29 sept. 2003

Here's an experiment. I will translate rapidly a brief poem from Jaime Saenz's "Immanent Visitor," without looking at the translation by Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson. Then I will look at their translation and compare.

A BURNT-OUT MATCH

"A burnt-out match is simply a burnt-out match. The transcendent fact about the burnt out match is that it is burnt-out, and that, despite no longer being one, it is still called a match.

But that match that is there, on a piece of paper, is dead. That is what's important. Because what's important is that it is dead.

It is being, and we must see it, there, as substantial as the universe. As a thing integrated into the phases of nothingness." (Mayhew)

"A snuffed-out match is simply a snuffed match. The transcendence of a snuffed match lies in its being snuffed and in the fact that although it no longer exists, it is still called a match.

But that match there, on a sheet of paper, is dead. That is what matters. What really matters is that it be dead.

It is being, itself, and being there, it must be acknowledged to be as large as the universe. Like something that folds itself into the intervals of nothingness." KJ and FG.

I was uneasy in my translation with the word "fact." I felt it justified in my own American idiom, and was surprised that KJ and FG had used the same word, but in a different place. I hate words like "important" and "thing"; I forced myself to use them in the translation, though, because I read the poem as being written in a deliberately flat and insistent style. Almost a David Mamet style!

I won't review this book, because I don't want to be the translation police. I have very definite ideas about translation. I also see that I have misread the poem myself: "pese a que ya no es" I had read as "pese a que ya no lo es." I also missed the subjunctive force of "esté" the first time around.

In any case: buy this book. Latin American poetry should be better known--beyond Neruda, Vallejo, and Paz. I know little about Saenz myself and will be reading it with great interest.

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