by johannespunkt

Good god, you’re here already.

Welcome to the North of Reality translation project! If you’re new here, it’s a project I have where I translate some of my favourite stories by Uel Aramchek into Swedish and then, in English, discuss the difficulties and magics of translating them. If you’re not new here, those facts still remain, I just said that “if you’re new here” thing to trick you. Today’s story is Manual Blueshift. You can read all the other translation pieces here: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/


    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

”Världen går under, det kommer den alltid att göra.” De nio orden prydde sidan av hans toriumdrivna långtradare: ett tecken på sällsynt optimism för någon som korsade vad som återstod av det amerikanska motorvägssystemet. Chefen hade sagt åt honom att han skulle frakta åttioåtta tunnor änglablod och i dagens ekonomi skulle han gå med på att tro på det – men han hade längesedan lärt sig att inte bli för nyfiken när det gällde den här sortens klientel. Allra troligast var det här bara en till omgång tungt vatten. Det var vad han upprepade för sig själv, i alla fall.

Vägen till Detroit visade sig dock vara ovanligt envis. Han kunde se radiotornens onaturliga röda blinkande runtomkring sig. Horisonten drog sig tillbaka från honom, stod emot hans närmanden i takt med att det lokala rummet sträcktes ut under hans hjul. Rovåskmoln närmade sig hastigt i backspegeln obehindrade av denna relativistiska avvikelse. Vitt brus kapade ljudanläggningen och gav rum åt en efterhängsen tolkning av ”Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Vad det än var han fraktade ville himlarna ha det tillbaka.

Denna långtradarchaffis hade andra planer. Han grep tag i ett plasthandtag bakom radion och ryckte våldsamt ner den högra sidan av instrumentbrädan. Bakom den satt en spak utslätad med störläder som har till knopp en enda safir – hans katastrofplan. Att dra i spaken skulle kosta honom tio lakan, men det var bättre än att hamna i helvetet. Han tryckte fingret mot juvelen och slet ner mekanismen så långt den gick.

Tjerenkovstrålning bubblade ut ur hastighetsmätaren. Radiotornens fjärran ljus började pulsera med hallonblått bifall, och ”Radar Love” tog över efter fördömda cowboys sorgsna sånger. Vägen vred sig och skummade bakom honom och hans långfinger höjdes mot molnen i fjärran.



It felt important to keep the first sentence nine words long. Perhaps out of numerological reasons? It was a strong hunch, the way people reading Adorno get hunches, I think.

There is a bonus connotation in the translation of “resisted his approach;” the best word for “approach” also happens to mean something like a come-on or attempt at flirting.

I wemt back and forth on whether to translate “heavens” into the plural or the singular. On one hand it is more colloquial to only have one heaven in Swedish, but on the other multiple heavens imply a strange hierarchical system and biblical references, and sounds cooler, and doesn’t sound like poor Swedish. So plural they be.

The word “churned” became two words — roughly twisted and frothed, respectively — because I found this the smoothest way to explain it. There is allegedly a reflexive verb one can use in these situations but I couldn’t find a good citation that unambiguously described the sea churning with that verb, for example, so I played the safe card.

In this story we also encounter a translation problem that I’m surprised we’ve not encountered before – expertise. It’s possible to look up vocabulary, of course, but I cannot claim to actually know which bits of relativity are at play and violatedin this story. I stared at the words “local space” and “global space” a lot in a lot of different contexts, and it seems the way to say it in Swedish is just a direct translation of “local” and “space,” but there’s something Chinese Room over the whole thing when I feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about. I could of course just ask Uel to explain it, but I’m trying to train up the translationy skills that presume the death of the author, just in case I end up translating a lot of political tracts from 18th century Boston or something, where the author is not actually available due to being dead both literally and literarily. Translators worry a lot about minimising the work done, but I am not, at this stage, worried about that. I think if I were, the literature would suffer. I will at some point need to learn to switch between the economic and pragmatic way of thinking that will get you paid and the langorous one that produces good literature.

(That commentary was written a long time ago and I have learnt a bunch of such skills now. I used them at an introductory exam, in which I was probably too literary because I produced some succinct and florid metaphors, but what can you do? Maybe next week I will have the results from that exam.)

Maybe I already know a little bit of that, because I did not translate the pun in the title. Titles, being paratext, are not as sacrosanct as the body of the text. By which I mean, I don’t think neglecting to include that in my rendition of the title is going to make a reader experience less of this story. Later in the project I’m translating the story Choking Hazard though, which is a whole nother deal.


Thanks for reading! I love you! You can trick me into loving you by just reading this outro instead of reading the whole post. That would be cruel of you.