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Map and territory: LIFE TRANSLATED FOR OTHERS (3)

by Santiago Barcaza S.

When the Nobel Prize was given to Beckett, the Swedish Academy considered the set of its texts in English and French as a single work and at the award ceremony, its dedication to “one man, two languages ​​and a third nation” [ Ireland]”.

Beckett is the self-translator who has received more attention and more studies have been done since he was the first to arouse interest in self-translation as a subject of study (Cohn, 1961). The anecdote is the following: the impossibility of finding an English publisher for his texts, considered at the time as untranslatable, caused the author to translate into French his work Murphy, written in English and published in 1938. From 1946, Beckett writes only in French, something that is quite difficult for him, and he translates himself into English. The recognition comes in 1953, year of the appearance of En attendant Godot and Trilogie. The self-translation into English of the first, Waiting for Godot, appears a year later, in 1954, when it is reconciled with the English language. From that moment on, he continues writing in both languages ​​and exchanging the directions of the self-translation.

By the way, to the question, why self-translate? It is not difficult to understand the eagerness of authors like Tagore or Beckett to reach more readers, to ambition as soon as possible a place in the history of universal literature. But there is also another literature. There is a literature that comes from the bosom of cultures that resist extinction, languages ​​that do not give ground to the languages ​​of the colonizers.

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The poet Odi Gonzales

I held a conversation with Odi Gonzales (Cuzco, 1961), poet, translator, self-translator, professor and researcher at NYU, where among other topics we spoke about the Quechua language and its resistance. Here are some fragments of that conversation:

“In a language in danger of extinction, the passage of time will always generate profits and losses. For example, the advent of technological devices and the Internet allow you to communicate with monolingual children from a rural school in the Andes and record the conversation; or make documentaries, movies, photography, etcetera. These records are documents that will not be deleted, they will survive the speakers themselves. That is a gain. But at the same time, these media, with hegemony in Castilian or English, are undermining the speech of monolinguals or bilinguals, who tend to use more the acquired language, to incorporate neologisms into their lexicon”.

And with regard to the orality of the Quechua language, he tells us:

“For example, in the Quechua oral stories, there is no omniscient narrator, since that would make the story implausible: the narrator can not be in two places at once, or know what his characters think. On the other hand, in writing [in the dominant language], the omniscient narrator is crucial, indispensable. Likewise, we believed that Joyce had invented the interior monologue in Ulysses, that paradigm of the modern novel. But the truth is that internal monologue is common practice of oral languages. In Quechua, it is configured exclusively with the pronoun us (ñoqayku), which involves the narrator and his immediate surroundings. The poet speaks for himself and for his own, not for others. The great difference between the interior monologue of a foxs tale and that of Ulysses, is the extension. By its nature, the inner monologue of an oral story is short, precise and concrete, composed only a sentence or two. Instead, Bloom’s inner monologue is a 42-page stream”.

(You can check the complete interview in Spanish here)

With Quechua, Odi talks to us about a kind of oraliture (?). The translations come and go, from the first to the second language and vice versa, and in the turns the words are polished together like stones. As explained by Odi, oral literature as an artistic expression of the Andean cosmovision, marks a cultural continuity between what has been and what it is today. Authors who live in communities and in cities, who permanently travel the path between both spaces. Making their lives territory of coexistence and conflict: between tradition and modernity, between the community and the individual, between the original language and the imposed language. But at the same time, translating, or rather self-translating, the complex message that is transmitted from the oral to the written, and vice versa. Because after all, how do you create a literature that is not written?

Map and territory. A fictitious and real construction at the same time, by authors descendants of peoples and subjugated cultures. A fiction that delimits a territory with diffuse borders, with authors whose mother tongue is the dominant one, but who possess the strength to fulfill the mission of not turning their back on their ancestors.

In the next installment, we will approach the work of Mapuche poets, from the Kenyan Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and we will follow the dialogue with Rodrigo Rojas.

