Actualidad

Duelo de traductores / “El estatuto particular” según Rosalind Harvey y Frank Wynne (y Kathleen Heil), por Patricio Pron

Por Patricio Pron | 27 de agosto, 2013

Algunos días atrás participé del duelo de traductores que Daniel Hahn realiza desde hace algún tiempo en el International Book Festival de Edimburgo, Escocia; como todas las buenas ideas, la del duelo es simple: dos traductores traducen de forma autónoma un fragmento de narrativa y lo discuten en la presencia de su autor y del público. Asombrosa, pero (de algún modo) previsiblemente también, sus versiones difieren, y el evento consiste en la discusión de esas diferencias con la participación del autor. El duelo permite al espectador tener una visión íntima de la forma en que trabaja un traductor, de las decisiones que toma y de cómo esas decisiones son negociadas con el autor del texto y con el editor, a menudo de forma insatisfactoria para todas las partes, y resulta por ello una reivindicación honesta (y singularmente divertida) de lo que la traducción tiene de acto creativo así como una revelación de cuáles son las dificultades con la que (pese a todo) es llevada a cabo.

Los traductores que tomaron parte del duelo en esta ocasión fueron Rosalind Harvey (que tradujo, entre otros, a Juan Pablo Villalobos y a Enrique Vila-Matas) y Frank Wynne (autor, y traductor de Michel Houellebecq, Claude Lanzmann, Tomás Eloy Martínez y Boualem Sansal); el texto escogido para la traducción fue “El estatuto particular”, un cuento de El mundo sin las personas que lo afean y lo arruinan (2010). Como es posible que su trabajo sea del interés de los lectores que suelen pensar acerca de la traducción, incluyo a continuación las versiones de Harvey y de Wynne del comienzo del relato; como el final del texto despertó la curiosidad de los asistentes al duelo en Edimburgo, enlazo aquí a la traducción completa del cuento a cargo de Kathleen Heil, con agradecimientos a Harvey, Wynne, Heil y Hahn por su trabajo.

“The Peculiar Status” by Patricio Pron

(tr. Frank Wynne)

They live in the Altona district, a neighbourhood for bohemians and artists in Hamburg; the needle-like building where she works as a statistician is visible from their apartment. He works at home. If asked what he does, he says that he’s a freelance creative consultant with an advertising agency. He enunciates the three words slowly: “free-lance cre-a-tive con-sul-tant” so the those he is talking to have enough time to get a sense of his job, though he himself has no idea what it entails. From time to time, someone from the agency calls and asks stuff like “What comes to mind if I say ‘chocolate’?” “Dark,” he replies, and the person on the other end says “hmm” and hangs up. They never give him time to think of something else and he assumes that this time they’ll fire him, but the cheques keep rolling in and every so often he comes across an ad on TV or a billboard which is the product of one of these phone calls. This, he finds depressing. Sometimes, too, they send him texts or pornographic websites with no images to translate into German. “Mach mir einen Blasen, du Nutte!” or “Was für einen geilen Arsch!” he writes beneath the photographs. This he does not find depressing, merely boring.

If asked what he does, she says he is going through a phase of “professional reorientation” brought on by “the death of the novel and the peculiar plight of the short story, which is periodically pronounced dead by critics yet somehow manages to survive,” a line she read in a Sunday supplement, in the column of some literary critic who often appears on television. He published three novels and two volumes of short stories, but that was a long time ago. Whenever they’re expecting visitors, she always brings his books into the living room so she can show them to their guests and hand out copies if they show even a flicker of interest. If he finds out before the guests show up, he rushes to hide the books in the room that once served as his study where there are dozens of boxes filled with copies given him some time ago by his publishers eager to spare themselves the trouble of pulping them. She thinks he needs to take pride in his work notwithstanding the death of the novel and the peculiar status of the short story, but it has been years now since he thought about such things.

“What’s wrong with him?” she sometimes wonders. She thinks of him as an office block where the lights flicker out one by one when the staff leave, then the security guard does his rounds and turns off the rest and perhaps the only ones still burning are in the corridors, lit up like a runway just before an accident. She thinks he needs a new job and a new haircut, she thinks they take a trip or read more. She buys him a book by Fyodor Dostoyevsky which he never reads. He belongs to the forty-one per cent of the German population who have not read a single book in the past three months, she thinks. She thinks she needs to think of something.

