NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: ON IMMORTALITY

by johannespunkt

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/

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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.

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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.

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Gosh. Next week: Roosevelt National Labyrinth.

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