NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: SELF-TUGGING MARIONETTE STRINGS

by johannespunkt

Good evening! This project can begin for real! A quick note about the versions of the story that I’m using: Uel has begun putting up polished and edited versions of these stories over at northofreality.com/, so it may well be that the versions of the stories I’ve translated will all be outdated by the time you read this some time in the future. It has already happened with The Flintlock Brain, but Uel’s been gracious enough to add the previous versions of the stories in the comments on his site, so you can always see the version I’m translating from, which is the first one.

Expect one of these posts a week, on Tuesdays, unless I forget. In which case remind me. Or assume me dead. Whichever feels more dramatic to you.

Today’s story is Self-Tugging Marionette Strings. Translation notes, in English, can be found at the bottom of the post. You can find all the entries in this project — eventually around thirty total — at this link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

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

Marionettrådar som drar i sig själva är vad som tillåter halmdockeandroiderna att röra sig och tänka självständigt. Androiderna stoppas med halm som agerar timglassand, då mer och mer faller ur dem ju hetskare trådarnas ryck blir. Filamenten kommer från en mängd olika källor förlänade med livskraft, från brustna metrev till cellostråkar. Trots att dessa är helt statiska när de är för sig själva börjar de vrida och vända på sig när de väl knutits fast vid varandra.

Varje fiber bär med sig en ouppfylld längtan eller lystnad som uppenbarar sig i formen av latent spänning. Så snart dessa strängar är sammantvinnade börjar de söka efter en omöjlig känslobalans, vilket förlänar dem en slags livshärmande rastlöshet. När tillräckligt många trådar har virats runt androidens skelett stabiliserar de sig till en komplex och enhetlig varelse.

En sådan robot håller dock inte länge, då dess första begär är att skingra den spänning som håller ihop den. Den upplever denna livsenergi som en allgenomträngande klåda. I dess frenetiska försök att upplösa denna klåda – genom att slita ut rullarna tråd i sina egna ryggkotor – slår den gnistor omkring sig. Detta sker i regel efter bara några timmars medvetenhet.

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Notes

I changed the title because the full first noun phrase was a bit too much and didn’t pack any sort of punch as a title in Swedish. I also hemmed and hawed a bit about whether to keep the “self” in the translation of self-awareness but decided against it because självmedvetenhet sounds more like it means self-consciousness. I think it can be both; the details are hazy.

But the major difficulty with recreating this one lies in the neologism “effigetic.” In the first draft I called the effigetic androids faraoniska dödsmaskandroider – back-translated into “pharaonic death-mask androids” – because I was envisioning as the primary image that of stone slabs with people’s faces on them, and funereal respect. It didn’t feel entirely right, so I highligted it and kept on working. Then I realised that what felt wrong about it was that the effigetics here are those of burning someone in effigy, this political, angry thing. You want to watch someone tear themselves apart, of course.

What can be done about that? We don’t exactly burn people in effigy here, that I can find at least, and so we haven’t got a vivid phrase for it. We did burn witches on the stakes, and we burn a giant straw goat in increasingly convoluted ways every winter in Gävle (seriously. Look it up – most recently the goat survived Christmas Eve but did not live to see the new year). Maybe I could make the androids strawmen? If so, I would maybe have to change the self-destruction mechanism, turn it into self-immolation. This adding of details would also require some finessing in the sentences, because as they are written in the original every detail is important and follows lucidly from the previous.

Dare I do this? Yes, of course, I have no scruples. (This is not true; I have too many scruples and can’t ever decide which ones to wear.) Also, I feel that stuffing an android with straw like a scarecrow fits well with Uel’s worldbuilding. But maybe this will come back and haunt me in later translations of effigetics.

Interestingly, in googling for specific words to make sure the words I used were in their right contexts, and in discussing this translation with others, James Joyce and the 2012 translation of Ulysses into Swedish showed up an alarming number of times.

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