Tuesday, June 5th, 2012
In the array of inexplicable matters which is the universe, which is time, a book's dedication is surely not the least arcane. It is presented as a gift, a boon. But excluding the case of the indifferent coin which Christian charity lets drop into the indigent's palm, every gift is in truth reciprocal. He who gives does not deprive himself of what is given. To give and to receive are identical.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez' column from last week is fun: "About a Magic Act" is about dedications, spinning off from his dedication of The Secret History of Costaguana to his daughters, and the difficulty his various translators have had in rendering “que llegaron con su libro bajo el brazo” in their target languages -- apparently, so he learned, it is not the case in every language, that a baby can arrive with a loaf of bread under its arm (it looks at first glance like nacer con el pan debajo del brazo means roughly, "be born with a silver spoon in one's mouth") -- Anne McLean rendered it, "For Martina and Carlota, who brought their own book with them when they arrived." He looks at dedications from García Márquez, Juan Carlos Onetti, Camilo José Cela, Joyce, Hervé Guibert, Shakespeare, Borges... My own very rough translation of the Borges dedication Vásquez refers to is above.
Like every act in the universe, dedicating a book is a magic act. It could be considered as the most pleasant, the most fitting manner of giving voice to a name. And now I give voice to your name, María Kodama. So many mornings, so many oceans, so many gardens of the East and of the West, so many lines of Virgil.
Jorge Luís Borges
inscription to La cifra:
May 17, 1981
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
"Very well," had said the considerable personage to whom Charles Gould on his way out through San Francisco had lucidly exposed his point of view. "Let us suppose that the mining affairs of Sulaco are taken in hand. There would be in it: first, the house of Holroyd, which is all right; then, Mr. Charles Gould, a citizen of Costaguana, who is also all right; and, lastly, the Government of the Republic. So far this resembles the first start of the Atacama nitrate fields, where there was a financing house, a gentleman of the name of Edwards, and -- a Government; or rather, two Governments -- two South American Governments. And you know what came of it. War came of it; devastating and prolonged war came of it, Mr. Gould."
Somehow I had gotten in mind from The Secret History of Costaguana, that Nostromo held specific allegoric reference to the building of the Panama Canal. That does not seem to be quite right... Certainly the story of the Canal is a relevant line of thought for approaching this book; and the Atacama, too -- nitrate was of huge importance when Conrad was writing this.
Friday, May 18th, 2012
The beauty of the Virgilian Lottery has little in common with Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky.”
My latest translation is up on The Utopian: Juan Gabriel Vásquez' column from two weeks ago, Reading Your Fortune. (Original Encontrar la suerte en los libros, at El Espectador.)
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
“War is hell,” said Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration: he said it following the killing of 16 civilians, among them children, by a deranged sergeant in the Afghan province of Kandahar. This massacre unleashed on the world a series of images that one cannot look at without being reminded of similar massacres from the Vietnam War — for instance, My Lai.
The Utopian's blog publishes my translation of Vásquez' latest column for El Espectador: the original is "Los Avergonzados", from last Thursday.
-- "Shame", by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
On the subject of shameful killings: Founderstein's Michael Austin has exactly the right take on the killing of Treyvon Martin in Florida last month. (via Russell Arben Fox)
Sunday, March 4th, 2012
In Juan Villoro's phrase, the column is the platypus of prose.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez' column this week, La crónica, o cómo ponerle cercas al río, is sending me scrambling to look up references... Vásquez is here a columnist writing about understanding the genre of the column. Some of the references:
These approaches -- and more besides -- are outlined in Jaramillo's introduction: fifty pages determined, with the help of Norman Sims and of the columnists themselves, to bring the reader to the river where this platypus bathes.
Sunday, February 19th, 2012
I am embarking on a new project this week. Recently Yascha Mounk of The Utopian contacted me to ask if I'd like to contribute some short translated pieces to their site's blog. Naturally (given that I've been reading and thinking about Vásquez' work so much lately) the first thing to come to mind was Juan Gabriel Vásquez' weekly column for El espectador, which seems almost perfectly suited for this format. I made contact with Anne McLean and received permission to give this a try -- the first column is up, his January 26th column about Salman Rushdie's canceled appearance at the Jaipur literary festival: Bullies and their certainties.
Friday, February 10th, 2012
Glad to see you! Have a look around...
Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Juan Gabriel Vásquez took part in a live chat at the Guardian's Books section today -- here is what he has been thinking about recently:
For three whole days I have been thinking about Conrad's novels. Three in particular: Heart of Darkness, Nostromo, and The Secret Agent. I wrote a small text trying to suggest how amazing it was that those three novels, published between 1899 and 1907, anticipate every major issue the world had to deal with during the ⅩⅩ century.
Oh and also: " I have a tendency to trust translators, mainly because nobody does it for the money."
Monday, January second, 2012
April 9th, 1948: The mob dragging the corpse of Juan Roa Sierra.
Photo W. Torres - El Tiempo.
The pavement of 7th Ave. is broken there by the tram tracks (that don't go anywhere, that get lost under the pavement, because the trams, those trams with blue-tinted windows that my father told me about, haven't existed for years), and as I, standing in front of the Augustín Nieto building, read the black marble plaque that describes the assassination in more sentences than strictly necessary, Sara, thinking I wasn't looking, crouched down at the curb -- I thought she was going to pick up a dropped coin -- and with two fingers touched the rail as if she were taking the pulse of a dying dog. I kept pretending I hadn't seen her, so as not to interrupt her private ceremony, and after several minutes of being a hindrance in that river of people and putting up with insults and shoves, I asked her to show me exactly where the Granada Pharmacy had been in those years when a suicidal man could buy more than 90 sleeping pills there. A year and a half after Konrad Deresser's suicide, Gaitán's murderer had been taken by force inside the pharmacy to prevent the furious mob from lynching him, but he'd been dragged from the pharmacy by the furious mob, which had punched and kicked him to death and dragged his naked body to the presidential palace (there is a photograph showing the body leaving a trail of shedded clothing behind like a snake shedding its skin: the photo isn't very good, and in it Juan Roa Sierra is barely a pale corpse, almost an ectoplasm, crossed by the black stain of his sex).
-- The Informers
Looking around for background material to help me understand The Informers, I happened on an interview with the author from two years ago, in the winter 2010 issue of BOMB. Lovely reading -- always puzzling and enchanting to hear from someone so thoughtful, so clear-spoken -- and yes, some good background material to help with reading this novel.
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