People are usually eager to hear those three little words: I love you. This may apply to everyone except for Spanish translators. In English, there’s a huge gap from “I like you” to “I love you”. In the process, you might hear “I care about you”, “I like you a lot”, “You’re important to me” and a bunch of other phrases that mean more than like but a lot less than love.
My friends and family members roll their eyes when I correct their grammar or point out a mistranslation. Instead of faking awe, they usually make fun of me for being so picky. On a summer day, a family member stumbled upon this sign at a laundry mat in Connecticut. This time, they could not just laugh at the “mistranslation”. With much fervor, they told me about what happened when they spoke to the supervisor about changing one of the most hideous (translation wise) signs they had ever seen. Like most people do, he simply shrugged them off, but he made a big mistake in the process. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. That isn’t Spanish, it’s some sort of language from a country called Ecuador”. That was definitely the wrong thing to say to Ecuadorians.
Oh, to be a writer. All writers know that their work reflects their internal battles, beliefs and fantasies. This applies even more to novel writers. What happens when their work needs to be translated? Did Kafka ever think that his stories would be translated in so many languages? The point is writers want to write good books, but seldom think about good translations.
As you can tell from the title of this blog post, each word is in lower case. Don’t worry, it is a one-time thing in honor of one of my favorite poets: ee cummings.
The moment I read Four by him, I was instantly hooked. My amazement with him became even more profound when I learned he had gone against all the conventional and accepted forms of writing.
His poems aren’t made up of usual stanzas or strophes. Cummings adopted free verse in an unprecedented way: capitalizing words that didn’t need to be, starting each line with a lower case word, dividing whole words into different lines, etc.
Let’s just say that if you wrote like he did for a school paper, you would most likely fail.
Last year I came upon something I never thought possible: an anthology of poems by ee cummings in a book store in Guayaquil, Ecuador. To my surprise, each of the poems was written in the original English language with the Spanish translation next to it by Jose Casas.
I have enjoyed reading both the Spanish and English versions. To be able to read how the translator interpreted many things and compare them to my own opinion has contributed to my belief that literary translators have it even more difficult than you would think.
Remember, poems are so intricate that there can be a wide range of interpretations. Also, you could never again think or feel the same way as the original author while translating a piece of work in another language.
So, I give Mr. Casas props for his work and leave you with XLV, the original and the translation (Click on the image to see it large):