I was traveling somewhere but by water, swimming. I was worried about my devices, apple watch and phone, getting wet and ruined. Other than that, there was no sense of effort, struggle, or danger, and the water did not feel cold or wet in the slightest.
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Lorca's King of Harlem is dressed in a "traje de conserje." This is commonly translated as a "janitor's suit." Yet I have pictured it in my mind as a doorman, dressed up a bit with a top hat, almost the opposite image. He's the king of Harlem because he is well dressed? Maybe at a nightclub or hotel?
The word can mean building superintendent (who does maintenance), concierge, doorman. Don't forget that the word janitor means doorman too, etymologically. Doesn't it come from Janus?
How are we picturing the janitor's suit in New York, 1929? I guess I'd have to go back and look at photos or films from the period. In The New Janitor (1914) Chaplin wears a tie but is shabbily dressed. Same for Buster Keaton in a similar role.
Could black men be doormen in the 1920s in New York? Surely for Harlem jazz club. Maybe Lorca would have said portero if he meant that, but a portero can also do cleaning tasks.
Perhaps I'm overthinking it. I'm thinking subservient and out of place, but at the same time a bit dressy.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
I translated some poems from this book, Ultima necat, by Cordoba poet Manuel Álvarez Ortega. The title is ultima necat, so I looked it up. It comes from a Latin saying sometimes found inscribed on clocks: All the hours wound, the last one kills. Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.
The entire book seems to describe funereal rites.
Neco is a verb that means to kill, but used more metaphorically. Cognate to Greek necro.
Granada is a Ford. Seville is a Cadillac (gm.). Cordoba is a Chrysler. So the big three US automakers divided up the three great Andalusian cities? Shouldn't that be an antitrust investigation.
Yay! Our "sonic humanities" seminar has been accepted. I literally read an email from the humanities center, came up with an idea, asked my colleague if she wanted to co-sponsor it with me, wrote the thing up in a few hours, revised it in another 30 minutes based on her suggestions, and submitted it.
Of course, for all I know nobody else submitted anything. But still I should get points for doing it when nobody else thought of it.
I have this edition of Frío de límites, signed to me by Gamoneda. It is the first edition, with some art work by Tapies, but also the first French edition, since it has a translation by Jacques Ancet, who is French translator / poet / Hispanist.
Anyway, the French version sounds kind of cool. It is not demonstrably worse than the original. What strikes me about it, though, is that the search for the mot juste is made easier by the fact that translation between two romance languages is going to depend a lot on cognates:
Gritan las serpientes en las celdas del aire. / Les serpents crient dans les cellules de l'air.
La ebriedad sube desde las piernas femeninas y tú pones tus labios en los líquidos. / L'ebriété monte des jambes féminines et toi tu tu poses tes lèvres sur les liquides.
This how is it should be. A Spanish and French word derived from the same Latin root, and synonymous, like labios / levres (lips), are almost the same word. Not only is the translation virtually word-for-word, but the lexicon is pre-determined. Of course there will be differences. Compare mujer, femme, donna, words for woman derived from three separate Latin words. But, I must say, this kind of translation is not particularly interesting and can feel almost mechanical.
Now English has at least three strata: Anglo-Saxon words; French words, entering the language after Norman times; and latinate words taken directly from Latin (without French intervention). So inebriation would be a cognate to ebriedad / ebrieté, but the Anglo-Saxon lexicon is considered more basic and direct: drunkenness.
The English-language translator, then, often loses the etymological resonance, since the basic directness is more effective. When translating Manuel Alvarez Ortega, I feel that the etymological resonance is important, since his tone is a bit portentous. He is not trying to be colloquial or imaging a speaker actually saying these lines as some kind of dramatic utterance.
An example. He is fond of the word "oficio." In normal Spanish, this means a trade or craft. In English, it means an office (despacho / oficina), but MAO means it in the sense of ritual. I remember a phrase from a poem by Robert Hayden: "love's austere and lonely offices." That the is mot juste in this poem, a common word used uncommonly. To get to these definitions of words derived from officium, you have to go to the end of the list of definitions in both English and Spanish dictionaries.