Target in the Night

Updated : Aug 26, 2019 in Articles

Target in the Night


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington DC.>>Georgette Dorn: Good afternoon. My name is Georgette Dorn and I’m
the chief of the Hispanic division of the Library of Congress. It’s a pleasure to welcome all of
you here on behalf of the Library of Congress and the
Hispanic division and it is even a greater pleasure
to welcome Sergio Waisman, my [inaudible] from Argentina. Sergio is a professor at George
Washington University since 2003. He has a PhD from the University of
California Berkley and a Master’s from US Colorado in
creative writing. He teaches comparative literature
and Latin American literature. He wrote a book on
Borges and Translation, which I have to read I’m sure. [Inaudible] his translations
of six books by Latin American authors including
the Absent City by Ricardo Piglia for which he received a national
endowment fellowship award. His first book, Leaving
[inaudible], was a great success. He also translated
[inaudible] by Maria Venezuela. We have 11 books in the
library under his name. The commentators are going to be
Gwen Kirkpatrick who is professor and chair of literature
in Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown University. She has a PhD from
Princeton University. She is the author of
Dissonant Legacy of Modernism. She is co-author of Women, Culture,
and Politics in Latin America. She has nine books under
her title, under her name in the Library of Congress
[laughter]. Laura Demaria is a
professor of literature at Maryland University,
US of Maryland. She started at university
[inaudible] and has a PhD from Wharton University
in Saint Louis. She teaches 19 century, 20 century
literature, history, politics, philosophy, and critical theory. Has published a collection of
short stories and also [inaudible]. She has five books in the
library under her name [laughter]. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Gwen Kirkpatrick:
Thank you Georgette. It’s a real pleasure to be in
the Library of Congress and to be with Sergio and Laura and Georgette. The Library of Congress is a
very important place for me and for our students as well and
for the country and the world. Georgette stole a bit of my
thunder, but I think I will go ahead and read what, somewhat different. Sergio Waisman is a
translator/writer and professor of Spanish and Latin
American literature at George Washington University
and until recently liberated, he served as chair of the department of modern languages
and literatures at GW. He did that a long time. His book Borges and Translation: Irreverence of the Periphery has
been published in English, Spanish, and Italian and has become
an indispensable reference for the study of Borges. As a novelist, Sergio has
written Leaving [inaudible] about a bilingual and
bicultural life with wonderful baseball stories. That’s what always stays. He integrates translation
and the theory of translation into both his critical
and his creative work. As Sylvia Malloy has stated, for Waisman translation is
a creative critical concept that signifies both
the way of reading and thinking about literature. Sergio doesn’t just translate
contemporary fiction, he’s taken on the task
of 19 century, many different styles
of the 19 century works. He has translated for
Oxford University Press, works of [foreign language
spoken] and with Kelly Washburn, a collection of [inaudible] Poetry. I recommend very highly, including
[foreign language spoken] the Penguin edition of the Mexican
classic, the Underdogs by Azuela. Several novels and short story
collections by Ricardo Piglia, whom we have today and the writings
of Juan Jose Sierra among others. He received an NEH translation
fellowship award for his work with Piglia’s [foreign language
spoken], the Absent City. Sergio received his PhD from the
University of California Berkley and an MA in creative writing from
the University of Colorado Boulder and this is full disclosure. Sergio had a class with me when
he was an undergraduate [laughter] and I also worked with
him when he was in the doctoral program at Berkley. I didn’t direct his dissertation,
I won’t take credit for that, but I was on his committee and
it was, it’s a wonderful stroke of fortune that our lives have
intersected again in Washington. At Berkley, I remember
that his research on Borges and on James Joyce
impressed scholars from both Spanish and English. No small feat. His areas of research in teaching
include Latin American literature and culture with a focus on the southern [inaudible]
literary translation in theory, comparative literature, and
Jewish Latin American literature. The novel he is presenting
today Target in the Night [foreign
language spoken] prize for the best Latin
American novel of the year. Very big prize and in 2015, Piglia
was awarded the Formentor prize for lifetime contribution
to literature. Widely regarded as Argentina’s most
important living writer, for me, at least, each of Piglia’s
novels comes as a surprise. Even though he often uses
the journalist Emilio Remse as a kind alter ego in his novels. Remse often has trouble getting
to the heart of the matter. The novel at hand is partly
an odd ball detective story where Porta Rican charmer from New
Jersey is murdered in a sleepy town in the Pompous in the
late 60’s, unlikely. [Laughter] and partly a
family saga of fortune, corruption, and perhaps incest. The late 60’s in Argentina showed
signs of what will come later. Some isolated gorilla plots,
planning for the return of Parone, and the full blown
crisis that begins with Parone’s return
and death in 1974. And then the long dictatorship. This novel only obliquely refers to
political events, but it represents on a small town scale the reach
of money, judicial corruption, and the sacrifice of entrapped
innocence or at least those who appear to be innocent. Gaucho’s industrialist beautiful
perplexing women, jockeys, Japanese Argentine hotel
workers are just a few of the characters whose
lives we encounter. Some of whom Gaucho
style, are wary enough to say very little
