For the last 2 1/2 weeks I’ve been plugging away at my first book translation. Life being what it is, my home computer, a trusty laptop, decided to croak less than a week into the project. It didn’t completely die, but the cable that controls the monitor color took a turn for the worse, rendering everything in the center of my screen a blinding turquoise.
My backup laptop was so ancient it couldn’t even handle an internet connection, so I got rid of it a while ago. Thus I’ve been spending various weeknights, and a good chunk of my weekend afternoons, translating at my office. This lovely building, perhaps a hundred years old, began as a department store and for a couple of decades has been a multipurpose space, with retail shops and cafés on the first three floors, and above, offices like mine and a yoga/pilates/movement/dance studio in the other wing. One night a week and on some weekends, a dance instructor or two arrives and the studio becomes a tango milonga.
So I find myself listening to the emblematic music of Argentina while rendering the story of a daughter of a desaparecido – another emblem of my favorite South American nation – in English. It’s an odd juxtaposition – luxurious orchestral music from the golden age of tango and two tales from a couple of the ugliest periods in the country’s history: the bloody military dictatorship of 1976 to ’83, and the 1990s, when the federal administration pardoned the military leaders who’d been convicted and continued the neoliberal economic policies that resulted in the economic crash of 2001.
I’ll be writing more about the translation process as I get farther along – I’m in the middle of chapter three of 21, and in the middle of reading The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction by Suzanne Jill Levine, the University of California Santa Barbara professor who directs the Translation Studies doctoral program. In the meanwhile, if any readers know of a U.S. press that publishes translated literary journalism, give me a holler, please.