Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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03-May-2016

A Thing I Thought But
Didn’t Say And Now
     I Am Writing it Down

It would be an honour to be your ex.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: IN THE SECOND PERSON

Good evening, readers! Welcome back to the North of Reality Translation Project. For the uninitiated, North of Reality is Uel Aramchek’s website where he posts fiction that he writes. I’m a translation major/poet/ghost and I’m translating a few of his stories because I wanted to. If you’re an adult or a ghost, you can do what you want. Although I asked for permission first, before I started to post them; that’s also important. I’m translating into Swedish but there are translation notes below the story.

Today’s piece is in the second person. That is also its title: In the Second Person. All entries can be found at the following link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: I ANDRA PERSON
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Som barn råkade du somna på soffan en kväll medan du kollade på Discovery; dock höll sig tingesten som tror att den är du (den du kallar din kropp) vaken flera timmar efteråt. Då lärde den sig allt det fanns att veta om kameleonter från en National-Geographicsspecial. Precis innan du återfick medvetandet snappade en strövande lock av ditt hår åt sig en broms från väggen och påbörjade därmed den långa och hemska förvandlingsprocessen.

Efter den besynnerliga kvällen upptäckte din kropp att den kunde kamouflera sig som dig på pricken. Den tog tillochmed total kontroll över ditt sinne ett flertal gånger utan att du misstänkte någonting. Som tonåring började du dock förnimma en närvaro inuti skallen, en känsla av någonting fantomlikt där din hjärna borde vara. Du försökte ignorera det, men migränattackerna som följde krävde din totala uppmärksamhet.

När du besökte den där röntgenkliniken avslöjade en MRT-undersökning till läkarens stora förvåning en stor ansamling döda insekter som satt fastnaglade mellan dina hjärnlober. Det spekulerades att dessa främmande föremål på något sätt hade tagit sig igenom bensömmarna på skallen men ingen kunde förklara hur de trängt sig in genom din hud, då det inte fanns ärr någonstans på huden.

Självklart fick du omedelbart remiss till en lokal kirurg som skulle undersöka saken närmre; dock hände det att ”du” aldrig dök upp till den bokade tiden.

~

Part of me wants to translate “a stray curl” as “en irrlock,” although that violates the rule of translation that states that you should avoid innovative translations of standard phrases. I’ve got the floor and the mic, though, so I’ll tell you about irrlock anyway: it is reminiscent of irrbloss, meaning will-o’-the-wisp, and is therefore great. No-one would really say it or write it, though. It literally means “stray curl,” but a less outrageous translation of that phrase would be “en strövande lock,” a roaming curl (cf. roaming eyes, hearts).

At first I cut up the sentence beginning “Much to the surprise of …” into two. It didn’t feel right bt it was better than a straight port of that initial adverbial, which would have sounded like “Till den där röntgenläkaren du besöktes stora förvåning” – which is correct but really awkward, because now we’re having fun with clitics. A clitic, according to Wikipedia, is “always attached to a host” which sounds cool and medical. Er, I mean. I will explain, just bear with me – the possessive s (in Swedish as well as English) is the only example of a clitic that I know. You add the s onto the end of a phrase, not a word. For example:

“I solved [the heir]’s problem.”

“I solved [the heir apparent]’s problem.”

“I solved [that guy you met in the pub the other week who claimed to be next in line for the French throne]’s problem by teaching him about the Revolution.”

In order to avoid this awkwardness, we usually rewrite these notions into of-phrases, like “Much to the surprise of …” and such. So, if the reader stops to figure out where to put those brackets to parse the sentence, you’ve probably done something wrong. The main function of a sentence is to bring you to the next sentence. That is why I cut it up originally. I wrote “Eventually, you looked up doctors.” But it still sounded stilted and too far from what Uel had written.

As usual, the solution was to rearrange things until something clicked. What I went with is farther from the original text than I usually go but I’m confident it’s basically how one would express that in Swedish. So, I’m happy. Thank you for reading.

~

Thoughts are welcome! Beam them to my brain or try to use lesser, more haphazard forms of communication with me.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: CHOKING HAZARD

Good afternoon! This week in the North of Reality Translation Project, a story called Choking Hazard. As usual, English translation notes are found below the story. All the other entries in the project can be found at the following link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: KVÄVNINGSRISK
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Han lät henne välja hors-d’œuvre på andra dejten, så när det var hennes tur beställde hon in apelsinklyftefonduen.

”Åh, jag älskar det här stället. De använder bara apelsiner med bottenlösa klyftor här,” förklarade hon. ”Fåglar som försöker äta dem tappar ofta sina näbbar, eller hela sina huvuden. Det krävs en djävligt skicklig kock för att forma dem till någonting en människa tryggt kan svälja.”

”Hur fungerar det?” frågade han. ”Hur får du plats med någonting bottenlöst i någonting i storlek med din knytnäve? Den har ingenstans att gå.”

”Det finns en hel del ingenstans,” lade hon till. ”Om man vet var man inte ska leta.”

