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Tag: translation

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: MANUAL BLUESHIFT

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/

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NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: MANUELL BLÅFÖRSKJUTNING
    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.

~

Notes

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.

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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.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: THE SURFACELESS

Good afternoon! Welcome to this episode of the North of Reality Translation Project, in which I translate stories from Uel Aramchek’s project North of Reality (with permission, of course) into Swedish, and then try to explain to y’all and to myself about translation. The notes are below the story, and today’s story is The Surfaceless, starring you!

You can read the other translation pieces over here: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: DEN YTLÖSA
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Huvudet på din hacka har förstärkts med utarmat uran. Med trötta armar låter du dess skinnbandsinbundna hals falla, och vaxkakan lossnar i tjocka tackor gjorda av en järn- och bivaxlegering. Under nio års ensamt tunnelgrävande genom världens innanmäte har hackan ofta varit din enda vän.

Du hade oturen att födas på en planet utan yta. Dess kärna fungerar som ett slags termodynamisk polstjärna i ett universum som bara har två egentliga riktningar: inåt och utåt. Nära mittpunkten har mänskligheten byggt en sfär av stålstäder på mildtempererat avstånd, omringad av molniga grundvattenmagasin och integröna skogar; bortom dessa ligger det virvlande tektoniska kaos genom vilket du valt att vandra.

En gång i tiden var det här en drillbikupa, men dess bräckliga yttre visar på att den har varit övergiven i decennier. Du gläds åt deras frånvaro, för sådana insekter gör ingen skillnad på sten och kött i sina roterande gaddars vilda borrande. Medan du hackar dig längre in i strukturen lyser din eldlösa fackla upp en invecklad inflätning av svarta hexagoner omkring dig. Några är mindre än dina naglar, andra stora nog att ett barn skulle kunna krypa igenom dem.

Du tar dig in i det allra heligaste. Den forna drottningens endo- och exoskelett sitter kvar på hennes tron som ett antropomorfiskt bennystan. Detta antyder att hon kan ha påbörjat livet som en människa, men om så var fallet är det tydligt att hon nästan helt och hållet var insekt vid slutet. Vid hennes fötter ligger en pöl av obsidianhonung – en gång i tiden var detta en sprudlande fontän, nu endast ett lager sirapglasyr. Först är den nästan helt kristalliserad, men efter några snabba hack från ditt trofasta redskap återgår den till en mjuk konsistens för första gången på decennier.

Du kupar dina händer och lyfter upp honungen till din mun för att ta en djup klunk. Dess söta smak dröjer kvar vid roten av din tunga och gräver sig in i dina drömmar där du finner dig själv utsträckt längst världens kant där du blickar utåt in i ett omöjligt ingenting.

~

Notes

There’s a simple but interesting problem in the first sentence; “been reinforced with depleted uranium” would seem to lend itself to the rather direct translation: armerat(s) med utarmat uran. Unfortunately that is an oxymoron and would disrupt the flow too much, so I opted for förstärka, a less technical and sadly less bad-ass-sounding term.

A technique that comes up from time to time in translation texts as generally good practice is to translate all the tricky phrases first. After you’ve done that you can start worrying about how to glue the words together into sentences, and you see much clearer which areas will be problematic. Doing this, I almost missed that the forests are “nevergreen” rather than “evergreen,” maybe because I thought I had read the story very carefully before. Anyway, that’s obviously a big problem area. Can I find an equivalent pun? Well, yes. The Swedish for evergreen is vintergrön, and “integrön” wouldn’t be too far of a stretch from that. It means not green rather than never green, and at first I was not entirely sure what to feel about it – my dialect makes the pun kind of forced – but I consulted a language friend who speaks closer to the heartland, and I feel better about this decision after that conversation. The pun does in fact work, at least written down or spoken in the standard dialect.

In searching for ways to translate “wander through” I found out that the immediate solution, “genomvandra” — throughwander — apparently means to wander something and exhaust all possible avenues, like some form of scouring. I realized, after that, that the English way to write the sentence also works in Swedish and wouldn’t give the wrong idea about the protagonist’s purpose.

