We are Translators

Looking through my notebooks last week for ideas I might have had about Edward Upward's fiction when I first read him several years ago, I came across the following fragment from Roque Dalton's novel Pobrecito poeta que era yo (San Salvador: UCA Editores, 1994), which I translate as follows:

"When writing modern literature among ourselves we are translators (translator: traitor) of forms elaborated by others, in most cases and at least now." (271)


I love Devendra Banhart's exaggerated phrases and weird voice, hearing it in the car last night driving to NY, through the Hudson Valley, only shadows for mountains.


Upward's short story "The Railway Accident," written in 1928, opens his collection A Renegade in Springtime (London: Enitharmon Press, 2003):

"I again glanced past him to watch a long corridor train with restaurant and sleeping cars which had drawn up on the opposite side of the platform. I should have taken a no more detailed mental photograph of it than most poets do of elaborate architecture if I had not been able to give it a place immediately in one of those non-technical elastic classifications, which alone satisfied my intelligence, of objects describable only by their effects on persons." (21)

The book's cover is a photograph by Humphrey Spender entitled "Jarrow Marchers Approaching Trafalgar Square" (1936). Upward is to the left of the shot, his mouth opened to sing or chant as he looks at the camera, with three (probably red) flags angled over him, held up by marchers behind him, one of whom is raising his right fist.

I keep admiring his recent stories, written in the 1990s, because of their focus on mundane, daily encounters, the fragility of old age accompanied by wit and intelligence, never quite surrendering to sadness or loss. While the earlier stories do have an anger, or an intensity, that imprints them within a very specific decade.

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