~

Notes

I FUCKING CRACKED IT. You need to go and read the original again, for real, on this one. This is like, the eighth one I’m writing so far, but I’ve been dreading this for a while because that pun is so marvellous I never thought I’d find an equivalent in Swedish. But I did. To explain: in the original they’re eating a fondue of peaches with bottomless pits. In Swedish that loosely transmogrifies into either “bottenlös håla,” which makes sense for the bottomlessness, but not for the fruitness, or “bottenlös sten,” which is a nonsense phrase. So I drew diagrams of semantically related things to both those words, trying to find a similar koncept that I could exploit to make a translation. Perhaps, I thought, there would be some equivalent pun not about bottomlessness, but with other infinities.

Our universe is a bottomless pit, says the Timescanner. Perhaps I could find something about dark matter, or about the one electron universe. I was also toying with the idea of writing a replacement story only vaguely similar, because I have an idea about an orangerie growing globe fruits with two surfaces (i.e. having 720 degrees round instead of 360) – I would then be going very far away from translation and into the murky lands of trying to recreate Uel’s process to write something equivalent, some adaptation.

Anyway. As you may have guessed, my brain was firing on all cylinders. I lingered on this problem for two weeks. Then I went back to the basics and looked a little bit closer at the idea of the bottomless pit. It is biblical. How do they translate it in the bible? Seemed like they only called it an avgrund, an abyss. Although sometimes they write out the full implications of that: en bottenlös klyfta. Klyfta. From the same word as ‘cleave.’ n. I chasm. II section, as in citrus fruit.

Make no mistake, having the fruits carry several bottomlessnesses around the core of the fruit instead of one in the middle probably changes some of the mythology in North of Reality, because these kinds of things do that. But that would be a problem for a future translation, if this were ever to resurface. Mythology is pretty malleable, so I’m fairly certain it would be fine.

~

Not much left of this project now. Also I haven’t finished writing all the notes because I somehow acquired a job, but I’ll have the next piece ready on time. Worry not. Not that you were worried.

Across the Street

The family across the street have two sets of drapes, one seems to be made of metal. Perhaps it’s bulletproof. They hug their kid hard in the mornings, looking at her like she’s survived cancer when she gets into the school bus. I don’t know what their names were, but the dad was not called Pete, Simon, Mark, Matt, or Robert. He’s called Trevor now; I don’t believe that either. Sometimes when we are in our gardens simultaneously I shout male names to see if he twitches. He thinks I’m boisterous and on good terms with everyone who bikes past.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: THE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL LABYRINTH

Godafton. That’s Swedish for “good evening.” How quaint. Welcome back to the North of Reality Translation Project. Tonight’s translated piece is called: The Roosevelt National Labyrinth. Translation notes are found below the story, and they are in English so that most people who are looking at this website can read them. All entries in the project are found at the following link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: ROOSEVELT NATIONALLABYRINT
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Roosevelt nationallabyrint börjar nära staten Selimas östligaste gräns och tar aldrig slut. Stundom är den som en skog, då dess tegel ändrar färg med årstiderna och många av murarna fäller sina tegelstenar under månaderna innan vintern. Stundom är den mer som en fängelsehåla, då murarna växer så höga att solen syns inte som en skiva, utan snarare en tunn, enslig linje. Det djupa brummandet från stridulerande jättesyrsor får benen att skallra på alla som är vilse här inne.

Den är det första federalt erkända livet efter detta, ämnat att överbrygga det uråldriga gapet mellan exil och dödsstraff. Det var inte så att labyrinten byggdes – snarare antyddes dess existens väldigt tungt av prejudikat med vikten av hela rättssystemet. ”De sade att den behövde finnas till,” skrev Eisenhower i sin dagbok efter att han underättats om dess förekomst, ”för att fylla tomrummet mellan rättvisans vågskålar. Amerika existerar nu bortom det blott rationella, och alla våra institutioner måste finna sätt att anpassa sig till detta, även de som påstår sig vila på blint förnuft.”

Din advokat försökte så gott han kunde att få dig dömd till döden på ett mer ortodoxt vis, men ditt fall var ganska dystert från första början. Det var meningen, först, att du bara skulle anklagas för att ha försökt fly från fängelset; det vill säga, tills det visade sig att det var den enda anklagelsen på ditt register. Lögndetektorns spikiga skrivstil bevisade att du alltid hade varit i fängelset och avslöjade dig som en institutionsparadox.

Din sista måltid serverades på en papptallrik som smälte sönder från den såskletiga måltiden. Det fanns ett berg av pannstekta getingar med lönnsalsa till dippa, nektarinsyltsglaserade flodhästrevben, genomstekta gelébönor, pisangmos dränkt i sågverkssky och majsmunkar injicerade med vispat tabascosmör. De gav dig varken kniv eller gaffel, så du åt hela middagen med händerna. Du var noga med att spotta ut gaddarna. Sedan sköljde du ner allting med ett glas björnbärsvin.

