miércoles, 31 de marzo de 2021

Review of Una larga travesía hasta el agua (Linda Sue Park) in ALA Booklist

As if translating this moving story/brilliant book hadn't been enough honor and joy... 

A great review of my translation into Spanish of A Long Walk to Water (Una larga travesía hasta el agua) in ALA Booklist by Stephanie Cohen. Thank you!

Aurora Humarán

miércoles, 3 de febrero de 2021

Una larga travesía hasta el agua (reseña de Yaotl Altan)

"Una larga travesía hasta el agua".

Autora: Linda Sue Park 🇺🇲
Traductora: Aurora Humarán 🇦🇷

Les protagonistas son la niña Nya y el niño Salva, sudanesxs, en el contexto de la guerra civil de ese país africano 🇸🇩 . Sus historias van intercaladas, capítulo a capítulo, mas no corren paralelas en el tiempo. Cuando se conocen, Salva es un adulto y Nya es una niña, pero convergen por la construcción de pozos de agua 💧

Comienza lo trágico en 1985, cuando las balaceras de la guerra civil llegan a la escuela y Salva se fuga al monte 🗻 para protegerse. Las familias se rompen y les sobrevivientes intentan llegar a campos de refugiades en Etiopía 🇪🇹 y Kenia 🇰🇪 . Salva debe sobrevivir solo en el mundo, pero sus ojos van acumulando tristezas, muerte 💀, mas se aferra a destacar.

El título va acorde con los grandes beneficios que proporciona el agua para la vida humana en las actividades diarias de la gente o al cruzar el desierto para hallar refugio en Etiopía.

Es una lectura ágil, sin detallar demasiado en las causas geopolíticas de la guerra, pero cautiva porque introduce al público infantil en esa temática. Esta novela infantil nos pone a reflexionar sobre la dureza de las limpiezas étnicas y el dominio de unos grupos sobre otros 

Mucha gente se queja de la Cruz Roja y de la ONU 🇺🇳, pero estas dos organizaciones le han ayudado a mucha gente por mucho tiempo ⏳. Más bien requieren pulirse y perfeccionarse, pero no me parecen malas entidades.

La traductora es una gran mediadora de idiomas, capaz de aglutinar a trauctorxs e intérpretes de todo el mundo. ¡Que tenga larga vida y muchas más traducciones! Corregí la portada, che, ¿viste?

Publicado por Clarion Books.

Solo el auténtico amor salvará a la especie humana. 

Febrero de 2021
(desde el Bosque de Chapultepec, México)

martes, 2 de febrero de 2021

"Si yo diseñara un auto" one of the Best Children's Picture Books of 2020 in Spanish (Bank Street College of Education)

I am so happy and humbled that my translation of Chris Van Dusen's If I built a car (Puffin Books, Penguin Random House) has been included in this prestigious list! (The Best Children's Picture Books of the Year in Spanish - 2021 Edition. Books published or translated in 2020. Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education)

Translating his great poem was an amazing experience, a hellova trip!

Aurora Humarán

Benja, my fav fan

martes, 26 de enero de 2021

Translating The Carver Chronicles. A blast.

The experience of translating the six books that make up the Houghton Miflin Harcourt Carver Elementary series by Karen English and illustrated by Laura Freeman was one of our best co-translation journeys ever.

On top of all the great things about the translation project as such (translating for HMH is always an honor and a pleasure), we also had the best possible editor (Jeff Evatt) to make sure that the stories selected would be the most suitable for a ten year old child living in the United States. That suitability factor needed to be the same whether the reader was a Spanish-speaking child reading in his or her native language, or an English-speaking child learning Spanish). This exchange was consistently enriching throughout the six months that the project lasted. We enjoyed (and learned) a great deal. And we ended up welcoming 99.99 % of our editor’s suggestions. His proposals always served to improve the finished product.

As with all documents that “live” in one language and then have to “move to a new town,” The Carver Chronicles posed several of the more normal difficulties, and an additional one as well: Hispanic Spanish is an elusive variety and there are not many resources to help translators deal with this factor. How many Hispanic Spanishes are there? Three, perhaps? Off hand we can think of the California area (made up mostly of Mexican speakers), the New York area (made up predominately of Puerto Ricans), and the Florida area (made up of Spanish-speakers from the Caribbean region, and also of those coming from South America, such as Chileans, Colombians, Argentines, Uruguayans, etc.). Translating into a variety that will sound appealing to such a broad umbrella of dialects is a major challenge in itself.