Some time later, she devises a game which they immediately start to play. The rules of the game are relatively simple, but this is precisely because the game itself is not. The games requires that several times a year they travel to some random city, preferably somewhere large and touristy; counter to expectation, they travel separately and do not stay at the same hotel. They are not allowed to take mobile phones or guidebooks and their knowledge of the cities they’re visiting should not be too specific, perhaps two or three sights they agree in advance not to visit. Neither should know where the other is staying or what places they plan to visit.

Nevertheless, the objective is for them to meet up and travel back together. Obviously, the likelihood that this will happen is minimal, indeed she has drawn up detailed and deeply discouraging statistics on the subject, but the difficulty is the principal motivation for playing the game and, besides, in the end, they always manage to meet up.

‘A Peculiar State’ by Patricio Pron

(tr. Rosalind Harvey)

They live in the neighbourhood of Altona, a place for artists and bohemians in Hamburg; from their apartment the slender tower of the building where she works as a statistician is visible. Whenever people ask him what he does, he tells them he is an external creative consultant for an advertising agency. He pronounces the three words slowly, ex-ter-nal cre-at-ive con-sultant, so his listeners have time to get some sort of idea of his job, although even he doesn’t really know what it consists of. Every now and then someone from the agency will telephone and ask him things like: ‘What do you think of when I say the word “chocolate”?’ ‘Black,’ he’ll reply, and the person at the other end will say ‘Hmmm,’ and hang up. They never give him time to think of anything else and he assumes that this time they’ll fire him, but the cheques keep on coming and every now and then he sees an advert on the TV or a billboard in the street that is the result of one of these phone calls. He finds this depressing. Sometimes, too, they send him pornographic texts or websites without images to translate into German. Mach mir einen Blasen, du Nutte! or, Was für einen geilen Arsch! he writes beneath the blank boxes. This is not depressing, only dull.

If they ask her what he does, she tells them he is going through a period of ‘professional reorientation’ caused by ‘the death of the novel and the peculiar state of the short story, periodically pronounced dead by critics and yet, nonetheless, somehow still alive,’ something she read in a Sunday supplement, a column written by a literary critic who is always on TV. He has published three novels and two collections of short stories, although this was a while back now. She likes to put his books in the living room when they’re expecting guests so she can pass them round and give them as presents if their visitors show any interest. If he catches her before their guests arrive, he quickly goes and hides the books in the room that was once his study, where there are dozens of boxes of copies that his publisher returned to him some time ago, to save themselves the trouble of pulping them. She thinks he should be proud of his work despite the death of the novel and the peculiar state of the short story, but it’s been some years since he’s thought about these things.

‘What’s wrong with him?’ she sometimes wonders. She thinks he is like an office building in which the lights are slowly going out, one by one, as the employees leave, and now the security guard is arriving and switching off the last few, and perhaps only the ones in the corridors are still on, blazing like those on a runway just before a plane crash. She thinks he should get another job or a new haircut, that they should go on holiday or read more. She buys a book by Fyodor Dostoyevsky that he never reads. He is part of the 41% of the German population that hasn’t read a single book in the last three months, she thinks. She thinks that she has to think of something.

Some time later, she invents a game they begin to play immediately. While the rules are relatively simple, this is because the content is not. The game is that several times a year, she and he travel to a city, if possible a big, touristy one. Unusually, they travel separately and do not stay in the same hotel. They aren’t allowed to take mobile phones or guidebooks and their knowledge of the city they visit must not be too specific, perhaps two or three monuments they agree beforehand not to visit. Neither one of them should know where the other is going to stay or which places she or he will visit. They must, however, find each other and go back home together.

Naturally, the possibilities for this occurring are infinite, and in fact she has already elaborated some very good and rather disheartening statistics on the matter, but the game’s difficulty is its main attraction; in any case, sooner or later, they always find each other in the end.

Patricio Pron 

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