|Rosa 'Darcey Bussell' 11 August 2023|
One of the advantages of me being bilingual (although I must add that I can speak Texan and both Argentine and Mexican Spanish and I have a smattering of Tagalog) is that I can read in two languages. And especially, that I now have so much time in my hands waiting for my eventual departure into oblivion, I am constantly comparing words in both Spanish and English.
It is practically impossible to translate in short sentences into Spanish- I was being tail-gated and I was rear-ended. The same happens if you try to translate a lecture handout or the word oblivion or nothingness.
But Spanish does have some wonderful nuggets particularly
when you read Jorge Luís Borges. In my fave poem of his, La lluvia (in Spanish
particularly in book or poem titles only the first word is capitalized), he uses
a fabulous group of words that simply has no equivalent translation into
English. The word compartir, to share in Spanish literally means to break bread with...
Le reveló una flor llamada rosa
Y el curioso color del colorado.
It was revealed to him a flower called a rose
That curious colour that is red (colorado) is lost in English.
Lost in translation is really that here in my Vancouver I live in a world that is North American-central (minus Mexico) so everything we read is about culture in the US and Canada.
This is sad as there is wonderful Latin-American culture (and literature) that is virtually unknown. While now dead Brazilian Clarice Lispector is becoming rightfully known, many other novelists and poets don’t register like the proto-feminist Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni. Who may have read that one-of-a-kind novel Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar? Gabriel García Márquez is well known but there is an equally good Colombian writer called Álvaro Mutis. Does anybody read the magnificent Mario Vargas Llosa (still writing) or the Spaniard Arturo Pérez Reverte?
How many know that one of the best Mexican writers, Homero Aridjis (also an environmentalist) has his poems and novels translated into English right here in Vancouver by our first Vancouver Poet Laureate George McWhirter?
While I do not read Portuguese I have read all of José Saramago’s output in Spanish. Has anybody read his The Gospel According to Jesus Christ where Christ beds Mary Magdalene and she teaches him to be a man? Or that whimsical novel An Elephant’s Journey about the first elephant to arrive in Europe (Vienna 1551)?
These writers give you another side to writing so dominated by the very good concept we in the West have about Faulkner and Hemingway.
And finally to the crux of this blog which is my obsession to reading Jorge Luís Borges. His many poems about shutting doors for the last time or wondering if the image on the mirror will be the last one is constantly in my thoughts.