The word “bennystan” is perhaps the most economic translation I’ve done so far, corresponding to “tangle of chitin and bone.” The problem here was that “chitin” does have a correspondent in Swedish but it’s not a well-known word, and writing it out would just be naming an obscure chemical and hoping the audience is familiar with it. The word nystan doesn’t show up on its own very much, and when it does it’s usually a shortened form of garnnystan, a ball of yarn. You’ve got the root in English on loan from, I think, Norwegian, in the form of nostepinne:

Image of a nostepinne with yarn.

Image from tricksyknitter.com/nostepinne. This is a tool for creating balls of yarn, somehow.

Replacing yarn with bone in the Swedish both sounds good and evokes a vivid image (by contrast, “ball of bone” sounds just stupid in English). In other terms, you could say that I omitted the specificity of the skeleton types in order to pack a similar but different punch. It’s at the looser end of the translation spectrum but I think it suits – agglutination (jamming words together, especially nouns) is a technique Uel uses a lot and which suits Swedish very well.

I exchanged the word “saccharine” with the word for syrup, which has similar connotations. And we don’t have saccharine as an adjective in Swedish. We do have sachharin the chemical, of course, but I’ve never known anyone to describe the flavour of things with it. This lack does mean that one connotive element is lost in translation: the small percentage of people whose genes allow them to taste the bitterness of saccharin won’t experience the slight dischord that one has to imagine that they feel whenever people describe sweet things (even overly-sweet or falsely sweet things) as “saccharine.”

~

If you feel such dischord, you might have been pushed into an alternate reality, either recently or as a kid. Haven’t yet found anyone who doesn’t feel this dischord about something. It’s entirely possible that this reality of ours is always already alternate, meaning no-one who lives here comes from here. That’s all I can tell you! CHeck back next week, we’re doing Manual Blueshift, a vignette of weird Americana containing my favourite first line of Uel’s ever.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: DEEP KITCHEN DEFENSE #1

Good morning! Today we’re serving Deep Kitchen Defense #1! Remember that you can and should read Uel’s stories before reading the translation notes at the bottom, you’ll understand more and your head will feel weird because of all the fiction, and it’s great. He’s still writing stories three times a week over at northofreality.com, and you can support him on patreon: patreon.com/uelaramchek

All the pieces in this translation project can be found at this convenient tag: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

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NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: DJUPA KÖKETS FÖRSVAR #1
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

En djupakökskock accepterar bara det bästa: därför bär Du alltid med Dig en revolver. Ingen vet vad som skulle kunna ta sig ur den Svarta Ugnen om dess portlika lucka hålls öppen för länge, men Du som frodas i sådana prekära miljöer kan recepten på gourmetammunition lika väl som en bartender kan sina cocktailformler. Hundratals varianter har utvecklats och flera av de mest eftersökta beskrivs i guiden nedan.

PERSEFONES KYSS: Det självklara valet vid hanteringen av levande döda eller vid vilsegång på fel sida av underjorden. Denna utsökta patron har ett granatäppelfrö till kärna, vilket har doppats i stenkolsvin och nektar från en venus flugfälla, sedan pudrats med himalayasalt. Varje kula har förmågan att gro i kroppar utan puls direkt vid anslag och linda sina aggressiva rötter runt deras skelett. Den fullständiga blandningen höljes i en patronhylsa gjord utav en järn- och valnötslegering.

EN FORNTIDA DESPERADO: Salsa gjord på bläckfiskbläck blandat med riven lemuriansk glaspeppar och flera instabila habaneroisotoper utgör grunden för denna dekadenta projektil, som når sitt mål vid blotta tanken på att dra pistolen. På spetsen av varje kula sitter en tagg från en helveteskaktus ingjuten med en snabbverkande blandning av odört och blixtnedslag.

EFTERRÄTTELSEN: Det veganska alternativet. En enstaka krutgeléböna lindad i antimynta vilar på en bädd av gräddad yellowcakeuran och gelatinerad dynamit. Denna kula dödar aldrig såvida inte en föregående kula har skjutits, och den dödar alltid ifall den är den andra kulan. Spetsen är den svåraste ingrediensen att införskaffa: en svartpärontand. Varje frukt har åtminstone tolv huggtänder tillgängliga – det vill säga, ifall man har tur nog att överleva plockandet.

