Tuesday, January 17, 2012

There are no banshees in Mexico

I finally have a copy of El Lado B de la Distracción, the Spanish translation of Distraction. Three years since Distraction's debut, it's nice to see it young again.

It is also a curious pleasure to read myself in another language - well, 'myself', interpreted by the translator Iván Viñas Arrambide. And 'read' deserves scare quotes too.

I don't speak Spanish, but it's fascinating to see what doesn't translate. 'Banshee', for example, has no equivalent - it remains untranslated, and explained with a footnote. ("Las banshees son espíritus femeninos que según la tradición irlandesa al aparecerse anuncian con sus gemidos la muerte cercana de algún pariente.") Likewise for 'Doctor Who', 'grassroots' and 'hipster'.

Writing books is an alienating job sometimes: from one's family, but also from one's own words.  In the process of writing, editing, laying out, illustrating and publicising a book, it becomes collaborative - the intimacy between oneself and words is lost. And, as in all writing, sometimes one looks back on one's own prose: Did I write that?

But translation adds another dimension: I recognise my own sentences but they are no longer mine.  It's less like authorship, and more like posing for a portrait: I'm certainly there, but painted by another hand. Odd.

As a work of design, Distracción is striking. The cover picture is cute, and the teal, orange and white work very well together (to my surprise). The cover photo is a nice touch.

Inside, the font is a generous size (for those with less-than-perfect eyesight), and each chapter begins with a white quill on grey, then a little ink bottle above the text. Again: cute.

May it grow old in Mexico.

No comments: