Trying to Photograph PerfumeSunday, February 04, 2018
I don’t speak German and I don’t read German. The chances that I would ever read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain are slim. But I did.
I did because I can read Spanish. Sometime around 2005 my Argentine artist friend Juan Manuel Sánchez placed in my hands La Montaña Mágica in a Chilean edition in Spanish. I am a much better person for having read it.
The Odyssey, the Illiad, Don Quijote, the Divine Comedy and more recently the works of Saramago translated to Spanish I have absorbed either because I read Spanish or English.
But I I grieve for those who do not read in English and those who don’t read Spanish. They miss lots.
My Argentine friends (most don’t read in English) will never experience my love for Jerome Charyn or understand the puns and meanings behind Shakespeare.
My friends who read in English will never enjoy all of the startlingly modern output of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, simply because his stories have not all been translated into English.
The New York Times has thankfully discovered the Ukranian born Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (1920-1977). Read about her here. Fortunately for me I have been reading her for some time because her work has been translated into Spanish.
Lispector is known for her almost brutal, short descriptions. Here is a sample:
As the 20th century fades there are few who might want to tackle Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War at the End of the World. It is novel based on 19th century strange Brazilian war described to perfection by Euclides da Cunha in his Brazilian classic Os Sertões (English edition is called Rebellion in the Backlands).
When I interviewed and photographed Vargas Llosa in 1990 he told me that The War at the End of the World was his favourite novel. That led me to read Os Sertões in Spanish.
In a world that is becoming more the same it was depressing to see in what used to be one of the finest chain of bookstores in Mexico, El Ateneo, in our recent trip to Mérida, so many lousy, junk books in English translated into Spanish.There is another Ateneo. This one is in Buenos Aires. It has been recently been described by many publications as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.
As a little boy my father used to take me to the Former Cine Teatro Splendid. It now has a vast collection of books in Spanish. But I would not be able to find one of my faves , Markings by Dag Hammarskjjöld. It has never been translated into Spanish. My edition in English translated by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden (and with a forward by Auden) I bought in 1965 at Pigmalion on Calle Corrientes in Buenos Aires. Another man who frequented the Pigmalion at that time was a blind Argentine novelist. I never ran into him.