EN FÖRFÄRLIG FRÄCKHET: Sjöborretaggar som penslats med drakfiskgift och wasabicrema. De mantlas därefter in i stelnande korall. Återstående utrymme i varje patron fylls med högtryckstran och en enda liten droppe sjöjungfrublod. Dessa kulor skär genom vatten lika lätt som luft och möter ingen resistans, varken genom vågor eller skrov.

~

Notes

Straight off the bat, I changed around a lot in the opening paragraph. There were a few technical difficulties, such as the lack of a nice word that carries the air of sophisticated snobbery that “discerning” ball-and-chains around, or the fact that an oven’s door is not a door in Swedish, making it less obvious as a portal (I made it a door-like lucka instead). There’s also the annoying fact that the word for bullet is the same as the common word for testicle so if I spoke about bullets specifically the tone would go to hell as I’d be highfalutinly describing gourmet balls. The less specific ammunition was chosen, surreptitiously. To get the tone right I adopted the voice of a magazine trying to sell its goods slightly more eagerly than in the original, where the text addresses a discerning You, not an abstract discerning chef.

Instead of “these recepts are familiar” I wrote “You know these recipes,” a classic modulation, but one where the know is one of two main Swedish verbs for knowing: kunna. The other one is veta. To explain the difference between these – if you know (kan) German, you know (vet) the difference between these two forms of knowledge. It’s not cut-and-dry of course, because it’s an organic difference rather than an organised one, but one is innate and like a skill, the other is a discrete amount of information. Essentially. Sometimes I forget that this distinction is not exactly there in English, but here it comes in handy because if I wanted to translate kunna in certain English contexts, I might have used the construction be familiar (with).

As in The Glorious Dead, the word centered threw me a little, but I called the pomegranate seed the core of the bullet and that sounded smooth and natural. One cool thing about the processes here is that I’m getting much better at solving these problems quickly, even if they do not have the same solution in two different places (like automaton), because, well, it’s not just knowledge. It’s kunnande, a skill.

As a bonus, my translation of “dealing with the living dead” echoes the title of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s book Hanteringen av odöda (“Handling the Undead” in English). I could have translated it to avoid this, but it would have been circuitous instead of serendipitous, and that sounds sad.

“The Ancient Desperado” sounds exactly like something a Swedish menu would keep in English, so I pondered keeping it, but as a rule you should never include the source language in the finished product. There are a few other ways to say desperado or outlaw, but none evoke that same desert. The next thought I had here was to look at what words they use in the Swedish translation of Lucky Luke, but that didn’t go anywhere. I then thought that the word “desperado” does not shine anglic, though – it sounds Spanish. I understand it to be a Mexican/American term, and that’s enough to let it through the filter I think, so I went with “en forntida desperado” – a direct translation except that I changed the definite article to an indefinite one so I didn’t have to inflect “desperado.”

The pun of “just desserts” feels untranslatable and once again I am tempted to leave it as is. A good approximation would perhaps involve a pun coinciding the different meanings of rätt (meaning a right or a dish). Efterrättelse, a portmanteau of efterrätt (dessert) and upprättelse (redress, or satisfaction) seems to do the trick, though it’s not as smooth as “just desserts” and a bit off as a name, but it will do.

I can’t quite visualize what a wasabi crema would be but in doing research for it I learnt that crema in English isn’t just a fancy word for saying cream, like crème is. Probably everybody else knew this before me, and also that the word is the same in Swedish because it’s just imported directly from Italian. I think I have drunk coffee like twice in my life. Anyway: a wasabi crema is maybe a special foam harvested from horseradish espressos. Unless, maybe, it’s a typo for cream. (If it was at first I don’t think it is now.)

The way to say “full metal jacket” in Swedish is “helmantlad ammunition,” apparently, so I turned the verbed-turned-adjective in that phrase back into a verb where “wrapped” would go, and it sounds rather smooth, I’d say. Doesn’t pack quite the same punny punch as “full coral jacket” but still.