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Map and territory: LIFE TRANSLATED FOR OTHERS (1)

by Santiago Barcaza S.

A map is a graphic and metric representation of a portion of territory. This means that, created with the purpose of knowing and showing the world to others, maps constitute a sort of translation that, not only do we see or read, but that we live to comprehend the territory that we inhabit.

In Latinamerica and in Chile in particular, map and territory, look like two concepts dissuaded and confronted since centuries, not only by authorities in place, but also by an important part of the civil society in what refers to (1) accept and include the indigenous communities that inhabit their same territory, and (2) understand and value their “maps” and all the effort they make to translate the transcendental attributes of their culture, their very life. In other words, the defense or recovery of lands, involves, for the indigenous communities, not only a matter of economic survival, but it also connects with the dream of revitalizing their culture.

In this essay -and in the successive ones that I will publish in this blog- I will deepen on the political and sociological role that indigenous movements and communities in Chile give to literature, which is generated mainly by bicultural and bilingual creators, who seek through their creations -translated by themselves to Spanish- to put in doubt the dominant / subordinate binarism; and on the other hand, I will try to explain how, through literature, It is possible to create a strategy that allows creators of indigenous origin to reverse the reduction of their cultures, languages and policies.

Under a post colonial perspective, the space / inhabitant or space / community relationship leads to a particularly rich and highly complex point: the border. This is where the roads open up to clarify the relationship between the State and the territory, the nation and territoriality, as well as the impact that the border, as a material construction, symbolic device, legal reality and literary element, has on the notions of identity and roots. The place that the border occupies as a symbol in the bilingual poetry of authors of indigenous origin in Chile and the scope that the symbol includes, helps to understand the metaphorical-conceptual character that the idea of territory can have to explain the practice of self-translation as place of transit from one cultural space to another.

But what is self-translation? By self-translation we understand the “translation of a work by its own author”; In this practice, two phenomena occur: on the one hand, author and translator skills are merged and, on the other, the “original-version” logic is challenged, since these texts elude the temporality in which they were conceived as they constitute the product of an author that interpellates two cultural spaces in simultaneity. In the territory where the poet lives, embedded in a larger territory subject to the dominant culture, translation gives and takes shape within the asymmetric power relations of colonialism. In order to critically reverse or challenge such asymmetries, there are scholars who propose a use of translation as an “outburst” to destabilize the coherence of the original and the idea of invariable identity, of unique identity.

Several philosophers agree that every human being has the need to have roots, and that almost the totality of the moral, intellectual and spiritual life of a person is reached through the environments that he has felt part of along the life. This sense of belonging, far beyond the mere fact of integrating a group, implies a personal identification, the generation of affective bonds, the adoption of shared norms and habits, and a feeling of solidarity with the rest of the members. But what happens when you live between two or more groups. Precisely in this intermediate space, the indigenous self-translation accounts for this “outburst” since the concept of the original text -as we saw previously- linked to the prerogative of temporality, is challenged in the self-translation, by the fusion of roles of author and translator who appeals to two (or more) cultural spaces at the same time. And, finally, the identity linked to the assessment of the “unique” is questioned in paragraphs and other antagonistic signs that can be found in any comparative study of versions of bilingual texts.

In the next installment, we will approach two poets of Chilean indigenous origin and we will hold a dialogue with the researcher and academic from the Universidad Diego Portales, Dr. Rodrigo Rojas.

Adela

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Image source: Instagram (Casa Adela)

By Melissa Fuster, PhD, Assistant Professor in Public Health Nutrition at Brooklyn College – City University of New York (CUNY) 

It was a hot and humid August morning. Adela sat in the back of her restaurant, peeling potatoes, with only a small fan to appease the heat. The TV was tuned to Telemundo, with Elvis Crespo singing for Monica Puig, the Puerto Rican tennis player who days before had just won the first gold medal for the island at the Olympics in Rio. Pepe, a mutual friend and local community leader, introduced us. She smiled, turning back to her potatoes and television show. By the time we arrived, she had already been working for a couple of hours, making the necessary prepping for the day’s service. The smell of garlic, mixed with oregano and onion, forming the sofrito base, filled the air announcing to regulars and passersby that something delicious is being prepared. We sat at her table, and Pepe got the conversation started by asking Adela about her early days in the city.

