the target language a bit too much and make the translation more syntactically odd than the original, or if the translation goes over the top and becomes showy. But I don't much like pronouncing on this sort of thing because I'm no doubt guilty of under- and over-translating myself, and the whole business of translation studies can be a distraction from the works themselves, which are way more interesting in the end.
I loved his recommendations. More authors to pick up... Now that I've finished reading novels by Laura Restrepo and Mario Mendoza, I'll keep an eye out for the writers he mentioned: Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Juan Villoro, Antonio José Ponte, and others. It helps me hope that it's only a matter of time before the advantages of being able to find and read these works in the original Spanish will outweigh the disadvantages of having limited access to English-language titles.

1 comment:

C.M. Mayo said...

Hola, and thank you for your kind comments about Tameme. I am delighted that you found us. Blog on!