Finally, there was the issue of “droplet.” It’s not much of an issue, but worth mentioning. Diminutives are splendid. Unfortunately, translating with diminutives intact in this case was impossible, so I added a “liten” (“little”) before the drop instead. It’s very easy for diminutives and other meaning-altering suffixes to go lost in translation, so, like, be aware and stuff.

~

This has been this week’s edition of the North of Reality Translation Project, and I have been your host, Johannes Punkt. This phrasing mysteriously implies that I will stop being that person now, until next week, but I will actually keep being me, believe it or not.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: THE LOCOMOTIVE CONSTELLATION

Good! You’re here. We were about to start without you. This week in the North of Reality Translation Project we have a story called The Locomotive Constellation. As usual, English translation notes are below the story. All the other entries in the project can be found at the following link, or it can now anyway. I realized yesterday I’d forgot to tag one, as I foolishly prophesied almost at the beginning of the project. I’ll keep a more vigilant eye out in the future. The link comes now: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: STJÄRNBILDEN LOKOMOTIVET
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

”Det sägs att vårt universum existerar som en transportled för att föra det stora intet från ett ställe till ett annat.” Hon talade med det där omotiverade tonläget som var vanligt hos regeringsanställda orakel. ”Ditt horoskop är ett utmärkt exempel på detta. Du föddes när månen stod i lokomotivets hus. Lokomotivet för mörker mellan två av våra grannliggande verkligheter.”

”Varför skulle de handla med mörker snarare än ljus?” frågade hennes klient. Han var inte vidskeplig, men de krävde ändå att han genomgick en astrologisk kontroll innan han kunde anställas av posten.

”Likviditet i marknaden,” svarade kvinnan bakom disken. Hon var van vid att klienter var olustiga inför det här konceptet. ”Ljus är mörker som redan bestämt precis vad det är det vill vara. En foton är en foton tills den dag den brinner ut. Däremot har den tomma rymden mellan stjärnorna potential att bli vad som helst, vilket är varför den alltid är efterfrågad. Det finns ett gammalt ordspråk, ’en tom låda är värdelös för människor och oskattbar för gudar.’ Tror det var Mark Twain som sade det. Förmodligen.”

”Och vad betyder det för mig?”

”Det betyder att du bär med dig en stor mängd potential som inte kommer förverkligas förrän ditt nästa liv.” Hon ryckte på axlarna. ”Du bor bara här tillfälligt, som en passagerare i vårt universum. Kanske blev du utkastad ur ditt förra, eller så lämnade du det frivilligt. I vilket fall kunde din själ inte bo där du kom ifrån. Oturligt nog för dig indikerar det här inte bara dålig framtida prestanda, utan det räknas också som smuggling enligt lagen.”

”Ursäkta mig?”

Hon stämplade på ett stort X på hans horoskop och gav honom en kopia. ”Ditt ärende kommer att vara färdighandlagt någon gång inom två månader, då du förmodligen kommer få hem en kallelse till domstol. Jag skulle själv rekommendera att du ser till att amputera din skugga innan det händer.”

~

Notes

Omission is an interesting and infuriating translation tactic, along with the curious periphrasis that appears in translation. Often when you try to figure out the best way to translate something – such as the metaphorical/analogical “pipeline” – all the officially translated documents you peruse just conveniently sidestep it.

I’m using linguee a lot, because it’s a database of mostly EU documents, and they have to be as identical as possible with their source. But translators learn to write around the metaphors. Although “pipeline” in that sense doesn’t appear very often in such documents, I have learned that there is no good translation of it.

I believe that if you use too many pragmatic solutions in a translation you get stuck with a text written in a dialect of translationese. The rhythm gets thrown off, or something. It’s just a hunch. Anyway, I found a synonym instead: transportled, meaning “transport route.” Not ideal, but decent, and there are enough indicators of it outside the phrase that it needs no exploding.

The word “teller” caused some problems because of the money-connotation that did not feel necessary. I got the sense that the bureaucratic overtones (or are they undertones? I always mix them up) were more important. So the teller became the woman behind the desk.