Adela first came to New York City in 1971 for a visit. Back then, she worked as a seamstress in Puerto Rico, later transitioning to working with her mother, selling fiambreras (lunch boxes) to factory workers. She moved to New York City around 1975. When I asked why she moved, she replied with a smile, “Ese salto lo da todo el mundo que quiere progresar” [That leap is made by everyone who wants to progress in life]. Upon arrival, she worked as a cook, but quickly transitioned to establishing her own place. She rented her first restaurant, El Caribe, on the West Side, which she later bought from the Cuban owner. When the building was condemned, she moved her business to the Lower East Side, where she later established Casa Adela in 1976. While an exact timeline of life events and places was not specified, the one thing that was clear while talking with her was the entrepreneurial success. At one time, she recalled owning three establishments, with the goal of passing two of them to her children. However, she ended up selling two of them, with her children being actively involved in the running Casa Adela today.

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Ulises’ Odyssey, the Odyssey of Looking Back

Post by Juan Carlos Castillo, CLACS MA Candidate

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Forced by his governor’s megalomania, Ulysses had to abandon his land to fight the city of Troy. Thereafter, he spent 10 horrible years confronting the many monsters and storms that opposed his way home. But this was Homer’s story.

Ulises –not Ulysses– passed through something similar, through an 30-year odyssey away from home. His biggest monster: the lack of affection from his family. His strongest storm: his memories of a broken past, or perhaps, his notion of a broken Chile.

Ulises’ Odyssey is the story about the rupture of the Chilean society exemplified through the rift that happened in Ulises’ family. The story is narrated by Lorena Manríquez, who is Ulises’ niece and also the director of this feature documentary. On October 16, the film’s New York premiere was held as part of the Fall 2015 CineCLACS screenings’ roster, to a packed house of over 130 attendees at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at NYU.  The event was followed by a conversation with the film’s directors Manríquez, and Miguel Picker.

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Meet Djatawo, the First Haitian Superhero

Post by Juan Carlos Castillo, CLACS MA Candidate

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The evening of October 27th, CLACS hosted the event “A Conversation with the Creator of Djatawo, Haiti’s First Comic Book Superhero,” with Anthony Louis-Jeune (Aton). This event was co-sponsored with the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York. The intimate conversation with Aton held at CLACS room 404, which included live-sketching by the artist, was attended by a diverse group of 23 people which included Kreyol students, comic book fans, and members of the Haitian community. 

It took a whole night to shave his body completely. His eyelashes were the only hair he didn’t remove. And there he was, inside of a pyramid made of wood, tranquil and meditating before his performance. He then came out, silently and peacefully, holding a bronze Egyptian sun disc. He walked through the room, approaching all those present and gave each of them tiny golden hands that were embedded in the medallion. After that, the performance was over.

This was Anthony Louis-Jeune, whom back then was a visual arts senior undergrad student at the Altos de Chavón School of Design, introducing the faculty and fellow students  present to the first Haitian superhero, Djatawo.

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What can pineapples tell us about identity?

Follow a group of NYU students as they journey through the Puerto Rican food chain, as part of the study abroad course “Global Food Cultures Puerto Rico” led by CLACS affiliated faculty Melissa Fuster and Gustavo Setrini.

NYU Food Studies Puerto Rico

In today’s visits to Atenas Pineapple, the commercial-scale pineapple farm, and Hacienda La Esperanza, the slavery-based sugar plantation turned nature preserve, the question of Puerto Rican identity and its relationship to the Commonwealth’s agricultural and economic goals stood out to me – how are they intertwined? How much does each contribute on its own to a brighter future for Puerto Rico? Would a more deliberate approach to considering these facets of society simultaneously yield more successful outcomes for the Commonwealth?

