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READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
Hernán Rivera Letelier grew up in the mining towns of Humberstone and Algorta, in Chile's Norte Grande, at the tail end of the nitrate-mining era: a major stage in Chile's history and in the history of the industrialized world. He tells Ariel Dorfman (as related in Dorfman's Desert Memories, 2004) that his earliest memories are of "eavesdropping on [the] adult conversations" of the miners who ate their meals in the Letelier home; his mother padded the family budget by selling home-cooked meals to the bachelor miners. The stories he was listening to were of the last remnants of the nitrate industry, already moribund by the time of his childhood; he listened well, and has built a successful career as one of Chile's most popular novelists (although mostly overlooked, until recently, outside of Chile) telling the stories of the pampa salitrera, the mining camps built in the Atacama desert at the end of the 19th Century by British and German firms and operated until the middle of the 20th Century, and of the people who lived and worked there.
Rivera Letelier's 13 novels to date span the length of the nitrate-mining era and the breadth of the Atacama desert -- from the 1907 massacre of striking workers retold and reconstructed in Our Lady of the Dark Flowers (2002), to the 1942 mining camp strike in Providencia in the (surreal) Art of Resurrection (2010), to the later dusty remnants of Coya Sur in The Fantasist (2006), on the verge of becoming a ghost town -- somewhat reminiscent in all of Faulkner's treatment of Mississippi. (or John Ford's, of the Old West?) The Art of Resurrection won the prestigious Premio Alfaguara and has happily brought his work some well-deserved recognition. It is the story of a week in the life of Domingo Zárate Vega ("better known to all as the Christ of Elqui," sort of a Chilean Rasputin who wandered the country in the mid-20th Century preaching his gospel) -- in which he searches for, finds, and loses his own Magdalene.
My translation of a portion of Chapter 4 of the book will be up soon at The Unmuzzled Ox, under the title "Christ in the Desert".
I was complaining to a friend recently about how the New Yorker had printed its translation of "The Prefiguration of Lalo Cura" split up into paragraphs where the original was a single paragraph, and he did not really get where I was coming from -- if it was more readable in paragraphs, isn't that the way to go? As I'm reading the first sentence of Queen Isabel was singing rancheras, I'm wondering why it seems so important to me that this block be preserved as a single sentence, thinking I ought to justify that somehow. If it's more readable broken up, why not break it up?
In the flow of a book or story I do not slavishly follow the syntactic boundaries in the source text -- though perhaps I err on the side of slavishly following them. There are certainly points where a period in English seems like the correct translation of a comma or a y in Spanish. But these long paragraphs and long sentences in Spanish seem to me to fill more than a syntactic role; they are communicating a rhythm and pacing which splitting them up has a tendency to spoil. And not only in Spanish -- being a single paragraph seems to me like a fundamental quality of (for instance) "Ein Landarzt"; it pulls the reader insistently into the driving rhythm of the story, will not let go.
John couldn't make it over to Lonesome Nickel studios this weekend; Dress Rehearsal Rags will resume in a couple of weeks.
Seemed like it would be a good idea, this sunny Sunday morning on Meeker St., to mash up a couple of old country tunes together which don't really have that much in common. Here's the Carter Family + Ernest Tubb, for your delectation:
Thanks to Ellen for the wonderful camerawork -- thanks to Pixie for sitting and listening!
(Rivera Letelier seems really to have given my reading and translation a focus they did not have before.)
Terminan de apagarse los sones de la canción mexicana que antecede a la que él quiere escuchar, y en tanto la aguja del tocadiscos comienza a arrastrarse neurálgica por esa tierra de nadie, por esos arenosos surcos estériles que separan un tema de otro, el ilustre y muy pendejísimo Viejo Fioca, paletó a cuadritos verdes y marengo pantalón sostenido a un jeme por debajo del ombligo -- pasmoso prodigio de malabarismo pélvico --, trémulo aún de la curda del día anterior y palido hasta la transparencia, llena su tercer vaso de vino tinto arrimado espectralmente al mesón del único rancho abierto a esas horas de domingo --...
So, wow; the first sentence of Queen Isabel Was Singing Rancheras is seven pages long... I enjoyed the challenge of getting the multipage paragraphs in Resurrection across with a sense of the driving rhythm of the original, and communicating the sense of it. This is kind of ridiculous! Those paragraphs had maybe page-long sentences at some points, but 7? Gorgeous though. I'm having trouble believing he was able to do this on page one of his first novel (1994) and have it be successful -- a popular novel! It seems audacious and intimidating.
Spring is without question here; and we got a ping-pong table! Here are Ellen and Sylvia volleying.
Sylvia and I put it together yesterday afternoon; but we took a break so John and I could do some jamming. A new setup means I'm not sure yet where to set up the camera; and the upshot is that I'm mostly just out of the frame, a disembodied Stroh fiddle. Shades of February! We ran out of tape at what seems to me like a pretty opportune moment.