Dock har allt det sedan dess tagit sig igeom ditt matsmältningssystem och du har aldrig känt dig tommare. Efter två veckor veckor här inne har du äntligen funnit labyrintens minotaur, som står och betar ensam i en glänta stor som ett stadion. Han verkar tämligen förvånad över att du letat upp honom med flit. Hans fyra bisonliknande huvuden höjer sig över det långa gräset som någon primitiv variant av Mount Rushmore och när de ser dig brölar var och en ett strupvrål som avviker lite i tonart från de andra. Du antar ditt öde under hans hovar och undrar vilket liv efter detta som väntar dig härnäst. Du har hört bra saker om Valhall på senaste tiden.

Nästa gång dina ögon öppnar sig är du likväl tillbaka i fängelset i Arizona. Än en gång verkar det som att ditt försök att fly undan systemet har misslyckats.

~

Notes

I modelled the name of the Roosevelt National Labyrinth after the Swedish rendition of Yellowstone National Park, which seems like the most sensible way to translate it. It did not become a very shocking name in Swedish but I did have to take five minutes to remember any other name for a thing in the US which follows the formula of [name] National [area of land]. I found a lot of forests that no-one has translated into Swedish, though.

The difference between “capital punishment” and “death penalty” is mostly flavour, but it felt like important flavour. Capital punishment seems to me to be the category, whereas death penalty is more a specific instance of someone being sentenced to death, or the death penalty as it exists in some specific form in some state or legal system. The two are translated the same into Swedish, so I took the liberty of loosening the translation a bit for the second one, turning it into a verb to make it feel more immediate and personal: “dödsstraff” vs “dömd till döden.”

For “implied into reality” I had a lot of trouble – because we have no equivalent of “into reality” or “into existence” – and ended up inventing a metaphor based on “heavily” implying something with the full weight of the justice system.

The Swedish rapper Pst/Q once remarked in an interview that the punchline-heavy style that he rapped in at the beginning of his career was “not really Swedish” (I’m paraphrasing and translating from memory here, forgive any misrepresentations) and that people were often baffled by the barrage of wordplay present in his music. Now, basically anyone who talks to me knows wordplay is my thing in any language I’m speaking, but I feel a bit like that when trying to translate the culinary tastes of Uel’s fictional subjects – for example, how do I Scandify “refried jellybeans”?

Of course, you’re meant to feel weird about the food. Go on, feel weird about it.

Anyway, in what was news to me at least, it turns out that the re- in refried beans doesn’t mean again, it just means well. So I simply translated it literally, because there is no equivalent – we barely have these two kinds of beans in Sweden.

The last problem area here is what on earth to do with the phrase “When your eyes open again.” The easiest way to say it is to just say “När du öppnar dina ögon igen” (When you open your eyes again) or even “När du vaknar igen” (When you wake up again). But those alternatives miss the fact that there’s agency in the eyes here, not in the person. The way I read the story, the fact that it’s not the peson themselves doing the waking up is actually very important.

If one were to write that a door opens, for example, to circumscribe the problem here, the way to translate it into Swedish would be one of three options, each working fine on their own but in the context of eyes opening they all feel odd to me. I can write “dörren öppnas,” which is the passive voice and obscures the agent, or I can write “dörren öppnar sig,” making “open” a reflexive verb, or I can write “dörren öppna[s/r sig] av sig själv,” which foregrounds the autonomy of the door. Passive voice is out, because we want to focus on the agency here. Foregrounding the autonomy is also out, because it’s too heavy-laden. Our Goldilocks option seems to be “öppnar sig,” which is a phrasing I can only recall from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, where it’s used as a command and in second-person. And, actually, thinking of it like that, that’s not a bad phrasing, and certainly not a connotation Uel would object to.

~

Next week the translated piece is Choking Hazard, which, if you read it, seems untranslatable. Feel free to speculate wildly about how I will have solved this.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: ON IMMORTALITY

Time: evening. Quality of evening: good. Thing: the North of Reality Translation Project. Today: On Immortality. Translation notes: below. All entries: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: OM ODÖDLIGHET
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Som barn hade du en viss förmåga att upptäcka de extra liv som låg gömda överallt i virtuella världar. Du visste alltid vilka vattenfall du skulle kika bakom, vilka väggar du skulle sträcka handen igenom och tillochmed vilka lerkärl du skulle ta sönder – men av någon anledning fann du aldrig dem som vi lämnade kvar specifikt för dig.

Det första livet låg gömt på toppen av vattentornet bredvid lekplatsen på din lågstadieskola. Vi lät det drypa i klarblåa pixlar så att du lätt kunde se det från den högsta punkten i gungans bana. Vi hade tillochmed tagit reda på att det var din favoritfärg. Tyvärr lade du aldrig märke till livet och det har sedan länge slitits sönder av fiskmåsar.

Det andra livet låg dolt i en grotta bara en bit ifrån vandringsleden du följde när din familj semestrade vid Niagarafallen. Förutom livets safirglöd såg det precis ut som ditt ansikte – vi var stolta över vårt arbete. Någon annan unge hittade dock det en kort tid efter att du åkt hem, och han bar din identitet när han tog sitt språng från vattenfallets krön med ett skratt. Ett slöseri, om du frågar oss.