and make no waves. The detective Crochet, who
seems to be the only one who knows the true story, however,
talks and writes much too much. Flooding the town with
anonymous letters. Do we know too much? Or too little in the flood
of information we receive? Whose words matter? And in which context? In retrospect, 2015, we
know that this context even in small town Pompous
life was to be explosive and this is what Sergio can explain. Thank you for your
translations Sergio. [ Applause ]>>Sergio Waisman: It’s
really pleasure to be here. Thank you Georgette. Thank you [inaudible] for
organizing and Gwen and Laura for being here with me today. Translation is very difficult,
a lot of work, a lot of time, and it’s really a pleasure and
an honor to arrive at this point and there were plenty of
times in the last few years where I thought I would never
get to this point [laughter]. I’m so glad to be here. I know that a number of
people here also know Spanish, so I just want my ideas
to read a little bit. I’m going to read the
opening paragraph in Spanish and then switch to English. I’ll read very briefly to
give you a sense of the novel. Blanco Nocturno: Target in
the Night by Ricardo Piglia. Because the novel is a literary
thriller of kinds and because so much depends not only on
the story, but also the feel, the tone of the narrative I
wanted to read the beginning to give you a sense
of what it’s like. Also I remember when Piglia finished
this and I coincided with a visit. I have this very clear image of him
at his computer turning back at me to look at me very excited
because he had gotten, he had finished the first paragraph. He had the whole novel
written, but he had finally, finalized the first paragraph and it I could just see him
right there looking back and reading the opening
paragraph and so I want to read that in Spanish and then I’ll
switch to the translation. [ Foreign Language Spoken ] So that’s the opening
of Blanco Nocturno and the opening of
Target in the night. Tony Duran was an adventurer
and a professional gambler who saw his opportunity
to win the big casino when he met the Bella Donna sisters. It was a ménage a trois that
scandalized the town and stayed on everyone’s mind for months. He’d show up with one of the
two sisters at the restaurant at the Plaza Hotel, but no
one could ever tell with which because the twins were so alike that even their handwriting
was indistinguishable. Tony was almost never seen
with both at the same time. That was something he kept private. What really shocked
everyone was the thought of the twins sleeping together. Not so much that they
would share the same man, but that they would
share each other. Soon the rumors turned into
stories and elaborate tales and before long no one could
talk about anything else. People went on about it
throughout the day in their homes or at the social club or
at the store and tavern. Everyone had a detail to
add commenting as easily as if they were talking
about the weather. In that town, like in all the towns
in the Provence of [inaudible], more news was batted
around in a single day than in any large city in a week. The difference between regional
and national news was so vast that the residence could
retain the illusion that they lived an interesting life. Duran had come to enrich
that in mythology and his figure reached legendary
heights long before the time of his death. You could take Tony’s comings
and goings through the town and draw a map from them. An outsiders ramblings along
the elevated sidewalks, his walks to the outskirts of the abandoned factory
and the deserted fields. He deciphered the older
and hierarchies of the place in short order. The dwellings and houses stand
clearly divided according to its social level of inhabitance. The territories seems to have been
drawn by a snobbish cartographer. The wealthy live at the top of
the hill and then the circle of about eight blocks is the
so-called historical center of town which includes the square,
the town hall, the church, and the main street with the
stores and two story houses. Finally, slopping down
on the other side of the railroad tracks are the
poor neighborhoods where over half of the darker skin
population lives and dies. Tony’s popularity and the envy he
arouse among the men could have led to anything, but in the end his
downfall was simply a matter of chance, which is what had
brought him here in the first place. It was incredible to see such an
elegant [foreign language spoken] in that town full of bask and
[foreign language spoken] Gauchos. A man who spoke Spanish
with a Caribbean accent, but looked as if he
came from the Provence of [inaudible] or from [inaudible]. A mysterious foreigner lost in the
town, a mysterious foreigner lost in a lost town in the
middle of the Pompous. And now I’m going to jump
and just read a couple of very short fragments along the
way to give you a sense of the novel without providing any spoilers. [ Laughter ] If I can. So no spoilers. So Ricardo Piglia and almost all of his books he has this
recurrent character, Emilio Remse, who is an alter ego of types. He’s also, early on in his
career Piglia also used Remse as a sudo name to sign
some of his own works. So it’s a very complicated
double of the author. Remse, in any case, goes to this
small town to investigate this crime and what he finds, what he
investigates is the crime and it’s a lot more than that. And locally there’s this inspector
Crochet, as Gwen mentioned, and these two investigative
figures carry out different kinds of investigations and then
at times they come together and discuss the intrigue that
they’re trying to resolve and that, which is the intrigue that the
reader is trying to resolve as well. And so this is a small
part where Remse and Crochet are working together or
discussing the situation together to try to figure out what
exactly is going on in this town. When he spoke with someone,
this is inspector Crochet, he was forced to choose
certain thoughts. It was impossible to say everything. He always tried to have his
interlocutor reflect with him and arrive at his own
conclusions even before him. That was how he could