The astrological vocabulary in this one necessitated me reading a bunch of astrological websites in Swedish and I was a bit uneasy about that. “Chart” and “star chart” I both called “horoskop,” which seems to be the only word used for that kind of document/diagram. I guess I’m just feeling uneasy about it because it’s not a field I read or talk in very much. Still, I see no improvements to be made here, and I see more interesting metaphor-wrangling to be done elsewhere. I really like this story for the Big Idea in it, and also for the fact that if the dude hadn’t kept asking questions, it seems like he’d not have found out that he was a smuggler at all. (Also also for the fact that now if someone says the word ‘voidmule’ you’ll know what they’re talking about.)

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: VANISHING POINT

Good Tuesday! Numerologically speaking, Tuesday could mean anything. Today’s translation is of a story called Vanishing Point.

English translation notes 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: FLYKTPUNKT
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Först trodde vi att horisontklyvaren bara var en myt. Det lät mest som en parodi på atombomben, någonting inspirerat av skräcken i att se någonting odelbart lemlästas av modern vetenskap. Ryktet gick från radio till radio att den var på väg, vilket vi först avfärdade som desinformation från fienden, bara ett till av många försök att sporra vår rädsla. I slutändan gjorde det ingenting om så var fallet eller inte, för bomben kunde göra sitt jobb utan att existera alls.

Konflikten var inte ens på samma skala som ”världskrig.” Den hade sedan länge expanderat bortom världens kända gränser genom användandet av ”icketraditionell geografi.” Forskare på alla sidor arbetade dygnet runt för att injicera nya slagfält i planetens mellan-rum. Detta tillät konflikten att växa utan att riskera en apokalyps; däremot resulterade det också i framträdandet av påverkan från yttre krafter. Vi kände inte längre igen uniformerna på soldaterna vi slogs mot, eller språket de pratade, eller vapnen de använde. Våldet spreds snabbare än det kunde bli förstått, närt av det stora intet.

När den föll satt jag och överlevarna av min skvadron och ockuperade en skyskrapa någonstans i ruinerna av New Miami. Effekterna var små till en början. Långt borta började himmel och hav virvla samman till ett fingeravtryck. En stund var det storslaget, ett allt mer komplicerat mönster som flätade samman moln och stjärnor och solljus till någonting omöjligt. Men när tillochmed våra spegelbilder i fönstren började förvridas visste vi att dess skönhet inte kunde vara för evigt.

När spänningen inte kunde vridas upp mer slets havet upp, först på diagonalen, för att blotta den nakna huden av en andra himmel undertill. Det som en gång varit horisonten förvreds till ett par stridande hyperbeler där varje kurva sträckte sig efter sin egen oändlighet. Den nya gravitationen slet oss åt sidan och vi kikade ner genom fönstren vid våra fötter. Såg på medan närliggande byggnader flög upp som raketer in i det oändliga vattenfallet som höll på att ta form ovan oss. De två atmosfärerna började utväxla hårda vindar som gjorde det svårt att andas nere på ytan.

Vi höll tag i väggarna så hårt vi kunde i timmar. Bad tyst. Sparade på syret. Till slut hörde vi molnläggarnas ankomst. Deras kolossala propellrar kunde knappt höras över blåsten. De släppte sin last och seglade ihop himlen med anpassningsbart betongfyrverkeri. I en plötslig kollaps återvände gravitationen till sitt ursprungstillstånd, vilket resulterade i en vidrig skur av fisk och tång och skaldjur över allt som var kvar. Det var över.

Vi försökte fira, eftersom vi överlevt, eftersom det är sådant man måste göra om man överlevt. Vi vandrade genom bombens plaskiga spår och valde och vrakade mellan det bästa köttet som fortfarande var intakt. Vi grillade blåfisk och svärdfisk och hummer i dekadenta högar men chocken var för stor för de flesta av oss att faktiskt äta något. En rutten doft trängde igenom allt och allt som fanns kvar av havet var pölar av saltvatten som skvalpade i kalkartad dy. Här fanns ingen seger att finna.