De blev fler i takt med att du blev äldre; ett inlåst på en flygplanstoalett, ett annat dammtäckt under sängen där du förlorade din oskuld – men din nyfikenhet hade sedan länge sinat. Du slutade lägga märke till detaljerna i din egen värld, ty din uppmärksamhet hade erövrats av en unken skärmglöd.

Ändå har vi ännu inte slutat tro på dig, vi har inte givit upp. Sök igenom din omnejd noggrannt: det finns ett liv någonstans i närheten.

~

Notes

The first question in this translation is, do I put a space in the rendition of “extra lives” or not. I’ve mentioned agglutination before but I don’t think I went into it in any detail. Agglutinative languages mash words together; analytic ones separate them. You can’t always tell when people talk out loud, although there are signs such as binding letters used to smoothen the transition from the end of one building block to the beginning of the other. It’s much easier to tell in written language, at least if you’re using a writing system that has spaces in it. It’s a sliding scale, though with Chinese at one end as super analytic and Finnish at the other as super agglutinative. For example. And Swedish is slightly more agglutinative than English. Schoolkids playing Hangman might write 31 underscores for one long, stupid noun: flaggstångsknoppspoleringsmedel (means for polishing the knob of a flagpole). They often write longer ones as well – at my school we use dto write flaggstångsknoppspoleringsmedelsbehållare (container for “–”) but that seems to be local flavour, after a glance at the internet. Other variants include …flaska, …försäljare, …flaskkork, …prenumeration, …flaskkorksetikett … sorry, I got carried away.

The point is, there are more spaces in English writing than in Swedish writing. There is a whole lot of nuance to my ear between extraliv and extra liv. A life is a categorically different thing from an extralife. In English, the phrase “extra life” can easily carry both of the meanings, and so does. But in Swedish I have to choose, and I choose the one with a space in it, because it evokes the much more common spaceless version.

Also, for those of you keeping score at home, it took me half an hour to write out this thinking process but it took me two seconds to decide on it. Also, the sliding scale is a bit more complicated than I made it out to be but that was the level of understanding I was working at when I made my decision. A cool thing you can do when you have studied something for a time is to decide what granularity your models will have in order to serve your purposes for the moment. But do read the wikipedia article on synthetic languages or isolating languages, etc, if you want to know more.

“Lover” is not gender-neutral in Swedish. Though “älskare” is used gender-neutrally by some, it’s registered as exclusively male by a lot of Swedes. Putting a gender to the lover would ruin some of the point of the direct-address second-person pronoun, in that while most people have a first lover, fewer people have a first lover of one specifc gender, and also if your first male lover was after your first female lover that sentence sounds really weird. The points that I want to carry over in the translation are thus: 1. the gender-neutrality, because I like it. 2. the vague notion of growing up somehow, the rite of passage. 3. the conflation of the different senses of exploration – as in first love and as in charting uncharted territory – to contrast with the waning curiosity.

Every single alternative translation I could think of was wrong. I’m skipping directly, here, to the solution of simply saying: the bed where you lost your virginity. I admit this is not an ideal solution (although if you see no problem with it feel free to not think harder about it), but I have been stuck on this problem a long time. I’m typing this paragraph ten minutes before the day is officially over, actually, and I really would not like to be late two weeks in a row with this project. If I go back to this problem, I might switch it back to saying the gendered “lover,” or I might use the really old phrase for “make love” that sounds like it’s from a few turns of the centuries ago, or I might paint a teenage scenario of sneaking into bedrooms over verandra rooves, or inspiration might strike and something else entirely.

A friend looked through my translation and reminded me that it’s really easy to get tunnel-vision on these things, so I’ll probably go back through the old translations and fix a few mistakes over the next week or so. There are bound to be a few of similar kind that she pointed out, such as unclear reference and an unnatural over-reliance of the genitive. But learning is cool! And so is humility, kids. Another thing she pointed out was that in Swedish, a seagull cannot peck. It’s idiomatic in English, but in Swedish it becomes the wrong motion, for some reason. Instead, the seagulls “tear” – sliter – the heart apart.

~

Gosh. Next week: Roosevelt National Labyrinth.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: FOUND FOOTAGE

Good deep dark night, friends. Today’s piece is Found Footage. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story. All entries in the project so far are found here: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: UPPHITTAD FILM
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Du har kommit till den här skogen för att leta efter varelsen som kallas ”sasquatch.” Vid det här laget har du fått reda på att han är mänsklig; åtminstone om man inte är så strikt med sin definition av ordet ”mänsklig.” Hans kött har förvridit sig från åratal av lång exponering och hans hud har suddats ut till skenpareidolisk ull. Ett groteskt tumavtryck kvarstår där det en gång må ha funnits ett ansikte, utan att kunna se eller prata.