trust his reasoning because someone else would
have thought it with him. In this he was like everyone
else who was too intelligent; [inaudible] Sherlock Holmes,
and needed an assistant to think with him and to keep him
from falling into delirium. And Remse comes to
service and assist him. An intellectual interlocutor for
Crochet in the story of this crime. One of the hardest
things to translate of this novel was actually
translating the title; Blanco Nocturno. So blanco, as most people
know is the color white, but that’s not the
only being in Spanish. Blanco is also a target [foreign
language spoken] and we went back and forth many times with the title and whereas white nocturne
was a possibility. In the end I went with Target
in the Night in part to try to, because the novel is very
much about this target and even though it’s not
always clear what the target is and also there was something
about the noir-ish feeling or the detective side,
which seemed to go better, work better with Target
in the Night. And so this is one
very brief section where the title is actually
mentioned in Spanish and so I wanted to explain this and then you can
hear how it sounds in English with the Target in the Night. So this is Crochet
and Remse together. They’re investigating. They headed out of town in Crochet’s
car at midnight on a side road that bordered the district
line toward [inaudible]. They drove across the
countryside avoid the fences and the still animals. The moon was occasionally
covered by the clouds. So Crochet would use the
search light attached to the side of his car. A bright bulb with a handle
that could be adjusted by hand. All of a sudden, in
the illuminated circle, they saw a rabbit paralyzed by fear. White, motionless like an apparition
in the middle of the dark. Caught in the light beam,
it was a target in the night and now there’s foot note and
I’ll read you the foot note. Ten years after the events
narrated in this story, on the eve of the [inaudible]
war, Remse say in the garden that English soldiers were
equipped with infrared glasses that allowed them to see in the dark
and fire at targets in the night. As he read this, Remse remembered
that night in the country with the paralyzed rabbit in
the beam of the search light from Crochet’s car and realized that the war was lost
before it had begun. That’s the end of the foot note. This is Piglia’s foot
note, not mine. And now back to the narrative. It was a target in the night
that they quickly left behind. They drove for several hours
bumping along because of the pits in the road, staring
at the silver lines of the wire fences under the stars. Finally, turning off at a
wooded path, they saw a glow from a lighted window of a
country house in the distance. By the time they reached the
source and were getting close to the small house, dawn
was starting to break on the horizon turning
everything a pinkish hue. Remse, excuse me. Remse got out and opened the gate
so the car could enter and go down a narrow road
surrounded by bushes. A peasant was sitting on a bench under the house eves
drinking [inaudible]. A patrol officer was
dozing off nearby, leaning back against the tree. I’m interrupting myself at any point where I don’t want to
give away anything. [ Laughter ] Right, so it’s hard to read from
a literary, a thriller because I’d like you to get a little sense
of the novel, but I don’t want to give away the, the, yeah the
thriller, the thrill of the plot. [ Laughter ] While he’s in this town, there was
mention of the Bella Donna sister’s from the beginning and when Remse
goes to investigate his part of the investigation, he meets
everybody in town and he strikes up a relationship with one of
the sisters and there is some, the novel in addition to
this thriller, noir-ish tone, which hopefully you’ve been
hearing as I’ve been reading along, it also has some other
sections which are written in a slightly different style
and this is one of these. And here we have Remse with one of the Bella Donna
sisters, with Sophia. Night had fallen over the house. They were still sitting on the
chairs out on the back porch, mostly in the dark except
for a small lamp behind them in the living room looking out
over the peaceful back gardens and the lights beyond. After a while Sophia got up
and put a Moby Grape album on the turntable and
started to move. Dancing in place to Changes. I like Traffic. I like Cream. I like Love she said
and sat down again. I love the band names
and I love their music. I love Moby Dick, that’s
what Remse says. I’m sure you do. Take your books away from
you and you’d be buck naked. My mother is the same. The only time she’s relaxed
is when she’s reading. As soon as she stops
reading she’s a nervous mess. Crazy when she doesn’t read,
not crazy when she reads. See her over there? See that light across the yard? There was a guest house
across the back gardens with two large lit windows through
which one could see a woman, her white hair pulled back, reading
and smoking on a leather arm chair. She looked as if she
were in another world. All of a sudden she
took off her glasses, reached back with her right hand
without looking to grab a blue book from a bookshelf out of sight. She put the page up against her
face, then put her round glasses on again, settled back in the
tall arm chair and kept reading. She reads all the time, Remse said. She’s the reader Sophia said. And finally — Another brief scene in which
we have both inspector Crochet and Emilio Remse together. So Crochet says to Remse, you read
too many detective novels kid. If you only knew what
things were really like. Order doesn’t always get restored. The crime doesn’t always get solved. There’s never any logic to it. We struggle to establish the
causes and the [inaudible] effects, but we’re never able to understand
the entire network of the intrigue. We isolate facts, we stop
in front of a few scenes and we question a handful
of witnesses, but for the most part we
move blindly in the dark. The closer you are to the target, the more you get tangled
in a web without end. Crochet got up ceremoniously
