Sunday, November 11, 2007

Translation Questions

Ever an imperfection, somehow we have yet to enjoy Rubem Fonseca's O Cobrador in English.

Fonseca, who's considered Brazil's Thomas Pynchon -- indeed, the two are close friends -- looks like Foucault's dad.

So, how much does market dictate translation? The "duller" the translation (by this "duller" I include any work that fails to provoke or "push" the reader ahead, or any of the other reasons --legion-- why each work can be called successful), the broader the audience, the less audience members are offended...?

[Doesn't wider appeal seem to indicate a space occupied by family films or classics? Are classics that subversive, or is there subversive potential merely forgotten?]

Above, translation is imperfection not only as a middle voice blemishes from sender to receiver, creating a new work (nod to Nicanor Parra), but as representative decay between various countries'/groups'/societies' social or artistic "taste" or aesthetic (e.g., Anti-Pinochet poetry has very little relevance here...). The "historical" and locative not only serve as marker, but as market: Che is recognized as a modern call to action in Latin America now only due to the relevance of Left-wing democracies in the region today, and remains a marketing tool in North America in both the regional (locative) and historical sense. No "Che" here.
So, these translations mark a nostalgia for the time when we ourselves wrote innocently about flowers and plums (Neruda). Translation gives these readers permission to reread their own turf, in usually a voice that no longer represents a threat.
Thus, more insidiously, translation often stands as the gateway of official corruption (Neruda coffee mugs, CDs, T-shirts, etc): officially, it's easier to make the exotic appeal to a larger audience because it doesn't concern us. I've never eaten a plum on Isla Negra.
Perhaps, as foreign art, the exotic work cannot be taken as obscene? Nudity during Carnival is, in context, tradition and much less offensive or threatening the college girl, breast baring nudity during Mardi Gras. This tendency applies to art, as well. Work that isn't socially/societally relevant commits a lesser degree of obscenity.

Do we enjoy poetry in translation to bolster our love poems' relevance or because these poems we now have in translation are indeed irrelevant?

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