De flesta resenärer anländer till Kanal Noll Nationalpark av misstag men du har tagit dig hit med flit. Denna plats har fötts fram ur videofeedback; träden här dryper med resterna av nattkikares limegröna glöd. Du trycker din hand mot den självlysande barken på en urgammal björk och den glider rakt igenom. Du drar tillbaks handen och dina fingrar är genomdränkta med brusande TV-sav, alldeles bortdomnade.

Stundom hörs omgivningens vita brus högre än vinden genom löven.

Somliga säger att människan har frammanat denna plats, en knut i rymdväven som fötts fram ur avståndet mellan lins och spegel. Andra säger att det är ett urtidsrike, lika gammalt som spegelbilderna av träd i Minnesotas sjöar, och att mänsklig inblandning bara har tjänat till att skynda på en urgammal process.

Du har följt hans spår mil efter mil, bara för att anlända till en gravhög. Det finns dock ingen höjd jord här; bara en massa kameror och mjukt flimrande ben. ”HÄR VILAR SASQUATCH,” står det på en minnestavla av järn vid högens fot. ”DÖMD TILL MYT, DRÄPT AV FÖRNUFT.”

Trots det markerar denna milstolpe slutet på din egen resa, för hans spegelbild har följt dig hela vägen hit. Ditt sista minne är hur du bländas av din egen blixt; kanske kommer någon, någon dag, att framkalla bilderna.

~

Notes

I did not know of the equivalent term for “found footage” when I started this translation, but fortunately the particular genre of horror film that shares this name is a well-blooming genre, and even though Swedes would mostly just say “found footage” when talking about the genre, the translation is unconfusing and understandable. There’s an interesting gradient of loan words being assimilated into the language, from words pronounced with a mouth still in foreign mode to words pronounced like they have always been part of the language.

What I mean by this is, well, take your American English language vowel chart. Uel’s accent looks something like this, by my reckoning:

a hand-drawn vowel chart.

That’s the place of all the vowels in the mouth. The consonants also have their places, but it would look too crowded if I included them too. And trust me, this is definitely how sounds work. Actually, don’t take my word for it, but take it up with tongueistics if you’ve got a problem.

Anyway, see how the vowels all keep some respectable distance between each other? In different languages, the sounds are in different places (and there’re different amounts of vowels! A language with a small number of vowels will have much wider berths than a jam-packed one). Switching to another tongue is very literally like switching to another tongue, one with other settings. So for a loan word like “found footage” we would switch very quickly to English for the duration of that word, then back to Swedish. For a word like “tight,” which is /taɪt/ in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) we would not switch, but say /taɪt/ but with the Swedish placement of those symbols instead. And then there are phrases that are undergoing this assimilation but aren’t there yet, such as “slow-motion,” which is a bit all over the map when I say it in Swedish at least. You can figure out pretty well how long ago a loan word was loaned in by judging how far along this process the word is.

I figured that Sasquatch, having had an episode or two in the X-Files, is well-known enough in Sweden that I need not intervene as a middle-man narrator and explain anything about him. The name, in Swedish, is obviously foreign because of the letter combinations, but I think it’s pronounced with a tongue halfway between English and Swedish. Like we don’t know what to do with the sounds. It’s not an exact science, this. It doesn’t help that it’s a name from another language than English, either.

That became a large tangent. That’s okay. Next let’s look at something else in the first paragraph: the word pareidoliac. Uel has made a smooth neologism, making pareidolia (the tendency of humans to find patterns in random noise) sound like an affliction akin to insomnia (cf. insomniac). This structure is sadly not mirrored in Swedish, so I had to work around it to get a somewhat similar effect. My idea here came from the prefix sken-, which literally seems to mean “shine” and is used to mean something like “false” or “mock,” as in skendränkning (“mock drowning”) or skenfrukt (“false fruit”). I tend to think of it as fae glamour or something, although I’ll admit to not knowing the deeper etymology here.

This story is all about things becoming what they seem, and surface levels affecting the deeper levels, so I made up the word skenpareidolisk, to vaguely suggest that maybe the pareidolia is false. In what way it is false is for the reader to fill in although I made sure to figure out at least two ways, in case someone corners me and demands an explanation for the freedoms I’ve taken in the translation. Which is all to say that when it comes to translating a style you have to keep the language breathing, in my earnest opinion.

Chartreuse is not a word, not a colour, in most people’s Swedish. So I picked lime instead. That colour is right in the same part of the spectrum, just shifted a little bit. It’s difficult to get the auras of colours right because colours are one of the most direct forms of symbolism (in art as well as in nature: you instinctively don’t want to eat something wild coloured black and red and yellow! Wow we’re all about the tangents here). Translators between languages less intermingled than Swedish-English have to deal with various issues like blue and green being the same colour, or light blue being as different from dark blue as pink is from red. But fortunately Swedes and Americans have the same images of such binoctulars as Uel describes, so I’m resting my translation on that shared bit of culture and hope that the description simply makes the reader recall the right chartreuse hue.