and gave him a hug. This is a point where
they’re about to split up. Then he thumped down again in his
chair and leaned over his notes and [inaudible] distracted. I said Remse, we’re already gone. The story goes on. It can go on. There are several possible
conjectures. The story remains open. The investigation has no end. The investigation cannot end. Someone should invent
a new detective genre; paranoid fiction, it
should be called. Everyone is a suspect. Everyone feels pursued. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Laura Demaria: I’m
short [laughter]. Okay thank you so much Sergio
Waisman for letting me part of this presentation and I’m
going to do, before we start, the way that we visualized this
part was a dialogue between Sergio and myself, but before doing
that I’m going to do something that I tell my students never to
do; that is to get inside the mind of the author and said what he
or she is thinking and I’m going to get inside Ricardo Piglia’s
mind and I’m going to say that he will love, he would
have loved to be here. There is a quote that I have
heard Ricardo Piglia quote many, many times and that quote is from
Faulkner and it says as this; I wrote that book, the Son of the
Fury, Faulkner says that Piglia says that he says [laughter] and I
learn how to write, how to read. I would like to repeat that with
a torsion and I would like to say that I read Ricardo Piglia’s books,
any book, and I truly learn how to read and how to write. So in a way I feel that
what has done Sergio Waisman with his translation of
Ricardo Piglia’s book is to let other people know how
to read and how to write. So thank you Sergio for doing that, but now my first question has
a kind of an introduction. [Foreign language spoken],
the last reader at the center, we can visualize a writer that
reads many books, but at the center of that book there is
a writer that writes and reads, but there is no library. There is a city and there’s a cave. You could see, however,
the plain relationship between a reader and a book. A scene, a reading scene [foreign
language spoken] that it multiples in many, many readers
throughout the pages. Real readers, fictional readers,
and you have [inaudible], you have Kafka, you have Borges, you
have [inaudible] just to name a few. In that change of readers, in
that changes of scenes of reading, there are no translators. So here I proposed a different
reading scene [foreign language spoken] that it’s not at the
[foreign language spoken]. A translator reading a book. He or she is translating that book. A translator under a lamp reading a
book in order to create, construct, displays, that version
he or she has in front. Or to put in another way,
Sergio Waisman reading Piglia in his basement in Kensington. [ Laughter ] Reading Piglia word by word, sentence by sentence
advancing slowly into the book. Not only as a reader,
but as something else. That something else, that
relationship between author and translator is at the
core of this new encounter. So Sergio Waisman, complete
for us that close relationship between author and translator. You have talked about it a
little bit with me before. We haven’t rehearsed this, but I would like to know how
a translator reads differently from us. We are all readers, but
you read with a purpose. You read with a goal and at the
end your reading materializes in something else in a new book and
that’s something that I cannot do. So that’s my first question.>>Sergio Waisman:
We’re just going to, I’m going to come back
to answer the question. So thank you Laura. Right so translation is very
complicated and I think I’ve spent, I think I’ve dedicated my life
to translating and my adult life to thinking about translation. So one of the things about, the
first thing that I would say is that for the most part it is
true that translation and the act of translation is very close
to reading and that the scene of translation is very close
to the scene of the reader. And that that’s the
perfect starting point and in a way it’s also
the perfect ending point. Much like reading, the scene of
translation, a lot happens there and most of it is invisible. So I mean not only because
it happens in this basement in the suburb, but also because
a lot it happening with two or more languages, two or more
text, two or more cultures, trying to bridge huge
distances; linguistic, cultural and also deciding what to do,
trying to figure out what to do when the distances
cannot be bridged. So I think, one of the
truisms about translation, one of the things that’s
often said is that translators and interpreters are essential
in order to communicate, to bridge differences, and
languages and this is true. And yet for me, one of the
most interesting things about translation is noticing
those differences and times when differences cannot be
bridged or resolved and, of course, that’s what interests us, often,
about literature, about literature from other languages and
other cultures is the fact that it’s different from our
own language, our own culture. And the translator is in a rather
impossible place in which he or she is, needs to be aware
of these differences and yet somehow has to try
to rephrase them in a way that they can be understood and
there’s constantly a new production, a new creation in the
translation which threatens to leave something behind. There’s different metaphors,
different ways that this is expressed and there’s
always a level of, well depending on what vocabulary you use, it
will come out very differently. There is always violence
in translation. There’s always infidelity
in translation. There’s always betrayal
in translation or you can say there’s always
bridges and you, new connections and new text, and new meanings and
new possibilities for the future. And somehow both things are true. I’m not sure if I’m
answering the question. The last thing that I want to say is
that it’s true that, well the scene of translation tends to be invisible
and I take every opportunity I can to try to make some of that visible because I think it’s a very rich
scene which would interest a lot of readers from a lot of different
