Es el verbo tan frágil
The Word is Ever so Fragile (Translations by Ben Van Wyke)
Yo (ese conjunto de palabras que usted está leyendo) yo no soy una pipa.
I (this collection of words you are reading), I am not a pipe.
- Michel Foucault
El médico le rogó que tratase de ser más concisa: "Exactamente, dónde le duele? ". Pero, en el transcurso del movimiento del dedo índice hacia la rodilla, aquel dolor metálico se disolvía en una especie de cosquilleo burbujeante en el talón izquierdo. Detuvo la mano avergonzada y empezó de nuevo, tratando esta vez de prestar un poco más de atención.
The doctor begged her to be more precise: "Exactly where does it hurt?" But, as her index finger traced its course towards her knee, the metallic pain dissolved into a kind of bubbling tickle in her left heel. She stopped her hand, a little embarrassed, and started over, trying to pay a little more attention this time.
POR QUÉ LAS BRÚJULAS NO FUNCIONAN EN EL INTERIOR Y CÓMO ADIVINAR HACIA DÓNDE SE DIRIGE LA AGUJA DESDE LA MIRADA
Tratamos de perseguir sus movimientos pero el final de cada trazo
era vivido como un fracaso total en la búsqueda de la figura. ¿Será la eternidad esquiva â€“nos preguntamos escépticos-lo que se oculta tras el color de nuestros actos?
(Y a todos nos pareció entonces que habíamos iniciado un camino pero al encender la luz
encontramos de nuevo el muro en blanco).
WHY COMPASSES DO NOT FUNCTION ON THE INSIDE AND HOW TO GUESS WHERE THE NEEDLE POINTS FROM THE GAZE
We try to track down its movements
but the end of each sketch mark
was experienced like a complete failure of the search for form.
Could it be that eternity dodges-we skeptically ask ourselves-what is hidden behind the color of
(And so it seemed to all of us that we had initiated a path
but when we turned on the light
we once again faced a blank wall).
DE LA CARESTÍA DEL ARGUMENTO O QUÉ SE HIZO DE LO INENARRABLE
El tema es desde luego intratable.
No fue lo que dijimos,
no fue lo que dejamos por decir, tampoco
desembocó en una decisión.
Apenas se lastimó nuestro tejido
argumental dejando un espacio
abierto para lo porvenir.
ON THE HIGH PRICE OF THE ARGUMENT OR WHAT BECAME OF THE UNNARRATABLE
The topic is obviously intractable.
It wasn´t what we said,
it wasn´t what we left unsaid, nor
did it lead to a decision.
It hardly hurt our narrative
fabric leaving a tiny tear
open for the what-may-come.
UNA TIRADA DE DADOS: PRECAUCIONES DE USO
Eviten que el curso de la vida se pliegue,
que permanezca idéntico a sí mismo
conteniendo todas sus potencias
en la pira
No es broma, así dispuesto se convierte en un material
Sólo al respirar el tiempo interviene,
desarrolla su función depurativa.
A TOSS OF THE DICE: USER WARNING
Keep the course of life from folding,
ensure it remain identical to itself
embodying all of its power
upon the pyre
of the present.
It´s not a joke, just like that it transforms
into a astonishingly inflammable material.
Only by breathing out does time intervene,
performing its depurative duty.
RUPTURAS DISIMULADAS TRAS UNA CARITA SONRIENTE
Siempre detecto un gesto
cuando te hablo acerca de los frágiles mecanismos
ocultos tras una apariencia infantil.
Como no crees en ellos, lo dejaste
caer y me miraste victorioso
al ver su superficie intacta a pesar del impacto.
Imagina lo que sentí al recogerlo
y escuchar esa pieza suelta en su interior.
DISIMULATED FRACTURES BEHIND A LITTLE SMILING FACE
I always detect a gesture
when I talk to you about the fragile mechanisms
hidden behind a childish facade.
Since you don´t believe in them, you let it
fall and looked at me victoriously
upon seeing its surface still intact in spite of the impact.
Imagine how I felt when I picked it up
and heard that loose piece rolling around inside.
UN TREN AVANZA DESDE LA BOCA AL OÍDO
He aquí la fuente
de todas sus preocupaciones:
tímidamente atraviesa la frontera
de sus dientes
toma caminos impredecibles,
atraviesa parajes insondables.
(Y ella observa impotente tras la ventana)
A TRAIN ADVANCES FROM THE MOUTH TO THE EAR
Here is the source
of all her worries:
timidly passes over the boarder
of her teeth
takes unpredictable routes,
penetrates unsoundable places.
(And impotently she watches through the window)
A LA AUTORA LE INQUIETA QUE LA MIRADA ATENTA DEL MÉDICO PUEDA HABER PROVOCADO SU ENFERMEDAD
No puede dejar de preguntarse
si fue el sonido de la idea
lo que llamó la atención
de su mirada,
o si fue la mirada
lo que causó la transformación de la idea
en polvo suspendido.
Si existía siquiera la idea antes de la mirada.
IT IS UNSETTLING FOR THE AUTHOR TO THINK THAT THE DOCTORâ€™S ATTENTIVE GAZE MAY HAVE PROVOKED HER SICKNESS.
She can´t stop wondering
if it was the sound of the idea
when it shattered
that attracted the attention
of her gaze
or if it was her gaze
that caused the transformation of the idea
into suspended dust.
If the idea even existed before the gaze.