Turns out that we have “landmark” in Swedish (“landmärke”) but that it is a nautical term, and while we’ve also got it as a calque for the non-nautical use, the more commonly used word for this type of memorable abberration in the landscape is milstolpe (“milestone”), from an extension of the word’s literal meaning.

~

I didn’t actually sit down to chart Uel’s accent with linguoscopy, but wouldn’t that have been super cool and a bit creepy? The image is just roughly what a southern Californian accent is like, according to a chart I saw on Wikipedia.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: A WRONG TURN AT ALBUQUERQUE

Good evening! You’re looking great today. Did something happen to your hair?

Today: A Wrong Turn at Albuquerque. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story as usual. You can find all entries at the following link, except for the entries that are still to be posted: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: EN FELSVÄNG VID ALBUQUERQUE
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

~

Du kommer ihåg Utah, och hur bergen speglades i saltöknens bleka spegel, och hur saltöknen speglades i himlens bleka spegel, och hur motorvägen, utan någon annanstans att ta vägen, speglades in emot sig själv. Du kommer ihåg avfarten mot den ensamma sträckan av tjära och betong som var motorväg I13 på väg mot Reno, du var sömnlös och ökenhalstrad och du såg din egen puls i ögonvrån.

Du kommer ihåg Nevada, och hur vägen som tidigare verkat rak egentligen hade varit en lång spiral, och hur allt neon i Reno rödskiftade iväg från dig när du ändlöst närmade dig, och hur det till slut inte fanns något annat val än att vända omkring. Du kommer ihåg att I13 på något vänster virvlade inåt i båda riktningarna, och att solnedgången framför dig också var synlig i backspegeln.

Du kommer ihåg Mazo, och hur de naturligt förekommande radiotornens blodstensmalmspännverk kastade långa skuggor över den månstekta jorden, och hur jordandarnas klagosång överröstade din bils ljudanläggning på varje frekvens, och hur svultna stäpplöpare stannade till för att frossa på överkörda djur. Du kommer ihåg den oerhörda törsten som fick dig att pröva att svälja en näve vattenpuder.

Du kommer ihåg New Mexico, och hur underligt det var att byggnaderna i Albuquerque inte hade några fönster, och hur dess gator inte hade några fotgängare. Du kommer ihåg att du stannade till vid Hotel California vid utkanten av staden bara för att få reda på att de inte hade några lediga rum, och hur utsökt festmåltiden såg ut där den hade dukats upp inne på atriumgården. Du kommer ihåg hur ditt fordon sprang iväg med en flock vilda bilar och lämnade dig att dö.

Du kommer ihåg liftandet längsmed I13 och längre in, och hur en långtradarchaffis plockade upp dig i Bolgana, och hur du var så törstig att till och med råoljecidern han erbjöd dig smakade himmelskt. Du kommer ihåg hur han förklarade för dig att världens ände brukade vara en fysisk plats ingen kunde ta sig till, och hur det sedan dess hade blivit ett datum i framtiden ingen kunde nämna. Du kommer ihåg när polisen stannade honom för fortkörning och arresterade honom när det uppdagades att han egentligen var en hägring.

Du kommer ihåg allt det här medan du står vänd mot Amerikas innersta gräns. Du sitter på en farligt långt utstickande sten över en bottenlös krater. Här tar kraftledningarna som under hela din resa kantat vägen slut; de sista kilometrarna av deras längd har flätats runt sex massiva stämskruvar. Nu när du hittat världens ände är det bara att vänta.

~

Notes

A thing they won’t tell you at fancy translation schools, but which I will tell you right now, is that sometimes translating a title of a piece will involve fruitless hours of trying to find Swedish clips of Bugs Bunny on the youtubes. As fate would have it, the Swedish Wikipedia page for Bugs Bunny assures me that the “left turn at Albuquerque” gag has been translated into “Jag borde ha svängt vänster vid Södertälje” at least once. Now the question stands: what’s the proper translation technique here? Obviously I cannot remove the Americaneousness of this quintessentially American road trip story. I didn’t need any of the extra information about Bugs Bunny or anything – a direct translation is the best option here. Very well.

I’ve probably mentioned it before – like, last week for example – but a frustration that occurs in translation is when two different words in the source language are translated into the same word in the target language. This time, both “road” and “somewhere to go” have individual translations that work best with “väg,” and I am initially averse to repeating that word. However, it only seems odd to repeat it if you have stared at it as long as I have, and initially you will not (might not, will hopeuflly not) notice anything’s amiss. I just wrote “the road” as “motorvägen” (the highway) and it does look seamless, I’d say.

For similar but opposite reasons, near the end of the story, I’ve translated “the highway” as simply “vägen” instead of its more specific cousin. Clarity and smoothness help the equilibrium the most.

