The other one who listens to myself

 

 

Part I: To translate and to translate oneself

 

I.a)

The text is a communicative structure that does not fixate itself in a single specific meaning. In the programme of the project The Book Lovers – The novel as an art form (2013), teacher and artist Barbara Browning talks to us about the intrinsically performative structure of literary writing:Reader, I call you: hypocrite, my similar, my brother. Hypocrite because your ostensible passivity is a pretense - it’s you who’s in charge. My similar, because the hypocrite is also me, addressing you indirectly, rarely deigning to speak your name, calling out to you while I act like I’m speaking into the wind.[1]

 Those who write, even if they pretend to ignore the dear reader – acting as if they were “talking to the wind” – know that, without the reader, the book will remain as an inanimate object. Browning shows us that the contact with reality is essential for the text to happen. Literature arises from the conjunction of the reader’s writing and imagination. In this contact, the text becomes a living organism, as Laranjeira puts it:

The “definitive” version is an accident or happens because of an accident that stanches the text, but even so such stanching affects the text only concerning the author who doesn’t alter it anymore. The eternal flexibility and multiplicity of the text will remain because of the infinity of its possible readings. (LARANJEIRA, 1989. pg.49)

In everlasting movement, it’s not possible to have a reader whose vision about the text is perfectly aligned with the intentions of the author. Writing is that which happens exactly in the friction between these two forces: creative and interpretative. When it comes to a text that reaches its public in a language other than its original one – when its content is translated to another idiomatic code – another element is added: the interpretation of the content and the formal choices made by the translator. 

I.b)

Even though Jorge Luis Borges rejects the need of a theory of translation and identifies the biggest problems of the matter as being those solely related to objective questions – i.e., the bad comprehension of a phrase that needs to be corrected[2] -, he dedicated some articles and short stories to reflect upon the question of translation (CESCO, 2004). In the article Las dos maneras de traducer, written in 1926, the author explains the importance of the observation of the context in which the words are being used, and that the author must aim to find, in the language of arrival, expressions that have close connotative meaning to those one imagines the author had in mind when writing, instead of simply exchanging the words for their literal equivalent in the other language. (BORGES, 1997).

Gregory Rabassa, translator of Borges, asked the Argentinian author for advice on the best way to translate his labyrinthine literature from Spanish to English. “Don’t translate what I’ve written but what I wanted to say”, answered Borges (PONTIERO, 1994), in a sheer demonstration of trust in the relationship built along the years with Rabassa. The latter, to fulfill his duty as translator, had to understand that – to Borges – it was indispensable for the translation to be able to dialogue and express itself in ways that were familiar to the context of the dear reader. 

 

I.c)

                                                                                                                                                                

When the Brazilian writer João Ubaldo Ribeiro read the English version of his well-known novel Sargent Getúlio (1971) – made by an American translator – he was so disappointed with the professional’s inability that he decided to undertake the process of self-translation (ANTUNES, WALSH, 2014) in an attempt to offer to the Anglophone reader a proper fruition of the text.[3] João Ubaldo credited his impulse – the herculean task of translating a literary work of such complexity – to his hopeful youth (RIBEIRO, 1990): he still dreamt of Brazilian literature having its fair acknowledgement in a predominantly colonialist cultural scene.

***

 

Manuel Puig, Argentinian author of Sangue de amor correspondido (1982) – originally written in Portuguese during the time he lived in Brazil –, chose to make considerable alterations to the novel when he translated it into the Sangre of his mother tongue. Andreia dos Santos Menezes made an inventory of the alterations made by Puig. Here I list the ones I consider to be the most interesting (MENEZES, 2006):

[...]

 

[1] Dear Reader':The Novel's Call to Perform can be seen in its entirety at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1m4uWyRjvo>, Accessed on: 01/04/2018.

[2] The biblical translator Daniel Valle, on his Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG-gBwqAneA) explains the perverse ambiguity present in one of patriarchy’s greatest symbols: the story of Adam and Eve. In the video, the teacher points out that the word tsella, correctly translated as rib, to designate the matter from which God created Eve, has many possible meanings, including half. Tsella appears as a partition in two smaller parts of same value, in several other points of the Bible itself. Therefore, the original meaning of the idea would be that of a unified being that, by being partitioned in two halves, generates complementary bodies with feminine and masculine energies. In most translations – rib – the feminine body is an amorphous mass to be shaped, a frail fragment of the male torso. 

[3] In opposition to the decision taken by Borges and his translator, João Ubaldo refused to use footnotes or any kind of text to explain the local cultural context in his tranlsations, so that the reader could be in direct contact with the “pleasure of the text” (MILTON, 2001).