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!
"Una larga travesía hasta el agua".Autora: Linda Sue Park
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!
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.
1 - DOG DAYS
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.
2 – SKATEBOARD PARTY
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.
3 - DON’T FEED THE GECKOS
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).
4 - TROUBLE NEXT DOOR
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).
5 - THE NEW KID
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.
6 - PIZZA PARTY
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)
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.
¡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:
Será un gustazo y un honor hablar ante futuros colegas.
Muchas gracias a la UBA por la invitación.
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.
Un oasisDivinísima 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!
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.