Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Translation Detours (more signposts)

Treman State Park

Earlier this month, I was in Ithaca to give a translation talk in the Latin American Studies Program seminar series and a reading from Detours at the Cornell Store. Naturally, I visited the waterfalls  and photographed a few detour signs. Then up to Rochester for the ALTA conference and even more translation fun--including the chance to read from Alicia Yánez Cossío's Beyond the Islands, to reconnect with old friends and be introduced to new ones.  

Since then, I've kept thinking about detours, travel, ins & outs and ups & downs, and the ways (here and elsewhere) we try to direct one another and to mark where we've been or hope to go. For example: 

In the Venice lagoon
No need to translate this one, perhaps, but there's a kind of spatial translation here of the customary work icon to an impossible medium; it brings to mind Bolívar's oft-quoted (misquoted?) lament, "I have plowed the sea" ("He arado en el mar"). But failure and inconvenience can be in the eye of the beholder. And some cautionary signs might serve as advice for living, not just staying alive.

Big projects, small nuisances (Mendoza, Argentina)

New Zealand

Detour in Spanish: rodeo, vuelta, desvío. Words that suggest circles, return, deviation, misdirection. Misread rodeo back into English and you have spectacle, cowboys, bronco busting. But something to be found "a la vuelta" will be just around the corner, close at hand. Or upon your return.

I have spent delightful hours looking up the semi-relevant, searching for a near allusion, learning words in English for greens I never knew existed. In Beyond the Islands, prickly pear expert Fritz and his traveling companions first glimpse the Galápagos from above:
            "From the air they could be seen emerging serenely from the water in a changing set of every shade of green: blue green, chlorophyll and olive green, sea green, verdigris and dark green, aerugo, greenish-yellow and glaucous green. The sea shone like a jade mirror splashed with the tiny white dots of the waves that appeared and disappeared between the gusts of foam snaking around the sinuous and indolent shorelines."

Detouring within English, I click the OED's thesaurus link and find "wrying," a new word for me, with the third meaning thus: "The action of deviating or turning from a course, etc.; straying. Obs." That obs. in itself is inviting, trippingly off the tongue reeling toward that untoward, unexpected usage that might yet be fun, might yet illumine, might yet draw us off course. Wrying sounds--and looks--a bit like wring, as if one might wring distance from an ostensibly short journey; and, for the rule bound ("do not wring or twist") a hint of damage, of disobedience to those disembodied dispensers of axiom and advice. But, again: Stop, Look, Live. Go down the latter backwards.

What's your favorite word for detour? 

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