I clearly recall the day I first became truly aware of myself, I mean of myself as something that everything else was not. As a boy I liked best those dead intervals of the year when one season had ended and the next had not yet begun, and all was grey and hushed and still, and out of the stillness and the hush something would seem to approach me, some small, soft, tentative thing, and offer itself to my attention. This day of which I speak I was walking along the main street of the town. It was November, or March, not cold, but neutral. From a lowering sky fine rain was falling, so fine as to be hardly felt. It was morning, and the housewives were out, with their shopping bags and headscarves. A questing dog trotted busily past me looking neither to right nor left, following a straight line drawn invisibly on the pavement. There was a smell of smoke and butcher’s meat, and a brackish smell of the sea, and, as always in the town in those days, the faint sweet stench of pig-swill. The open doorway of a hardware shop breathed brownly at me as I went past. Taking in all this, I experienced something to which the only name I could give was happiness, although it was not happiness, it was more and less than happiness. What had occurred? What in that commonplace scene before me, the ordinary sights and sounds and smells of the town, had made this unexpected thing, whatever it was, burgeon suddenly inside me like the possibility of an answer to all the nameless yearnings of my life? Everything was the same now as it had been before, the housewives, that busy dog, the same, and yet in some way transfigured. Along with the happiness went a feeling of anxiety. It was as if I were carrying some frail vessel that it was my task to protect, like the boy in the story told to us in religious class who carried the Host through the licentious streets of ancient Rome hidden inside his tunic; in my case, however, it seemed I was myself the precious vessel. Yes, that was it, it was I that was happening here. I did not know exactly what this meant, but surely, I told myself, surely it must mean something. And so I went on, in happy puzzlement, under the small rain, bearing the mystery of myself in my heart.
Was it that same phial of precious ichor, still inside me, that spilled in the cinema that afternoon, and that I carry in me yet, and that yet will overflow at the slightest movement, the slightest misbeat of my heart?
Recuerdo con claridad el día que me hice consciente de mí mismo. Quiero decir, de mí mismo como algo que todo lo demás no era. Cuando era niño me gustaban esos tiempos muertos del año en los que una estación había terminado y la otra aún no llegaba, y todo era gris, y callado, y quieto, y saliendo de nuestra quietud y del silencio algo parecía acercarse a mí, una cosa pequeña, suave, atractiva, que parecía ofrecerse ante mi atención. Ese día del que hablo yo caminaba por la avenida principal del pueblo. Era noviembre, o marzo, no hacía frío, era neutral. Caía del cielo una lluvia fina, tan fina que casi no se sentía. Era temprano, y las amas de casa estaban fuera con sus pañuelos en la cabeza y sus bolsas. Un perro decidido trotó junto a mí, parecía ocupado, sin mirar a la derecha ni a la izquierda, siguiendo una línea invisible en el pavimento. El aire olía a humo y a carnicería, y había un olor salobre a mar, y como era costumbre en el pueblo en esa época, también se sentía el hedor débil y dulce de bazofia de cerdo. La puerta abierta de una ferretería me respiró óxido encima cuando pasé por enfrente. Absorbiendo todo esto, experimenté algo que sólo podría nombrar felicidad, aunque no era felicidad, era más que felicidad, y también menos. ¿Qué había ocurrido? ¿Qué había sido lo que, en esta escena cotidiana frente a mí, en esas vistas ordinarias, y olores y sonidos del pueblo, había hecho brotar en mí esta cosa inesperada, lo que sea que fuese, como una respuesta posible a todos los anhelos de mi vida? Ahora todo era como lo había sido antes, las amas de casa, el perro ocupado, lo mismo, y aun así, de alguna manera, transfigurado. Junto con la felicidad tuve un sentimiento de ansiedad. Como si estuviera cargando una vasija frágil que era mi deber proteger, igual que el chico en la historia que nos contaron en clase de religión, el chico que camina por las calles libertinas de la antigua Roma cargando la Hostia escondida en su túnica; en mi caso, de cualquier manera, parecía que la vasija era yo mismo. Sí, eso era, yo era lo que sucedía ahí. No sabía exactamente lo que esto significaba, pero de seguro, me dije, de seguro significaba algo. Así que seguí adelante, en feliz confusión, caminando bajo la lluvia fina, llevando en mi corazón el misterio de mí mismo.
¿Habrá sido ese frasco de icor precioso, aún adentro de mí, lo que se derramó en el cine aquella tarde, aquello mismo que cargo conmigo todavía, y que aun así se desborda con el menor movimiento, el menor latido de mi corazón?
My priority when translating two passages from John Banville’s Eclipse and Doctor Copernicus was to retain the hyperawareness of language that is found in the author’s fiction. In Nicolas Copernicus’ concern with the act of naming, and in Alexander Cleave’s awareness of his own existence in Eclipse, Banville not only sketches crucial aspects of the character’s personalities, but he also makes his fiction self-conscious. This hyperawareness focuses the reader’s attention in how what is being said relates to the means by which it is being said. As a reflection of the act of representation, Banville’s prose not only tells a story, but it also speaks about itself as the only means through which said story can exist. In this way, the act of translating needs to represent what is being said, but it also has to represent itself as language, and as a translation. Therefore, my purpose was not to aim for the translation’s invisibility, but rather to use the transposition of language in the translation to emphasize the importance of language itself in Banville’s prose.
In addition to the importance of the self-consciousness of the Irish author’s fiction, the tone and sophistication of the language he uses is also a translation challenge, even more when considering that Banville’s beautiful poetic prose is one of the main reasons why he stands out from other authors. The alliteration, the long, flowy sentences, and the poetic tone of Banville’s metaphors and imagery that work harmoniously in English, need to be reorganized, rethought and recreated for the Spanish language and the Mexican reader. As the target language is less compact than the source language, the choice of words must be careful enough so the elegance and minuteness of each of Banville’s words are not lost in translation. A clear example of this is the beautiful alliteration in the first lines of Doctor Copernicus, where the translation aimed to retain the repetitive sound of the “d” and make up for the loss of the sound of the “w” in Spanish, substituting it with the sound of the “s”. Another example of Banville’s masterful use of English can be seen in two of Eclipse’s interrogative sentences: the first one that begins with “What in that commonplace...” and ends with “my life”, and the one that closes the selected passage, that starts with “Was it...” and ends with “my heart”. Those sentences, having one long main clause and several phrases in the middle, needed to be reorganized and rethought so that the crucial questions that mark the character’s epiphany are not lost in the middle of clumsily arranged translated phrases.
In barely a couple paragraphs from Eclipse and Doctor Copernicus, Banville fits philosophical reflections on life, death, language, and the self, all through representing those mysteries with written language, another conundrum itself. Each unit of meaning in Banville’s writing fulfils a function not only in the plot of the story in which it is inscribed, but also in itself as language. That may be the reason why, even if decontextualized from the rest of the novel, each one of Banville’s paragraphs and sentences can stand on its own, almost as stanzas or verses of a poem. The main purpose of my translation was precisely to intermingle form and meaning harmoniously to show, as Banville does in his fiction, that there is much more in language than the possibility of telling a story.