On Translation

Thinking again about translation as a betrayal of sorts. In his novel Tres tristes tigres (1967), Guillermo Cabrera Infante explores the idea of "traduccion/traiccion" (translation/betrayal) as he contemplates the English and Spanish languages intermingling in his Havana nightlife episodes. Cabrera Infante is involved in the translation of his books into English, and in the 1980s he published a book in English, Holy Smoke. Throughout his career, Cabrera Infante has attempted to be faithful to both English and Spanish simultaneously, amplifying each language with fragments, tones, sounds from the other. Even in his book of political essays, Mea Cuba (1994), his love affair with the English language serves as a reflection of his ideological doubts about the Cuban Revolution.

So, these posts of translated Venezuelan poets are a type of betrayal that I've been committing since birth. Whatever subtleties of form and tone, as well as any cultural context essential to understanding the work of these writers is betrayed by my versions. Venezuelan poets are too varied and sophisticated to be contained in this blog. I'd like to think of these excerpts as footnotes. I find translation to often be a form of melancholy, wherein I attempt to gather a few fragments, left over from my personal disasters and losses of Venezuela. Without nostalgia, but unable to conceptualize Venezuela outside of a feeling of disaster. This feeling began with my own nomadic childhood, seeing Venezuela from Caracas, Boston, Florida, or Mexico. Venezuela as sounds over the phone or as the brown color of my skin.

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