At first it had no name. It was the thing itself, the vivid thing. It was his friend. On windy days it danced, demented, waving wild arms, or in the silence of evening drowsed and dreamed, swaying in the blue, the goldeny air. Even at night it did not go away. Wrapped in his truckle bed, he could hear it stirring darkly outside in the dark, all the long night long. There were others, nearer to him, more vivid still than this, they came and went, talking, but they were wholly familiar, almost a part of himself, while it, steadfast and aloof, belonged to the mysterious outside, to the wind and the weather and the goldeny blue air. It was part of the world, and yet it was his friend.
Look, Nicolas, look! See the big tree!
Tree. That was its name. And also: the linden. They were nice words. He had known them a long time before he knew what they meant. They did not mean themselves, they were nothing in themselves, they meant the dancing singing thing outside. In wind, in silence, at night, in the changing air, it changed and yet was changelessly the tree, the linden tree. That was strange.
Everything had a name, but although every name was nothing without the thing named, the thing cared nothing for its name, had no need of a name, and was itself only. And then there were the names that signified no substantial thing, as linden and tree signified that dark dancer. His mother asked him who did he love the best. Love did not dance, nor tap the window with frantic fingers, love had no leafy arms to shake, yet when she spoke that name that named nothing, some impalpable but real thing within him responded as if to a summons, as if it had heard its name spoken. That was very strange.
He soon forgot about these enigmatic matters, and learned to talk as others talked, full of conviction, unquestioningly.
The sky is blue, the sun is gold, the linden tree is green. Day is light, it ends, night falls, and then it is dark. You sleep, and in the morning wake again. But a day will come when you will not wake. That is death. Death is sad. Sadness is what happiness is not. And so on. How simple it all was, after all! There was no need even to think about it. He had only to be, and life would do the rest, would send day to follow day until there were no days left, for him, and then he would go to Heaven and be an angel. Hell was under the ground.
Matthew Mark Luke and John
Bless the bed that I lie on
If I die before I wake
Ask holy God my soul to take
He peered from behind clasped hands at his mother kneeling beside him in the candlelight. Under a burnished coif of coiled hair her face was pale and still, like the face of the Madonna in the picture. Her eyes were closed, and her lips moved, mouthing mutely the pious lines as he recited them aloud. When he stumbled on the hard words she bore him up gently, in a wonderfully gentle voice. He loved her the best, he said. She rocked him in her arms and sang a song.
See saw Margery Daw
This little chicken
Got lost in the straw
Al principio no tenía nombre. Era la cosa en sí, viva. Era su amigo. En días de viento danzaba, demente, ondeando sus brazos salvajes, o dormitaba, soñando, meciéndose en el aire azul, dorado. Ni aún en la noche se iba. Ya envuelto en su cama, podía escucharlo agitándose, oscuro, afuera en lo oscuro, a lo largo de toda la larga noche. Había otros, cerca de él, aún más vivos, iban y venían, hablando, pero ya le eran conocidos, eran casi parte de sí mismo, pero eso, inalterable y distante, pertenecía al misterioso exterior, al viento, al ambiente, al aire azul, dorado. Era parte del mundo, y era su amigo.
¡Mira, Nicolás, mira! ¡Mira el gran árbol!
Árbol. Ese era su nombre. Y también: el tilo. Eran buenas palabras. Las conocía desde mucho antes de saber su significado. No se significaban a sí mismas, no eran nada en sí mismas, significaban esa cosa danzante cantando afuera. En el viento, en silencio, de noche, en el aire cambiante. Cambiaba, y aun así seguía siendo el árbol, inalterable. El árbol de tilo. Era extraño.
Todo tenía un nombre pero, aunque cada nombre era obsoleto sin eso que se nombra, a eso no le importaba su nombre, no tenía necesidad de un nombre, sólo era eso mismo. Y también había nombres que no significaban nada substancial como tilo y árbol significaban aquel danzante oscuro. Su madre le preguntó a quién amaba más. El amor no baila ni golpea la ventana con dedos insistentes, el amor no tiene brazos con hojas que tiemblan, sin embargo, cuando ella pronunció ese nombre que no nombraba nada, algo intangible pero real dentro de él respondió como a una invocación, como si hubiera escuchado su nombre. Era muy extraño.
Pronto olvidó tales cuestiones enigmáticas y aprendió a hablar como los otros, con convicción, sin cuestionar.
El cielo es azul, el sol es dorado, el tilo es verde. En el día hay luz, termina, llega la noche y oscurece. Duermes, y en la mañana despiertas otra vez. Pero vendrá el día en que no despertarás. Eso es la muerte. La muerte es triste. La tristeza es lo que no es la felicidad. Y así. Qué simple era todo, a fin de cuentas. Ni siquiera había necesidad de pensar en ello. Él sólo debía ser, y la vida haría el resto, mandaría el día siguiente y el siguiente hasta que no quedaran más días para él, y después iría al Cielo y sería un ángel. El Infierno estaba bajo tierra.
Mateo, Marco, Lucas y Juan
bendigan la cama en la que estoy
y si muero antes de despertar
le pido a Dios que cuide mi alma
Desde atrás de sus manos juntas, observó a la luz de la vela a su madre arrodillada junto a él. Bajo una cofia adornada de cabello rizado, su cara se veía pálida y quieta, como la de la Virgen en la pintura. Sus ojos estaban cerrados, y sus labios mudos se movían como las palabras piadosas que él decía en voz alta. Cuando llegó a las palabras difíciles ella lo ayudó gentilmente, con una voz maravillosa y dulce. La amaba más a ella, le dijo él. Ella lo meció en sus brazos y le cantó una canción.
Margery Daw, sube y baja,
se ha perdido en la paja
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.