Tag: translation

Short story: “Eva Is Inside Her Cat”

“Eva Is Inside Her Cat,” by Gabriel García Márquez, as translated by J. S. Bernstein

Appeared in the collection Eyes of a Blue Dog in 1972; found in Collected Stories (1984), which was reprinted by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2008); online here and supposedly here, though I couldn’t get the latter link to open

8 pages (?), 4,280 words (though it feels shorter—my estimate was embarrassingly far off)

I officially don’t understand magic realism. Márquez’s work is beautifully written (at least in translation) and seems psychologically believable, but what’s going on? Perhaps this is not so much a magic realism story as a story that’s deliberately ambiguous about its reality: the protagonist may be dying and becoming a ghost, or she may be experiencing an extreme mental state and hallucinating.

As this commentary on The Reading Life remarks, it’s worth wondering whether a beautiful woman ever really thinks of her beauty this way—whether any beautiful woman has ever written of a similar experience. I feel like fiction by men contains an improbable number of beautiful women who are universally attractive to hetero-attracted men, as though men’s tastes never vary.

At the end it seems (spoilers) that she’s been dead for a long while, death having distorted her sense of time.

I don’t understand the title, since she never seems to get inside the cat. She may already be inside the cat without knowing it, but her experiences don’t seem tinged with catness or with the physicality of the cat.


Short story: “A Little Hero”

“A Little Hero” (“Маленький герой”), by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (originally under the pseudonym “М-ий”)

According to the Russian Wikipedia, written in prison and first published in 1857 in the eighth issue of the magazine Отечественные записки/Otechestvennye Zapiski (Notes of the Fatherland); collected in White Nights and Other Stories, translated by Constance Garnett (on Gutenberg.org); also online here

14,930 words in English

Have I mentioned I’m a sucker for a well-written child character? And for Dostoyevsky’s children especially? I love the cruelty of the coquette who teases him, the way he demands respect and gets it, his childishness even as he edges near adolescence, and above all, the ending.

Any story about a child or adolescent is liable to read as a coming-of-age story, because like any main character, the child/adolescent must change in some way. (Though there are exceptions, like “Voices Lost in Snow.”) “A Little Hero,” however, seems to portray a genuine coming of age, as its main character learns to deal with the first blushes of sexuality, to assert himself, and to take action for others’ sakes.

Like most of my favorite first-person stories of children, this one is clearly narrated by the adult, with complete sympathy for his childhood self.

What a thing to have written in prison! What a thing to have written with a death sentence hanging over your head!

Flash fiction story or fictional essay or perhaps personal essay: “Borges and I”

“Borges and I” (“Borges y Yo”), by Jorge Luis Borges or “I,” translated by various

Appeared in Borges’ collection The Maker (El Hacedor), 1960; anthologized in the 1981 book The Mind’s IAntonios Sarhanis’ translation online here

345 words

A brilliant examination of personal and authorial identity. It makes me think (forgive me) that “Everything and Nothing” is autobiographical. The last line could be the last line of a horror story.

Antonios Sarhanis’ takedown of Andrew Hurley’s translation is interesting. I don’t agree with every choice Sarhanis makes, but I admire the translation and the thought he’s put into it.

A malicious, ironic smile

“Someone died every night. He ‘told’ me about it by pointing once to a bed that was empty. Another time he showed me a patient, a jolly man who walked about a lot, enjoyed eating and had a tube in his throat. He had a moustache and shining eyes. Kafka was very pleased that he had such a good appetite. The next day he pointed to his empty bed. Kafka wasn’t shaken but positively angry, as if he couldn’t grasp that a man who’d been so gay had had to die. I will never forget his malicious, ironic smile.”

—Dora Dymant (found in K: A Biography of Kafka)

Short story: “Father’s Last Escape”

“Father’s Last Escape,” by Bruno Schulz, translated from the Polish by Celina Wieniewska

Originally collected in Street of Crocodiles; appeared in the New Yorker (online here), January 2nd, 1978; PDF here; read by Nicole Krauss in the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, February 2012

Probably 2,000 words or even less

I listened to this a long time ago and it never completely left me. It makes me think of a parent slowly giving way to Alzheimer’s or some similar mind-wasting disease, so that the survivors bid him goodbye a little bit at a time, first one memory, then another. (I’m not the first to make this comparison.)

I knew something Mallory Ortberg didn’t know/Honestly that blew my mind the first time I realized it

“I’m just like I am just now learning again on the Wikipedia page that the book In Search of Lost Time is not the same, or it is the same thing as Remembrance of Things Past. I thought the dude wrote two books. It’s the same book, two different translations.”

—Mallory Ortberg (x)

“Intimate alienation”

“[Emily Wilson] [in a Guardian piece] called translating Homer as a woman an experience of ‘intimate alienation.’

“‘Earlier translators are not as uncomfortable with the text as I am,’ she explained to me, ‘and I like that I’m uncomfortable.’ Part of her goal with the translation was to make readers uncomfortable too—with the fact that Odysseus owns slaves, and with the inequities in his marriage to Penelope. Making these aspects of the poem visible, rather than glossing over them, ‘makes it a more interesting text,’ she said.”

—Anna North in Vox (x), found via a Mara Wilson retweet

Short story: “Beauty, a Terrible Story”

“Beauty, a Terrible Story,” by Caio Fernando Abreu, translated by Bruna Dantas Lobato

First appeared in 1989 in the collection The Dragons Haven’t Been to Paradise; appeared in English in Words without Borders: The Online Magazine of International Literature, July 2016

3,086 words, counting the epigraph but not counting the dedication

I admire the way this story avoids making any explicit (or even nearly explicit) statement about the main character’s situation. He keeps trying to tell her and failing. You can feel the weight of his silence.

Found via the Ploughshares blog.

“I remember translating the last scene of the story, when the protagonist ‘ran his fingertips along his neck, […] groping for a seed in the dark.’ Afterward, I realized that I’d placed my own hand on the right side of my neck like the protagonist. The experience wasn’t romantic or magical, but it served as a reminder that I was inhabiting someone else’s world, and that I could trust the reader to feel the story as intensely as I’d felt it, no further explanation needed.”

—the translator (x)

Short story: “Sonning a Father”

“Sonning a Father,” by Georgi Gospodinov, as translated by Angela Rodel

Appeared in Ploughshares, Summer 2016

Maybe 5000 words?

I want to call this charming, but that seems like too light a word for subject matter so grim. And yet the story maintains a light touch throughout. The ending is surprisingly hopeful.

Short story or rather, novelette: “The Burrow”

“The Burrow” (“Der Bau”), by Franz Kafka

First published posthumously in 1931, with the first English translation coming out in 1933; the Muirs’ translation is online here

15,133 words

Maybe it’s because I was in a bad mood, but earlier today, reading Michael Hofmann’s translation, I felt as though the narrator of “The Burrow” were my only friend.