Även om vår verklighet är tillfälligt stabil har kriget bara växt sedan dess. Vår tidigare runda värld böjer sig inte längre på samma sätt och somliga säger att den aldrig kommer göra det. Flottan har uppdragit åt vetenskapen att skapa ett nytt, djupare hav som kan klara av fler skeppsvrak för att hålla jämn takt med deras prognoser. Vad gäller min skvadron har vi sedan länge stationerats på himlens innersida för att kämpa mot vad som än lyckas ta sig genom himlens sprickor. Dock finns det inte jättemånga sådana. Molnläggarna var väldigt noggranna.

~

Notes

A fun thing about many Germanic languages, especially the Scandinavian ones, is the V2 rule. It’s one of the more obvious structural differences between Swedish and English, once you know it’s there. Essentially: where English can have sentences that go ASVO or AASV, for example, in Swedish the verb has to be places in the second slot: AVSO or AVSA, for example. This creates endless trouble when translating from languages like French where they like to frontload their sentences.

It’s okay if that didn’t make sense. It probably didn’t unless you’ve taken a linguistics course. I’ll explain with fully fleshed out examples also: English can have sentence that go “Yesterday, we did something” or even “Yesterday, in Copenhagen, we danced,” in Swedish you need to place the verb second. It sounds something like: “Yesterday did we something” or “Yesterday danced we in Copenhagen,” except it actually sounds nice in Swedish because that’s how we talk it. (You can find some fossils in English from a time when English still had the V2 rule, by the by. I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.)

It is often for this reason that I have to completely rearrange Uel’s sentences in Swedish. However, it is important for dramatic tension and such to keep the flow of information roughly the same in both languages. There’s a bunch of theory on how we construct sentences, where we put new information and such, but fiction and poetry bends those rules a bit. However, in creative writing the most important words still hover around the punctuation, especially the full stops. Like moths. In the beginning of sentences, and in the end.

What this commentary is leading up to is that this clause was difficult to translate: “in turn, however, outside influences had begun to emerge.” Just wanted to point that out, partly so that I don’t forget it when I reread this. I ended up turning “in turn” into a verb as an experimental solution and I liked it a lot, so I left it there in the V2 slot, thinking that it wouldn’t mind trading places with “however” so very much. Anyway, onto less long-winded explanations of difficulties:

Sadly, because the Swedish word for concrete is not the opposite of the word for abstract, we lose that connotation. I felt this inevitable and didn’t fight it. I read somewhere that brains are good at intuiting what problems can be solved by doggedness and which are impossible, and so I trusted my brain’s guts here. Additionally, I didn’t find a good biblical adjective meaning giant for “leviathan” so I switched to Greek-influenced things and plucked “colossal.”

I’m kind of proud of how I rendered the word “in-between spaces.” Space can be translated as mellanrum, the same as the key on your keyboard. Otherwise it’s usually translated as rum (room) or rymd ((outer) space). In-between means roughly the same thing as “mellan” so that’s a conundrum. I wrote it as mellan-rum, not only keeping the dash from the original but introducing an in-between space into an already existing word to give it a new meaning. Otherwise it would have just meant something like “a hollow.”

And on a personal note, the phrase “a second sky” has been happily burned into my mind from reading this story, and many a thing have grown from it.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: THE HELL CACTUS

Good $TIME! The laws of nature have shifted gently to the side, as though sidling closer to someone they like, causing untold destruction. It is Tuesday. I’ve got a translation for you today, and you can and should read Uel Aramchek’s original at this hyperlink: The Hell Cactus. What the hell, cactus.

As usual there are translation notes in a language you can read (provided you can read this sentence) at the bottom of the post. This is the twelfth piece, which is not a significant number in any real way as far as I can tell, in the context of this blog post series. All the same, you can read the other eleven pieces here: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

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

En kväll kom min rumskamrat tillbaks från ett svartspeceri i västra stan. Hon hade på sig en sån där tung militärjacka i bomullstyg, nyligen nerstänkt med nån slags indigoblå vätska som jag senare skulle få reda på var någontings blod. ”Kolla här.” Hon hivade upp en glasburk med båda händerna och smällde ner den på bordet. En varelse syntes därinne, täckt med tentakler och taggar utan någon urskiljbar egen kropp där den plaskade runt i samma blåa goja. ”Dom lät mig välja en från tanken helt själv.”

