Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kirdaglass & Marillín: Still thinking about accents

Here's a fun code. I first read Angélica Gorodischer's Kalpa Imperial this past summer in Ursula K. Le Guin's excellent translation. (For anyone considering study in Rosario, by the way, Gorodischer is a rosarina.) There's a lovely creation story near the end, a kind of mash-up of movie actors, plot points, technologies, and conventions (much more inventive than I make it sound--it offers a lot of room to think about how we take stories in and then remake them, and how our creation stories, as stories, also shape us). But sound--that's a big part of the story. Names shift across borders, pronounced differently by speakers of different languages, stressed on different syllables. There's a code here, derived from mostly U.S. movies--non-Argentine movies, anyway--that, in translation, may yet be less available to the English-language reader. Even though, to a degree, it's been translated "back" into its native cultural milieu. 

I'm no film expert--I'm not even a maven, really--so film allusions aren't what springs most readily to mind for me when I'm reading. Still, the first title in italics charge of the light brigade was a hint, as was  the saloon door and, eventually, the names of the actors. The description of the projector (never named as such) helped, too: "a very thick lens, and it had just one eyelid around it [ . . ]. And out of this eye came a tiny speck of dust that got bigger and bigger, and then the eye saw that pinch of dust turn into a house" (Kalpa Imperial, Trans. Le Guin, p. 230).

Gorodischer adapts iconic actors' names to Spanish pronunciation: Kirdaglass, Marillín, Marlenditrij, Betedeivis, Briyibardó, Jedilamar. Good (if transplanted) Midwesterner that I am, I read KUR-duh-GLASS the first time or two, then had my little ah hah! moment: Kirk Douglass. Remember, I'm reading the English. Le Guin has kept the spelling of Gorodsicher's invented names. That seems appropriate. The names are distorted and re-imagined within the novel; their importance stems, in part, from the distance between the original name and the actors'/characters' form--and function--in Gorodsicher's tale. Still, I wonder about the availability of the code to the monolingual English reader, who might not trace Jedilamar back to Hedy Lamarr.

I haven't done the scene justice, thinking mainly about sound and about cross-language adaptation. There's more here. It's a multi-layered code one that includes the names of the actors, the conventions of cinema, the conventions of story-telling. Check out the novel itself, in either English or Spanish (or both!)

Gorodischer, Angélica. Kalpa Imperial. Various editions, most recently Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2001.
---. Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was. Trans. Ursula K. Le Guin. Northampton, MA: Small Beer Press, 2003.

No comments:

Post a Comment