Translation is an eternal approximation, an “almost.” Even when there are inevitable losses in any process of moving from one language to another, it is a translator’s job to compensate for those inevitable losses, as Umberto Eco taught us in his book called, precisely, Saying Almost the Same Thing.

We would like to share with you a couple of the many exchanges we  had with the editor regarding difficulties and challenges of all sorts that we encountered on the journey from English into Spanish. Throughout the process, we enjoyed a veritable feast. Our heroes and heroines were ordinary kids naturally tempted to pay more attention to their videogames than to their homework. They were interesting, colorful characters, and it was not difficult to relate to them, or even to fall in love with some of them (specially the ones who evolved as the story itself evolved). These kids taught us many a lesson.

We have to admit that we felt genuinely sad when we translated the last word of the series. Carver Elementary had become part of our daily lives, and the farewell was full of nostalgia.


The main character is called Gavin, but his bossy elder sister enjoys calling him Gavmeister instead. We decided that the best possible translation would be “Gavincín” a good way (in our opinion) to embarrass Gavin. The meister part (maestro, s/he who masters) kept us busy researching and discussing with native English-speakers (We even ended up reading about Stephen King and the 70s, which clearly would make no sense to our future readers, but, hey, it was so interesting!) We decided that it made no sense to focus on the ‘meister’ element and agreed that Gavincín was the best choice. The diminutive often serves in Spanish to look down on others.


A lot of brainstorming to find a translation as spicy as the author’s “to mind one’s Ps and Qs!”Our first idea was just to undertranslate (using “comportarse”, thus losing the reference to the fact that Richard is naughty AND is not good at spelling). But translator epiphanies do exist. Booya! Yes. Obedecer las órdenes al pie de la letra was a great choice, translating the first meaning as well as the reference to letters.


Because of the Spanish roots of some of the characters, they use Spanish words when speaking English, mostly to refer to relatives (tía Emilia), food, or for intimate exchanges (“mi hijo”). The mirror situation makes no sense. A mother would have no “need” to say “my son”, just because she lived in an English-speaking country. We just left the original Spanish (without italics). We did consider the possibility of including words in English to show this biculturalism, but only did so in a very few cases. An example: “nothing” (Chapter 10, page 41).


Neck rolls were a really interesting challenge. Daniell makes this gesture which is mostly typical of African-Americans. Should we add a Translators’ Note to “properly” explain the translation? That would make sense in the case of a technical document, when accuracy is of the essence, but we considered that a note would add nothing. On the contrary. No verb in Spanish conveys the idea. Google if you want to see videos or gifs with "neck roll"! This is described as a typical gesture of African-Americans (not necessarily exclusive, but typical), like Italians making huge gestures with their hands. So unfortunately, something was lost in translation in this case. We used the verb “mover”, and though tempted to use the verb “girar” (spin), it might have sounded a little like The Exorcist, and Danielle is not that diabolical! Besides, what does “gira el cuello” mean in this case? Nothing, so we chose “mueve el cuello con un gesto desafiante” (the “desafiante” element is a compensation that we figured might get Umberto Eco’s blessing). 


So the new friend is called Khufu, which could have been left as it was in the original. However, it is the Hellenized name (Keops) that is most widely used in Spanish.


Emotions, gestures, usually anticipate difficulties for the translators as great as those posed by words that are utterly untranslatable. This was an interesting part: “Rosario rolls her eyes at Keisha. Keisha sucks her teeth just as the sub turns in her direction.“

Spanish speakers understand this gesture, and (in fact) do it, but we have no idiom for it, so we resorted to: Keisha pone cara de “estamos en problemas” which, we feel, Karen English would have loved if she had written the story in Spanish. There is no noise involved, but the eyes grow bigger and the meaning is really clear.