On a related note, the anaphora in this piece is slightly tricky to translate, because of grammar. The “You remember” bit is easy, but in English you can follow it with a noun (as with the State names) or a dependent clause in the progressive (-ing, as in hitchhiking), no problem. The progressive doesn’t really exist in Swedish and its equivalent is not as ubiquitous. I could translate the penultimate paragraph’s progressive clause as something that means and looks like “You remember how you hitchhiked,” but the clause would lose its nounness and I’d be sad. The solution, I figured, was to make it a full noun. The present participle is a thing in Swedish, and you can noun things with it. This seems like a lot of justification for translating a present-participle word into a present-participle word. But the jump from verb to noun is huge, to the point that if you compare the onset of those sentences it looks wrongly translated. A strange effect, and one I have to remind myself of both as a reader and a writer/translator: that things that seem wrong on the detail level make the whole thing work on the holistic level.

~

The bit about the shifting dimensional idea of what the end of the world is is probably my favourite line of Uel’s ever.

The Poet Realizes Almost Too Late that his Advice is Not Wanted

or, The First Three Stanzas

Your heart strings your heartstrings all up in your living-tomb

and last week will last. We could stay. (We should give him room.)

Your organs will begin to rot inside

your skin, you butterfly in progress. Bide

your time for years until you are a corpse,

a living Buddha. Dead. Forgotten. Here,

you see that you’re not getting any where.

I have a poem in my chest tonight.

I know you. You won’t act your best tonight.

We’re broke and we’re broken; we’re blacklight and virgin vein.

Dim lights, pills, your light spills like mist and a purging rain.

You’re shaking like a leaf, you tremble like

a trigger finger, drink pressed like a mic

against your lips, you’re always in a kiss,

you frog, you scorpion. You shouldn’t know

how many people you’re in love with, though.

I have a poem in my throat tonight

and you will let me have your coat tonight.

I meet her and meet her high standards or what-have-you

and so far I’m so far away from you. Not a clue.

And she’s not evil, no-one is, but still.

But still. But still, you flee to your Brazil

committing crimes just to get in, but you,

you kicked chihuahua, don’t belong in hell

or heaven, you belong right here. We tell

ourselves we’re poems, but you cannot fit

a sonnet in a koan, but still: you suck

the marrow out of life itself to fuck

your spine up, crush your bones. And if you let

it go, this poem in between my teeth,

I’ll teach you how to breathe, I’ll stand beneath

and catch you, should you fall, this ending you

can’t help. For we take turns, my friends and I

to be the one to say: today, don’t die.

I have a poem on my tongue tonight

which I have swallowed. I have sung tonight.

~

From the hidden archives. Offered up today as a prayer that I won’t have to write another one of these.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: WAYFINDER

Good $TIME. I am so $EMOTION to see you. Take a $SEAT, and welcome to the North of Reality Translation Project! Today’s special offer is Wayfinder, with a side of translation notes and language/culture musings in English. But our menu is well stocked with other courses: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: DEN SOM FINNER VÄGEN
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Under en synnerligen lång vinter började labyrinter bryta ut i metropolen som en infrastrukturell sjukdom. Varje natt vävde sig gränder in genom varandra och formade tjocka betongknutar som blandades med tunnelbanelinjer och fallfärdiga telegraftunnlar. Tegel och glasfiber vreds till vilda helixar och motorvägar ömsade sina skinn likt ormar för att komplicera härvan. I dagsljus återstod inga bevis av dessa rovlabyrinter, förutom de tillfrysta kropparna som lämnats kvar av de som snärjts in inuti dem.

Till slut spreds legender, inte bara om dessa mörka utrymmen men även om den som kunde leda vilse själar ut ur dessa urbana grottor. Hon sades hölja sig i paisleymönstrad midnattsskrud, upplyst av vad som verkade vara hennes eget blod. I sin högra hand bar hon sitt eget självlysande hjärta som en lanterna, en pulserande tacka gjord på gyllene muskler som tjudrats till hennes bröst medelst en ansamling tjocka kablar. Det dröp här och var som hon vandrade och lämnade ett spår av plasma som andra kunde följa i säkerhet.

De som påstod sig ha blivit uteskorterade ur labyrinten av henne säger också att hon inget namn gav mer än ”Den som finner vägen” och konverserade knappast mer än att hon insisterade på att de skulle lita på hennes omdöme. Däremot ryktades det fritt om hennes ursprung. Det förmodades att labyrinten svalde henne levande en olycksalig afton, men att hon lyckades överleva pärsen och kravla i säkerhet genom dess trådar, fast hennes anatomiska struktur förändrades permanent. ”En gatlykta hällde tillbaks henne i vår värld likt en kran,” säger en variant av berättelsen. ”Hon dog den kvällen, och återföddes som en del av staden själv.”

Andra är mindre övertygade av denna tolkning. ”Den här staden har aldrig varit på mänsklighetens sida,” förklarade en vagabond som tröttnat på den här versionen. “Stålet, glaset, fan, till och med skräpet … det trängtar efter att förtära oss. De där fantomgatorna hon vandrar igenom är stadens inälvor. Nej, hon är inte del av staden alls; hon försöker skydda oss från den.”