languages and perspectives, but translation, part,
I’m very aware that when I am translating
something I am writing my reading of another text. I am writing my interpretation in
another language and that that, and that the moment I switch
languages there are these differences and points of conflict
with the original that I’m, that I’ve read because
as I write it, well the best ideal translation
would be the same text as the original, but that, of
course, would be different also because time passes
as [inaudible] show. Even if you don’t betray the
original, the original gets betrayed by time and is that betrayal or
an infidelity or a production of you meaning new possibilities. So I write my reading
in another language and if it doesn’t work,
it’s a bad translation. Everybody notices it and everybody
knows who the translator is. If it works well [laughter]
then everybody remembers Piglia and the translator fades
into the much disgust and rather problematic
invisibility of success, of writing the same thing
again in another language, which by definition
can’t be the same thing. So anyway, it’s a paradox. That’s my answer. It’s a paradox. [ Laughter ]>>Laura Demaria: I
have two more questions and then we’re going
to open the floor. My second question
has to do with the, what Borges called [foreign
language spoken], the intonation or what we could be
called the tone of a text, of [foreign language spoken]
and my question is very simple because for me, how to translate
the [foreign language spoken]. It’s a, I don’t know how you do it or do you try to reproduce
that tone? That [foreign language
spoken] or you just try to create a completely new tone
or [foreign language spoken]? Sorry that [laughter] –>>Sergio Waisman: So
that’s a good question. The tone. Right so, right so
the tone is very important. The, I think the way that I
want to approach this is those, a lot of people here
know two languages. Some people here know
more than two languages. We all have the experience
or the antidote that we are slightly
different people depending on, if I’m speaking English or
if I’m speaking Spanish. There’s this feeling that
I’m slightly different. That there’s a different tone to
my communication and yet I’m aware that I’m the same person. So with translation, I think that
the, something similar happens. In simplest terms, when I
translate Piglia, I imagine, I try to imagine what Emilio Remse, Piglia’s alter ego might
sound like in English. What, how he, what he could
sound like in English. Which, of course, doesn’t exist
before I do the translation because Emilio Remse
exists in Spanish and in a very particular
tone and feel of Spanish, which is [foreign language
spoken] from Argentina, from, particularly from [inaudible]
and the Provence of [inaudible]. So I think it’s a game of
imagination, of trying to imagine and in the best cases, the
new tone or the new feel in the translation is
something that will resonant like invisible pretext, the original that if you read the
translation you know that there’s something
right before it. it will resonant with that and hopefully it will
also create new resonances in the target language, in
English and the US this time, but I think it’s a game, not a game,
it’s a challenge of imagination and of trying to imagine what, by
hearing one tone and one language, what that tone might be
in the other language. So it’s, I think from that
point of view translation is, has the potential to be this other.>>Laura Demaria: My last
question, it’s very short so don’t sit down [laughter]. You have talked about the
reverence of translation, but I would like to turn that
irreverence into reverence and there seems to me
that in order to translate and be irreverence first,
you need to be reverent. [ Laughter ]>>Sergio Waisman: Yeah I think
that there’s two sides to it. so on the one hand, translators are
expected to be extremely humble, to erase their own identity,
and their own voice and to speak for the original author and to be
as reverent as possible and in fact, that, and that is part of
the gesture of translation to say this I am translating
this text, this author, this merit is being translated,
merits my time, and it has a tone and it has a feel and a
story, which is not mine, but so I will put my story aside
in order to try to find a tone for this story from another
language to find a voice now in the English in the US. So from that point of view,
translation seems to be a, very much an altruistic task. The translator removes him or
herself and gives themselves over to the project
of the translation and with extreme reverence for
the author of the original. The flip side of that is the
irreverence and the infidelity and the betrayals that always happen because by definition you’re
writing a different text than the original and — You don’t have to be a translator
who sets out to creatively rewrite and change the text in
order to be irreverent. Translation is an irreverent task
because the novel is already here. So the fact that I’m writing
this novel, that’s irreverent. This is the original. This is the copy and copies in
society tend to be secondary and inferior and derivative. To what extent is the copy
successful, meaningful, have its own live,
its own readership? Well to the extent that it
finds, resolves this tension between being reverent and
irreverent, between being faithful and unfaithful, between I,
trying to set my own voice and writing style aside
in order to translate and rewrite somebody else’s writing
style for whom I have such reverence that I’m willing to leave my own
aside and yet by doing that it’s, I’m also being irreverent
and betraying the original because I’m writing another text. So it’s also [laughter], this, it’s also a contradictory
gesture, for sure [laughter]. So, yeah. Do you want
to come back or?>>Laura Demaria: No. I’m going to stay here and –>>My name is [inaudible]
and thank you for your [inaudible] and question. My question is about cultural
differences that you mentioned that cannot be directly translated. Could you please give a
couple examples from this book of such culture differences
