Did you ever go on treasure hunts as a kid? If not, don’t worry. You’ve likely been on one with every literary translation you undertake. At least, that’s what it feels like to me.
You sit down at your desk, and one unknown word, vague concept or quote leads you down a winding path of exploration, one resource leading to another, and another, and another… At each spot along the way, you discover some wonderful new treasure: a tidbit of information, a picture that conveys a thousand words, insight into a culture, a concept, a writer. You leave with a gem of knowledge, are the richer for it, and so is your translation.
Last week, I wandered through Cuba (via the Internet), discovering this wonderful little documentary on “la cosa,” getting a better picture of the almendrones and Soviet Chaikas that are used as taxis, studying the original and one translation of Fidel Castro’s “Speech to Intellectuals,” confirming titles and quotes by Blanchot, Sartre and Yurchak. And that was just the beginning.
Where have your translations taken you lately?