Goodbye, dear kids, friends from Carver Elementary! Your Spanish-language translators thank you for this excellent opportunity to reflect on communication, language, and, why not?, life. Many more children can now enjoy and enrich their lives with these great stories, full of adventures and thought-provoking situations.

Aurora Humarán & Leticia Monge (your translators)

miércoles, 11 de noviembre de 2020


Part of my job as a public-health nurse is teaching new parents how to care for their infants. As I was demonstrating how to wrap a newborn, a young Asian couple turned to me and said, "You mean we should wrap the baby like an egg roll?" Yes, I replied, that was a good analogy.

"I don't know how to make egg rolls," another mother said anxiously. "Can I wrap my baby like a burrito?"

                                                 Sandra Verhage, All in a day's work

sábado, 24 de octubre de 2020

Un nuevo amigo (Juan José Hernández)

¡Qué exquisito palabrero! Me cuentan que es un poeta sublime. Ya veremos.

Debuto con Escritos irreberentes de Juan José Hernández, libro en el que se le atreve al Maestro Borges (particularemente a él, diría), desde otro lugar a Paz, a Pizarnik, a Neruda, a Silvina Ocampo, etc. También se le atreve a la ortografía, explica el irreberente. 

¡Qué lindo escribe! Me recordó cuánto amaba cuando era chica a Rubén Darío (el poeta que tiene todas las vocales una sola vez en su nombre) y me hizo reflexionar sobre varios de los lectores a los que admiro.  Contado sea de paso, que comienza con Borges, artículo que encabeza con este pedacito de un poema tributo de W. H. Auden a W. B. Yeats:

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.

Creo que de todos los autores sobre los que escribe Hernández el que más me sacudió fue Leopoldo Lugones con sus idolatradas y recurrentes púberes. Hoy no resiste un #niunamenos.

Que viva por siempre el libro, llave para abrir mundos externos e internos. Para crecer. Para ser mejores.

Aurora Humarán

martes, 29 de septiembre de 2020


I bought this book not because I am interested in the FBI, but because the guy selling it chose to emphasize the name of the translator (Rodolfo Walsh, a great Argentine writer, an activist), which had not been included on the front cover.

May translators and interpreters have the place they (we) deserve.

Aurora Humarán

sábado, 26 de septiembre de 2020


Like Penelope, translators weave and unweave (words). Penelope is waiting for Odysseus. What are we waiting for?