that do not translate into English, so American culture. And how do you then
communicate them? Thank you.>>Sergio Waisman: No
that’s a good question. So I think that one of the
first examples that comes to mind is the figure of the
Gaucho and the whole mythology of the Gaucho, which is at the core
of Argentine literary tradition and at the core of important
parts of Argentine history and so, right so is there an
equivalent of a Gaucho in US? Well he’s sort of a cowboy, but
not quite and the mythology and now over 100 years of stories,
both poetry and fiction about the Gaucho is
a long tradition. And that, because of Piglia in
the early 21 century is working with this figure of the Gaucho who
probably hasn’t existed in reality since the 19 century, but in
mythology and in story telling in Argentina has remained
a vital figure. So I don’t know, it’s
not a good translation, but a good cultural analogy. It might be more like the mobster
in Chicago, a figure about which, well do they, does it really exist? Like it’s displayed in the
Godfather, or is there a lot of storytelling and
mythology about it? So that would be an example
and for some of these, so Gaucho in English
is Gaucho [laughter]. So sometimes the cultural
references and differences, you can translate the context
and the stories around them and then sometimes certain words, certain concepts need
to stay in the original. And then, and I think that’s
what happened with Gaucho from south American Spanish into
other languages for over 100 years. So sometimes individual
words or concepts need to, those words maybe are not
rewritten, but then the context around them does need to be
reworked in order to be understood. Does that make sense? Yeah. Yes please.>>I’m [inaudible]
formerly the University of Maryland, but still affiliated. Thank you so much. Thank you Gwen, Laura. I have so many questions, it
really brought up so many things in paradoxes, but one of the
things you did say briefly is that [inaudible], you
work with Piglia. Now I know you translated
those [inaudible] where you could not
speak with [inaudible]. What is the difference for
you, for working with an author who is alive and comment?>>Sergio Waisman: Right, so I’ve
had both experiences of working with writers who are alive and
with whom I ca communicate dialog in some way, like Piglia and
then some early 20 century or 19 century writers. So I think the theoretical answer
is that there is no difference. That translation, so other people
mention my work with Borges, so the translation is
always a conjunction. It’s always a surprising mixture and
dynamic combination of the original and the translator producing
this translated text, which then will have
its new readers. So in some ways it’s not different
because the translator has to do a tremendous amount of
research to read the text, pursue all of the suggestions,
possible meanings of the original and in doing that, in that
kind of reading I think you, this might sound a little esoteric. So you initiate a dialog
with the text and its content and what you imagine it to be its
horizon of when it was written and when it was first read
and you have an ongoing dialog from your own horizon, from
your own context and I think that one has, I’m not sure. I think I have those kind of dialogs
when I read all the time and it’s with very few writers with whom I
can actually have a conversation. How it’s different when the
conversations with Piglia is that, well it complicates,
it complicates it because I can’t be
flippant about it. so the reverent or irreverent
question, I am hugely reverent and having a chance to know
him and communicate with him for over 20 years, that’s increased
my reverence and that has everything to do with Piglia and what he’s
like and his work and how he, how generous he is with people
who have readings in common who are interested in his work. And it very much complicates the
fact that as a translator I need to, at some point, be irreverent
and break away from the figure of the author and it’s
also very complicated because Piglia is very smart about
translation, very aware of it and so he knows that he’s happy
to have every conversation with me that we can, but then there will
come a point where that needs to be broken off and I need to
take the text to its next horizon where there will be new
readers in another language. And he has the faith or
the confidence to know that it might travel, yeah and
from that point of view I’ll, I don’t know if a mediator or
a mule or something like that to bring the contraband from Argentina [laughter]
to a new audience.>>For example, in the title –>>Yes. Right.>>[Inaudible] taken that
title and he had not liked it? [Inaudible]>>Sergio Waisman:
It’s hard to tell. So Blanco Nocturno, white nocturne
would be the literal translation. In Spanish there’s the binomial,
blanco nocturne, the white night. The, if you reproduce the binomial,
the white nocturne or dark, white, dark it doesn’t quite work. White nocturne is the
title of a poem. Piglia’s input into the title
was that he said that he tends to avoid titles that
sound overly poetic and that that’s not what he had
in mind with Blanco Nocturno. Now the problem with that is that it does actually
sound poetic in Spanish. [ Laughter ] Right, right. So I mean I think that from
a pragmatic point of view he, as always, he was very generous. He wrote an e-mail explained
what he had in mind and said of course it’s your decision. So and I think that this, throwing
the [inaudible] in this case from him to the translator. I think this actually goes very
much in line with Piglia’s poetics, which is to write and circulate
stories and thrown them out for the reader to
take up and interpret and then either circulate
or think about. So — I think the other thing
that happens with Piglia is that he tends to be
right [laughter]. So and I think that,
so based on experience when he said oh white
nocturne, that’s pretty, but it sounds too poetic, too
something, too flowery maybe. Then I said well let me think
about that and so I’d like to, I do say we when, you’re right,