~

Notes

I had problems finding a good title for this. The very ideal would be a neat and compact composite noun like “Wayfinder” but the immediate solution – “Vägfinnare” – sounds daft as all hell. I was stumped for a long while and then I decided to go with a longer thing: “The one who finds the way.” It sounds equally mystical, but from another angle, and the namelessness of the name is enhanced.

Half-relatedly, in the time period in which I grew up, they stopped translating movie titles into Swedish. The effects of knowing some movies by their Swedish title because they were made before the tide turned is baffling, a bit like being from a parallel universe. Generally, the translators of movie titles were gentle and caring: classics like Some Like It Hot got translations based around the key title words (“hot,” in this case), while others were just translated literally to no fuss, like The Birds, or kept as they were because the title was not a translatable word as such, such as Casablanca. However. Things got weird, probably because of comedies. National Lampoon’s Vacation, which for some reason is considered a classic, was translated as Ett päron till farsa – “A pear for a dad.” The word for pear is slang for “parent,” I suppose, but if there’s more meaning to it than that it is lost to time (read: I don’t feel it will be enlightening to look it up, so suck it). Mel Brooks’ The Producers was translated as Det våras för Hitler, the name of the musical in the film, Springtime for Hitler. This is a bit weird, but okay: it is more eye-grabbing than “Producenterna.” Then The Twelve Chairs came, with a translated title we can back-translate into “Springtime for Mother-in-Law.” Then Blazing Saddles: Springtime for the Sheriff. Young Frankenstein: Springtime for Frankenstein. Springtime for the Silent Movie. Springtime for the Nutjobs. Springtime for World History. Springtime for World Space. World … Space? Probably that movie is what made the bubble burst, I feel. The title of Men in Tights was translated word for word, like picking up broken pieces of porcelain after one has failed an almost amazing trick using just a tablecloth and some fine china.

What were we talking about? Ah, yes, literary translation. For this piece I also encountered problems trying to translate “civic.” As it’s used and translated, it mostly refers to the human part of a city, or a population, but here that was clearly not the case, referring instead to the infrastructural schematics of streets in a city. After a few weeks of trying to climb this wall I realized that in my describing the problem I had used the perfect word for translating it – infrastructural – and just as quickly dismissed it for whatever reason. So, that was silly of me.

For some reason the phrase “to safety,” which appears twice in the text, stumped me. The correct way to say it is, unless I’m mistaken, “i säkerhet” (lit. “in safety;” but that’s very literal). Further proof that no-one should ever trust prepositions in any language. I always mess prepositions up no matter what language I’m speaking.

I feel like I’ve used the word “självlysande” for like fifteen different Aramchekian adjectives at this point. It’s actually just two – luminous and phosphorescent – but what would I do if these adjectives showed up in the same story? I’d have to use a fancy word like “fluorescerande” (fluorescent) for the phosphorescence. Which is not a word I’d really use otherwise. It’s all about the equilibrium, though, as always. This same problem actually comes up sprite-swapped in the translation of “interpretation” and “rendition,” both of which very squarely become tolkning. “Rendition” can also be version, fortunately. Although this becomes a problem when you consider that I had translated “version” in the paragrpah above simply into the Swedish “version” (imagine that I’m pronouncing these words different, since they’re spelled the same). So I changed that into “variant,” which probably is a nicer word there anyway. Solved.

Lastly, the word “ichor” is a nice word. Its roots in Greek and the mythology that it drags with it make it impossible to really translate as such, since translation is often root transplantation. (This metaphor might make more sense if you consider the roots of “translate” – trans meaning roughly “across [a border]” and late coming from something meaning “carry,” so “translate” = to carry from one place to another. We are carrying from English to Swedish here; when a word is too firmly rooted in Greek we have to use the same word in the translation. Like when you have a character talking Spanish in an otherwise English book, you would keep the Spanish, not carry it over to French or something (It’s a different story if we were to translate that into Spanish BUT that’s not my problem, so suck it (Again.).).)

So we have two options: deracinate or neologise, essentially. We do kind of have “ikor” in Swedish, in that I’ve seen it in at least one place and used it in at least one story myself, but my dictionary renders it as “gudablod” (gods’ blood) or “blodserum,” “blodserum, blodvatten” (blood serum, blood water) and googling for “ikor” only gives me obscure texts. If we deracinate it, we might instead talk of ectoplasm or just plasma. I am partial to the plasma and don’t think that the ichor has a very central role here, so I’m pulling out its roots to tend the garden.

~

It’s actually really easy to get sick of that word, “ichor” – you just have to overeat yourself on H. P. Lovecraft. I remember when I read Lovecraft I kept a tally of his favourite words. I was adolescently holed up in a Czech hotel with nothing to read but a werewolf glamour book that took a few hours to plow through and the whole Necronomicon collection, which I had conked all the way there. I remember most of them now. Squalid. Indescribable. Ichor. Could have sworn I remembered more of them. It’s been enough years now that I can speak them without bile, but it was touch and go for a while. Thank you for reading The Teenage Literary Review; next week maybe I’ll tell you about The Little Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.

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