NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: CURTAIN CALL

by johannespunkt

Good evening and welcome to the latest instalment of the Nort of Reality Translation Project, where I translate my favourite Uel Aramchek stories from the beginning of North of Reality. Today’s piece is Curtain Call. All the entries in this project can be found at: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

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

Om det förflutna fortfarande pågår när du läser det här kanske du vill ta anteckningar. Det var inte asteroider eller bomber eller änglar med trumpeter. Under det sista årtiondet av våra liv surrade luften med en allmän fruktan att vi genomlever den sista akten. Nymodighet började ta slut. Vi hade alla burit med oss manusen för våra egna liv men hade aldrig märkt det förrän de sista sidorna var för tunna för att enkelt bläddra igenom.

Vi lärde oss att i rymden är det inte så att en ridå faller, snarare virvlar den inåt. Det scharlakansröda skynket dök upp utan varning från någon okänd atmosfärisk knut och drogs fram av den sista soluppgången. En böljande sammetsdöd tog över stjärnornas plats. En efter en bugade de som hade läst sina sista sidor slutgiltigen och frös till för att aldrig mer röra på sig. Trots att en blandning av svält och leda så småningom lade beslag på dem stod deras ben kvar stående, böjda framåt nittio grader.

Vad mig anbelangar så är det inte långt kvar nu. Ridån drogs tillbaka för två dagar sedan och det har inte slutat regna rosor sedan dess. Applåderna kommer närmre och närmre.

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Notes

This one was merciful and staightforward. Bonus: “sammetsdöd” for “velvet death” sounds and looks a lot like samvetsnöd (lit. distress of conscience). It means something like ethical anxiety, when you don’t know how to handle a situation. There is also a bit of coincidental but nice alliteration here and there. But since I don’t have anything more to say about this particular translation, allow me to say something general about translation:

Today I am thinking of the purpose of translation, because in my linguistics exam roughly two weeks ago at the time of this writing I had to read a long text about non-literary translation theory. Reading that text felt soulless, like when you drop a gutted fish back into the ocean and expect it to swim. The approach to translation in that text was based on the very real concerns that pop up in localisation and other non-literary forms of translation. The text asked several questions, one of them being: “who will read this text?” and another being: “what will happen if this text fails what it sets out to do?”

Arguably, these are also things to ask when translating texts more literary. Hopefully one can ask them in a way that does not siphon off one’s soul to make one seriously think about a literary endeavour in terms of economy (the paper was based on neo-classical economical thinking). What troubles me a little is that the people I imagine who will read these translations are basically all people who can read English just as well as they can read Swedish, or better in the few cases of my British friends who are learning Swedish, and they don’t need an interpreter. In this case nothing will happen if these texts fail what they set out to do.

How to resolve this problem? Well, maybe the translation notes will get someone to notice something in the original text that they did not see at first. Maybe an unconsidered text is not worth reading, and so it helps to consider it. And I hope Swedes who have not stumbled upon Uel’s work before will stumble upon it because of these translations. And of course, I am learning more about translation this way, by actually performing it rather than just reading and thinking about it. Those are all worthy things. But mostly, I think, literary translations between two cultures that already communicate much can do things slightly too subtle and insubstantial to be worth mentioning, like a length of thread added to a big strawbridge. Whatever a strawbridge is. Imagine one.

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