when I talk about the title, but in the end it was my decision
and the editor was okay with it. [ Laughter ] Yes, please Georgette.>>Georgette Dorn: I think
actually the title is perfect, because the other one
sound like music. White nights [inaudible]. It makes no sense what so ever. So the title is perfect. And what I really admire
most of you, how well you dominate
both English and Spanish. I mean [inaudible]. I think that’s amazing and also
bring good American English speaking public what Argentina is like. Which I think is very difficult. So I think that’s really amazing.>>Sergio Waisman: Thank you. I think there are many
outstanding translators who are not entirely bilingual. So that’s a possibility and
there are many bilingual people who are not great translators. So I think it is true, but for me
part of it is the haphazard exiles and movings and comings and goings
and leavings that I grew up with and then it’s also a lot of work. So I think it’s both things
that, the result of family and historical processes that made
me bilingual and then it’s a lot of work at both languages
and the translation. So I don’t want to, it’s not
just an oh I’m a, I don’t know. I don’t know if that makes
sense, but thank you. [Inaudible] had a, yeah.>>I have a question
about the process. I want to take you to the beginning on how do you choose
what to translate? The world [inaudible]
translator, so how do you make that choice [inaudible] choices
and maybe another question; have you ever found a
translation that you would start that process just goes nowhere and you have [laughter]
stop and then yes –>>Sergio Waisman: What’s that? [Inaudible] I know [laughter]. So I think, I also, I’m also want
to be upfront about the fact that, so I have a great job with tenure. So my process is different than
somebody who is doing translations to earn a living as a translator. What, before I had
tenure and especially when I was a graduate student, my
first few year, there was less, there was less to the process. It was a project came up,
hopefully it would interesting, I would take it. Now, I’m at a point where I’m able
to be a lot more choosy, choosier and I don’t know that I
can really categorize that. It’s very subjective and
it has to do with a style or a tone as Laura said, that — I feel or I suspect is missing
in English or American literature and it’s my attempt to imagine that. So it’s a perceived lack
and, but I don’t mean this, I don’t in any way mean to say that
I know all of the different styles or tones that are available
in American literature. So it’s a perceived lack in
myself that I try to address or travel towards by rewriting
something that does exist, in this case in Spanish
in Argentina. And yes, but for the most part
I tend to finish the projects. So I try to make the decision
before hand whether I will be able to complete it or not. So thank you. Yes. [ Inaudible Response ] Okay, yes.>>I’m Kathleen Baltimore Net
from Virginia Military Institute and my question is how do you
move from project to project? Does it take you a while to
[inaudible] figure you had where you have to have a
spiritual cleansing [laughter]. How do you get it out of
your head and [inaudible] in?>>Sergio Waisman: Well I
think because of the nature of the academics calendars and
so forth, it tends to be more or less one project per year,
more or less, and then centered around a lot of intensive
work in the summers. So with the [foreign language
spoken], the Underdogs, I think that for those, for
three months, I’m, 2007 or 2000? I, for three months I worked
very hard to try to be an expert in Mexican Spanish from the
time of the Mexican Revolution. And I wrote what I learned in
English, which is the contradiction that I was, so I had all of these
reference books in my basement in Kensington and then I
think part of the process, this is not something premeditated, but as soon as I finish the
translation I just leave it because I have written my reading. So it actually just sort of happens. If I hadn’t finished the
translation, it might not have left, but once I write my version
then I move on and with Piglia, now this is the third book of his
that I’ve translated into English. I’m hoping to continue
with his work about, hopefully about one book a
year for the next few years. So I think that with, the
flipside of that is, with, I think that the engagement
with Piglia’s work and this tone that I don’t have that’s
lacking, which I’m trying to produce by translating his work. I think that’s a lifelong project.>>I wonder, do you find it
difficult to translate the humor from one language to the other? I [inaudible] difficult many times,
but [inaudible] I read a page of [inaudible] in Spanish
and I find it so humorous and then I ask a friend to [inaudible] the
same thing [inaudible]. [ Laughter ] I wonder [inaudible] difficult
to translate and sometimes, well not in books, but
when you see a movie and they translate
the joke [inaudible]. [ Laughter ]>>Sergio Waisman: Right, so
I think that’s a good point. I don’t have any advice
on how to translate humor. The only thing that I would
say is that once again, translation around this question
focused, can work as a focus and a lens to the problem itself. So humor itself doesn’t translate
well even within the same language. So if you have to turn
around and explain a joke to somebody, it’s no longer funny. [ Laughter ] And so likewise, so it’s
translation and if you, and it’s noticeably difficult to
translate humor, but it’s also, it’s also, because, you know in a
joke you’re either in on the joke or not in on the joke
and so, I don’t know. Sometimes it translates and sometimes it doesn’t,
but I think that –>>But do you find it difficult?>>Sergio Waisman: Oh yeah. [Laughter] Very difficult. Very difficult, but like I say, I don’t know that I
have any solutions — [ Inaudible Response ] It’s definitely very difficult
and I think it’s a case by case and some jokes, some context,
some humor, a solution comes up and then it becomes, I
don’t know if equally funny or analogously humorous
in the translation. Sometimes it doesn’t and,