Building on Duany’s thesis that Puerto Rico has a notably strong cultural identity alongside an amorphous and ambiguous national political identity, and Ortíz Cuadra’s notion that “authentic Puerto Rican-ness” cannot be expressed without an acknowledgement of the multiple global forces that have shaped Puerto Rican cultural and culinary identity, I found myself wondering what the driving vision for agriculture in Puerto Rico could or should be to best establish Puerto…

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Iyarina to remember and in remembering, to reflect

I ended up in Iyarina, Ecuador this last summer thanks to an invitation by Dr. Tod Swanson, Associate Professor at Arizona State University, after my dear friend Dr. Osvaldo Sala connected us. At the time, I was auditing a Quechua class at NYU and became very interested in the indigenous struggle related to the preservation of their lands. We talked about climate change, ecology, indigenous identity and language. He sent me the link for the Field School  that he directs near Tena, capital of the province of Napo, one of the entrances to the Ecuadorian Amazon.

While working on my graduate studies in Arizona State, I was an assistant for different study abroad programs, one in Spain for a couple of trips, as well as one in Mexico. It was through these experiences that I recognized the key role of immersion in any field the student is taking on. Since I teach Spanish as a second language, I am an advocate for these kinds of programs that help improve and solidify one’s previous knowledge.

When I took my plane from New York to Ecuador, I was not really thinking much about the program. Argentina, my home country, was playing the first soccer match for the 2014 World Cup and I was also very busy finalizing my teaching semester at New York University. I got to Iyarina one evening a week after the program started, and what I saw left me speechless. There were more than 30 students, both undergraduate and graduate, from different fields: Anthropology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Law, Psychology, Literature, Geology; 3 professors: Dr. Tod Swanson, Dr. John Frechione and Dr. Samuel St. Clair; and a whole family making the program run as smooth as you can imagine.

I was assigned to one room with a graduate student in linguistic anthropology from the University of Michigan. In the room next door was Dr. John Frechione, Associate Director of CLAS at the University of Pittsburgh. It was a nerd heaven: after a delicious traditional breakfast, we had anthropology classes with Dr. Frechione every morning and. Then, depending on the rain, we would head to the jungle with two Napo Kichwa women to hear them teach us about ecology from their traditional knowledge with Dr. Swanson’s ethnobotany class. After that, we would have lunch, and head to the last class of the day on the Napo Kichwa language. Dr. Samuel St. Clair from BYU was also teaching biology at the same time as Dr. Frechione’s class. I would have loved to take this course, but it was impossible to take all the classes. I would also see his class walk to the jungle and conduct the classes right there, in situ, explaining the beautiful world of nature to his students.

When the first session was over, we had a week off, of which I took full advantage and traveled to Otavalo, in the Andes, and then to Mompiche, a beautiful small beach near the Colombian border. When I came back to Iyarina, some students had left but I met new students that were joining us for the second term of the summer together with other professors: Alana DeLoge, who taught health in the Napo Region, and Dr. Tim Savisky who taught sustainability. Dr. Swanson was also teaching the continuation of his ethnobotany course.

During the entire 8-week program, we made traditional style ceramics, learned how to prepare chicha (a drink made of fermented yuca), we learned how to cultivate and harvest lumu (yuca), we tasted amazing traditional food, and we lived as a “minga” (a collective of people working together) with the family that ran the accommodations for all of us. Some of the highlights of this program were studying together, talking about readings, walking through the jungle with members of the community learning about medicinal plants and, by the end of the 8 weeks program, being able to speak some Kichwa! I am planning on traveling there again this upcoming summer since it is, pretty much, heaven on earth for intellectual nerds. Chita rikangauranchi!

By Marcela Naciff, Visiting Lecturer at NYU