Aurora Humarán

sábado, 19 de septiembre de 2020

I Confess that I Have Wept

He was christened Ricardo E. Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. But as soon as he discovered that he wanted to be a poet (something that happened when he was still quite small), he decided to change his name: Pablo, because it had a musical ring, and Neruda, in honor of the Czech poet, Jan Neruda.
This humble translator also felt a love for poetry from a very young age. Family legend (those stories one doesn't quite trust because they sound like an exaggeration, but with which one willingly plays along) claims that I learned to read on my own as a little girl of five when hepatitis forced me to stay in bed.
I recall how in first grade the teacher asked us to write a sentence describing the day: Today it is sunny. Today the sky is full of clouds. But that wasn't enough for me and I would write a page at least.
Then "they" came into my life, friends that gave without expecting anything in return, silent friends: books.
My first major books were these four volumes of the Diccionario Enciclopédico de Ramón Sopena that my Grandmother Blanca Aurora gave me when I entered second grade. I say "these" because they are right here by my side, even though Internet has made them feel a little old-fashioned in certain senses, in certain words.
One day I stood in front of my mother Leticia's bookcase and chose a book, "a grown-up book". What a thrill! I was seven and read El habitante y su esperanza by Pablo Neruda. There were a lot of things I didn't understand. How wouldn't there be? But I caught the magic anyway and it came to live in my heart forever.
Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite authors. His book Confieso que he vivido (I Confess that I have Lived) touched me. I once said that the title alone bears a devastating, suggestive and tremendous weight, like everything else that The Great Chilean wrote. There have been times that Neruda the prose writer has been the friend that accompanied me, while at others, it has been Neruda the poet, one of the most colossal poets I have ever read.
Not long ago I traveled to Chile. How could I not visit Isla Negra, the place about which I had read so much, a place that had fed my fantasy, that had enriched my life? As soon as I touched down in the Santiago Airport, off I went to Isla Negra in the company of a Chilean friend and colleague and my family (with all of our luggage still in the trunk of the car).
The Pacific...Ah, the Pacific! They can't fool me: In order to paint the Pacific, God has to have used a special shade of blue that he never used again in all the rest of Creation. It is to the color of the Pacific that we owe a debt of gratitude for part of Neruda's body of works.
I should note here that Isla Negra is the name of a small, adorable town. It is not an island.
Pablo Neruda's house is built on the edge of the sea. The author loved the sea, but at the same time feared it. The house imitates the shape of a ship: It is long and the doors are quite narrow. The ceilings are of wood and are vaulted. The entire place is full of marine objects. And beside the house, on terra firma, is a small wooden boat that remained there, forever immobile, on a decision by the author, just a few meters from its natural destination.
It took Neruda thirty years to finish his home, which houses a surprising number of collections — remember that Neruda traveled extensively — of all types and origins: bottles, masks, figureheads, chairs, miniature guitars, jugs, piano leg casters...
And I confess that I have wept...When we entered the room where the ships' figureheads are kept, I cried. I had been building up to this for a long time: I knew that being in the temple of Isla Negra was going to make me lose it. I had prepared for it long in advance. When I bought the tickets to fly to Chile? When I started playing with the crazy idea of a side-trip to Isla Negra? No. I had been building up to this since that day when I was seven years old and had the audacity and the good luck to delve into the literary world of this admirable Chilean.
Outside, Pablo Neruda's grave awaited me. Visitors aren't allowed to leave flowers or messages, but hey...who was going to see a tiny slip of miniscule paper (and the redundancy is intentional) that I nestled among the stones? With a sob of emotion, I bent close to him and left my message.
One word for Neruda, who had written so many thousands of times for me.
A single word. I said little to him. I said a lot to him.
I told him: "Thanks."

Aurora Humarán
P.S. for Neruda: You didn't sing in vain, Pablo.

viernes, 18 de septiembre de 2020

La fascinante historia de la lengua española (Alma Flor Ada / F. Isabel Campoy)

Un oasis

Divinísima la e-presentación del libro de Isabel Campoy y Alma Flor Ada, "LA FASCINANTE HISTORIA DE LA LENGUA ESPAÑOLA". Un chapuzón de felicidad en medio de este año loco. Isabel y Alma nos contaron la historia del español. Los invitados casi parecíamos niñitos y niñitas escuchando admirados y con atención sobre las idas y vueltas de los celtas, los godos, los árabes, los romanos... La mezcla que me gusta de rigor académico con muchísima simpatía. Muchas gracias por la invitación. ¡Los mejores augurios para el nuevo hijo!
Aurora Humarán pd: hoy aprendí que la palabra "petunia" viene del guaraní.

domingo, 23 de agosto de 2020


El verdadero apellido de Mauro Z es Sztajnszrajber. Mauro es hermano de Darío quien sí usa el apellido completo. 

Como bien sabemos, el idioma sirve para hablar y también para pensar (Gracias, Chomsky). Sin embargo, como ocurre con este apellido, hay palabras sobre las que deslizamos nuestros ojos mientras en la cabeza armamos una especie de hilera loca, así: &_*- #-¿-fraslafra"¡=.($'#}>)/* 

Si tuviera que presentar a alguno de los hermanos en una conferencia, indudablemente averiguaría la forma correcta de pronunciar el apellido (y la practicaría, como siempre hago en las conferencias), pero cuando estoy "de entre casa", me conformo con los ruidos locos internos.

Me pasó lo mismo cuando leí Milenium, la necesaria trilogía del genio Stieg Larsson. Pasaba los ojos sobre los apellidos suecos, pero como quien hace snorkelling y no buceo. Confieso que al principio me costaba por la falta de costumbre, claro. Unas pocas páginas luego de comenzar el primer libro, pensé en abandonarlo (y qué suerte que no lo hice porque me habría privado de tres grandes obras). Pero así somos los traductores: quereremos entender todas las palabras, saber todo, pronunciar bien todo. Uno de los muchos TOC que tenemos.

Aurora Humarán