MI INGENUIDAD REFLEJADA EN EL IRIS DE SUS OJOS LECTORES
Descubre un montoncito de brasas
y algo le dice que allí reside
el problema de la luz
aunque apagada, siempre
Se recoge el pelo
para disimular su nerviosismo
y las niega reiteradamente
(tratando de ocultarlas bajo la punta del zapato).
MY NAÏVETÉ REFLECTED IN THE IRISES OF YOUR READER-EYES
She discovers a little heap of embers
and something tells her that there dwells
the problem of light
although always extinguished, forever
She arranges her hair
to disguise her nervousness
and denies them over and over
(trying to hide them under the tip of her shoe).
ES EL VERBO TAN FRÁGIL
Los miramos pasar nadando
a nuestro lado y nos abrazamos.
Así llegó la lluvia golpeando
con insistencia rítmica
la chapa del coche.
Secos, calientes y felices
tratamos de sujetar dos peces
en un único nombre,
como si no tuviésemos nada
en común con esas figuras que corren
mojándose en todas direcciones.
La felicidad es el agua en la red de un pescador.
El cielo comienza a aclararse,
y con la luz, los peces
saltan en el agua
escogiendo caminos diferentes.
THE WORD IS SO FRAGILE
We watched them swimming by
and we embraced.
The rain came down
pelting the body of the car
with rhythmic insistence.
Dry, warm and happy
we try trapping two fish
in only one name
as if we had nothing
in common with those figures
running all over the place getting wet.
Happiness is the water in the fisher´s net.
The sky begins to clear
and with the light, the fish
flop around in the water
choosing different routes.
Note on Sandra Santana, by Ben Van Wyke
Sandra Santana (Madrid, 1978) is a poet, essayist, and translator who lives and works in Berlin. She is the author of two book-length collections of poems, Marcha por el desierto and Es el verbo tan frágil (from which these poems have been taken), and her work has been included in many literary journals, both in Spanish and translated into English, such as El maquinista de la generación (Spain), Lateral (Spain), Diario de Poeísa (Argentina), Rattapallax (USA), and the American Translators Association´s Beacons, as well as in various anthologies of contemporary Spanish poetry. She is also a founding member of El águila ediciones (www.elaguilaediciones.wordpress.com). In addition, Santana has participated in several electronic music projects by Miguel Álvarez Fernández that revolve around her work. Her translations include works by Karl Kraus, Ernst Jandl and Kenneth Goldsmith.
Santana´s work focuses on the human relationship with language and our attempts to discover a world of meaning from it. Her first collection of poetry, Marcha por el desierto, which I translated as Wandering Through the Desert, echoes one of the founding myths of Western culture through the titles of its three sections ("The Plagues, " "Wandering Through the Desert, " and "Construction of the Sanctuary "), although it is set in a contemporary city in which people struggle to find and secure meaning in a language that refuses to be stagnant. Es el verbo tan frágil resonates with similar themes, but this time the emphasis is on the complex relationship between words, our bodies and "selves ", and the task of writing. Given the subject of Santana´s work, her poems are a perfect place to reflect on the process of translation and, at the same time, by submitting them to this process, we enact the general conception of language that I find in both of her books of poetry. The anxiety experienced in the opening of Es el verbo tan frágil when the narrator has to tell the doctor exactly what the latter needs to know is similar to what translators feel when faced with the expectation of attempting the complete repetition of the original. Or, if not its complete repetition, at least the preservation and re-presentation of the stable meaning it is said to possess. This expectation, of course, is impossible to fulfill because languages are simply different from each other, and traditional discourse on translation traffics in approximation, often to the point of calculating in numbers the degrees to which one does or does not come close to the original. It is also impossible, however, because as we begin to inquire into the nature of exactly what it is we are approximating, we cannot be so confident in many of the simplistic equations given to translators throughout the ages. How could a translator capture unequivocal meaning from one mutating mass of language embedded in multiple contexts, and find its corresponding place within other mutating languages and ever-changing contexts? The anxiety felt by the person there in the doctor´s office, or by translators who realize they can only approximate their ideal, stems from the inability to say what it is they think they want to say (or as Santana writes in my translation: "the end of each sketch mark / was experienced like a complete failure of the search for form. "), and from the desire that others see the same thing, and the fear that they might not. The problem of meaning is that we cannot pin it down and keep it from wriggling into new forms under our very gaze. Understood in this way, it is not surprising to often hear one discussing the problem of translation. But this does not have to be considered a problem. In fact, in a sense, translation can be understood as the very condition of meaning. In order for anything to mean, it must be (able to be) given in other words, explained, recontextualized, translated; it must be changed and changeable for us to give it meaning. This is done in every reading, in the experience of (in this case) the poem, within the fluid confines of an interpretative structure. One of these structures can be another language, and translation, in the most traditional sense of the word, provides us with a written record of this kind of reading, In this context, we do not think in terms of "taking liberties" or "being faithful," but instead as a negotiation we bring about between two languages, as an exercise in the possibility of meaning. Meaning can only be ever mutating, and the differences between these translations from the originals only strengthen the argument I find in Sandra Santana´s work. In our attempt to present the pleasantly elusive El verbo es tan frágil in a different language, translation is not an obstacle, and the fact that there can be no perfect repetition (even with the original) is something to lament for, as we have seen in one of these poems: "It hardly hurt our narrative / fabric leaving a tiny tear / open for the what-may-come. " Possible futures for and with the word.
Ben Van Wyke translates from the Spanish and Portuguese and is currently pursuing a PhD in translation studies at Binghamton University, New York. He is writing on the interface between contemporary philosophy, translation, and metaphor, and specifically focusing on Latin American and cannibalism.
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