A very nice line (assuming I am understanding it correctly) from the newly-published Bolaño story, The Contour of the Eye. Bolaño's character Chen Huo Deng is recounting a conversation with a doctor, telling him about writing diaries as a "crutch for literary creativity":
Dijo que comprendía que los poetas escribiéramos mil palabras para librar una. Le dije que en mi diario actual se libraba algo más y se rió sin comprender.This is working for me on a couple of levels, I can see an image of Chen's words as the fleet launched from Mycenae to liberate Helen...
[First attempt at reading this is incorrect -- see comment from Rick -- He said his understanding was that we poets will write a thousand words to liberate a single one. I told him that in my current diary something else was being liberated and he laughed without understanding.]
He said his understanding was that we poets will write a thousand words to get at a single one. I told him that in my current diary something else was at stake, and he laughed without understanding.
Thoughts about the translation of "librar" in the first sentence and "librarse" in the second sentence (and thanks to Rick for pointing out that this is a different verb from "liberar")? It would be nice to preserve the pun but I'm not at all sure how that would be done. "in my current diary something else was getting out" maybe? That doesn't sound very natural to me, and I'm skeptical whether it communicates the meaning of the Spanish very well.
There might be a confusion here between 'librar' and 'liberar'. There is some word play in Bolano's original. In the first use, librar would mean something like 'save' or 'keep' (writing a thousand words just to save one). On the second use, the translation would be closer to: in the diary "something else was at stake".
Oh, thanks Rick! I was making the mistake you think I was making... will try again.
Glad to help. I really liked the story; thanks for the link.
On keeping the pun, maybe something with 'grab' can be tried:
He said he understood that we poets would write a thousand words just to grab a single one. I replied that in my diary something else was up for grabs, and he laughed uncomprehendingly.
(I am not sure if it makes sense).
That's a nice one -- "grab" doesn't sound very good in the first sentence, but I like "up for grabs" in the second sentence. "Uncomprehendingly" also sounds better than "without understanding".