The idea for Bad Translations came to me a number of years ago in Ecuador. My wife and I, the mysterious Shuffy©, were staying in a little pension outside of the old town in Quito and there was a ramshackle bookstore nearby we would duck into during violent confrontations between groups of young protesters and the police. People were pissed off about the dollarization of the currency. Gustavo Noboa had recently been elected president. But this is ancient history. I found an old volume of poetry by Jorge Carrera Andrade. The pages hadn’t even been split and it smelled of dirt. Andrade is more or less a big deal in Latin American literature though you don’t hear his name very often up north. Such is the way of things. The poems were in Spanish, since Andrade wrote them that way. My Spanish is terrible. But I decided to start translating them anyway. Some years ago, before even the trip to Ecuador, the man who taught me to read Golden Age Latin, the hairy and intense Alan Fishbone, made a comment to me over a game of pool. “You know,” he said (I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s all syntax, …. And syntax is magic.” I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant at the time, though it sounded cool. He was a cool guy, likely he still is, though his Juvenalian Foundation for a New Humanism located on Elizabeth Street in New York City only lasted about a year. Money did not pour in.
more from me at The Owls here.