but I think I see it similar to the challenge of
translating a tone. So the tone, the feel of
this novel, the noir-ish feel in the Pompous of Argentina. So in my mind analogist
tone for that is something about 1950’s cinema or crime
in the US, which of course I, is not something that, I
haven’t lived either one of these experiences. So they’re both projects
of reading and imagination. Yeah.>>Thank you.>>Sergio Waisman: Sure, thank you.>>My question is about how you
see yourself in translation. I know that you’ve translated
a novel [inaudible] book on [inaudible]. So my question is how do translators
fit themselves in translation? [ Laughter ]>>Sergio Waisman: I think
it’s, honestly it’s different for each book, but I would
like to believe that I’m, I will try to follow the model of
Piglia’s as much as I can, which is, if I am in, the handful of
times I am fortunate enough to have a translator either
in the past or in the future, I will be very grateful and be
happy to have the conversation and then let them do their
work because it’s their work and I’ve already done my work. Of course that doesn’t
quite apply to my novel, which I translated
myself [laughter] — [ Inaudible Response ] Yes. [ Laughter ] And I think that, I think it’s also
very different what language you are translating from and into and so
I think for Argentine writers, for Latin American writers
to be translated in the US, it’s usually important for them, there’s enormous geopolitical
differences, financial differences. So there’s, and I’m with
my own work I’m not, as a translator I have a
role in that market of trying to translate Latin American
literature and put it in circulation in an American market,
which is a huge market with a lot of potential writers. But with my own work, right so
if it gets translated to Spanish or Italian from English, I’m aware
that I’m just glad that it’s being, the relationship to the
market is complicated. It would be another conversation
and where the translator is sort of a creative figure, but also
a representative of the work, a little closer to the
agent or the editors. It’s complicated. I think it depends a lot on
the, not only on the book, but then also which direction
the translation is going.>>There’s a question here from
Christopher and then [inaudible]. [ Inaudible Response ]>>And I wanted to go back to the
scene of the translation [inaudible] and revisit in particular the idea of betrayal the translator
is [inaudible] and partly because it sounds like a lot of fun. [ Laughter ] We can finally be bad and it sounds
kind of sexy, you know [inaudible]. But the need to be
accurate complicated? How bad [inaudible] as a translator and still have the translation
count as a good translation? I was just wondering
how do you incorporate that question of accuracy.>>Sergio Waisman: Yeah, it’s a
good question and I want to be clear that I always try to be as accurate
and as faithful as possible. I think the different works of
translation are different, right? So of course, if you were working
or serving as a medical interpreter, there is no, and the
question is about the liver. There is no room for a
creative infidelity with, in medical interpret, right? So I think that, what I was
saying before is very specifically to literature so and
then maybe two thoughts. One is that because it’s literary
translation and to the extent that, this is going to be a
general [inaudible], to the extent that literature works
with ambiguities and ambiences and multiple different meanings even in the original, before
you translate. Then the question of accuracy or
fidelity becomes very complicated because it’s accurate or
faithful to which meaning or which interpretation
of the original? So I think that what the translator
must do is be aware of the fact that he or she is, well like
any good reader try to be aware of as many of the different
meanings, suggestions, interpretations as possible of
the original and then be honest about the fact that one, in
the end will probably have to choose one of those. And this example with the
title works very well. Blanco Nocturno, Target
in the Night. I’ve chosen one of them and then
whether it will have an analogist amount or branches of new
meanings in the translated language that will be determined
by the new set of readers. And another side of the
question is that, right so, so as [inaudible] shows, even
all attempts to be as accurate and faithful to the original,
end up betraying themselves. So the betrayal isn’t always fun. It isn’t always oh I’m
really going to change this. Sometimes it’s oh, this, either
these cultural differences or these, the language has changed and in a
way this no longer means what it meant at the time of the original. So sometimes it just, the
accuracy, sometimes being accurate, sometimes the accuracy and exactness
is itself not true or not possible. There’s somebody in the back or — [ Inaudible Response ] Hi Anna, sorry I couldn’t see you. Please. Please. Please.>>I just wanted to add to the
conversation regarding betrayal. I think the larger question would
be is there any moment in language in which there’s fullness
of meaning? Like what would fullness of
meaning be in the first place? What would a moment in
which you say a word and that word means everything it’s
supposed to say in any language at any moment and then
pass that to translation. Do you know like translation
is something that just comes [inaudible].>>Sergio Waisman: Right.>>So.>>Sergio Waisman:
I think it’s true. I think, maybe it’s harder with
individual words or phrases, but with other things like
tone or feel along with, in the case of fiction,
the storyline. I think there’s definitely a
fullness of tone and storyline in the original and you can get
a fullness of tone and storyline in the translation,
which will be the same, yet very different
from the original.>>Thank you very much and
we do want to leave time to buy the book [laughter]. Sergio will be signing outside. Thank you very much.>>Sergio Waisman: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us as loc.gov.

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