Det var inte första gången hon gjort en sån utflykt; för ett par månader sen hade hon tatt hem en gigantisk hög ätbara fyrverkerier som vi satte i oss under ett Vänner-maraton. Men det här var ett steg längre, att köpa en utrotningshotad art att hacka upp och tillaga levande, särskilt en som var alldeles i stånd till att döda oss bägge två. Den agarthanska helveteskaktusen var inget att skämta om – efter att man ryckt upp den från sina rötter kan den överleva hur länge som helst så länge den är nersänkt i syrebefriat blod med stadig tillgång till nytt; annars blir den uttråkad och börjar jaga nya källor att torka ut med sina blodtörstiga sländor.

Jag ville mest säga ”vad i helvete” men jag kunde inte säga nåt alls. Jag såg bara på när dess femtidollarrankor gned sig mot glaset och jag undrade om hon skulle ringa polisen ifall de började slingra sig runt min nacke, eller om hon ens skulle ha råd med hyran efter det här. I varje fall höll vi med varandra om att vi måste äta den förbannade saken färsk för att hon skulle få valuta för pengarna.

Vi grubblade över vad vi skulle göra med den under tre kvällar. Vi kom på en rad strategier i köket, sätt att försäkra oss om att vi dödade den innan den kunde klänga fast sig vid en av oss. Det var Rube-Golbergkombinationer av köttyxor, kokande vatten, en mixer, vadsomhelst vi hade i köket övervägdes. Varje gång den ena eller den andra av oss lade händerna på burken för att verkställa planen reagerade dock kaktusen på vår kroppsvärme och började piska och fräsa vilt, så vi drog oss undan.

Till slut började den skrumpna och hoppade inte längre mot oss när vi kom närmre; den bara rosslade dystert. Den kunde inte längre hålla uppe sitt våldsamma beteende. Den spenderade det mesta av sin tid med att försöka hålla sig varm med sina utlöpare ihopkurade inunder sig. När vi såg det kändes tanken av att äta den bara sorglig. Vi kastade ut burken ur fönstret, såg kaktusen kila iväg, och nämnde det aldrig igen.

~

Notes

I wanted to translate this one into less highbrow language than usual. It seemed to be a good idea, because of the more casual narrating in this story. I ran into a problem here with the word approach, however, which is best translated as nalkas. This is a delicious word that I use whenever I can justify it, although one should, alas, prioritize the flow of the piece over the individual delectability of any one word. Using it in this sense would really trip up readers and make everything sound like it was written in 1950.

Fun fact about the word for “something” in Swedish – there are three ways to write/say it, depending on how formal you want to be. Many other words of the some-family have similar variations, usually only a choice between two. I had some fun with the casual and serious levels in this one, afforded by the decision to translate into casual writing – especially in the first paragraph. Essentially, you can say “någonting” (formal or at least elaborate), “något” (neutral), or “nåt” (informal). In the opening I used “sån” (informal) instead of “sådan” (formal) and “nån” (informal) instead of “någon” (…not informal) to indicate the level of formality, but then I wrote “something’s blood” as “någontings blod.” This word choice indicates the slight panic and out-of-their-depth-ness in the narrator’s voice, or that’s what I hope at least. It has a powerful position (the end of a long sentence) in Uel’s English, so I tried to maintain that impact.

Uel describes the cactus spines as needles at one point, which is a nice difficult blur of meanings, calling on the function of a syringe and the cactusoidal shape of a pincushion. How to recreate this? The answer probably has something to do with Sleeping Beauty, who is known as Törnrosa in Swedish. This version of Sleeping Beauty’s name seems to be rendered as “Briar Rose” in English, which I think explains it rather well. Thornrose doesn’t sound very feminine, I guess. My translation evokes Törnrosa and her thorns without mentioning her.

In fact, the translation that I went with obscures the imagery much more than in Uel’s version, but I feel it is justified. One of the most rewarding things about short, well-crafted stories like this is that they reveal more when you investigate them. So the bloodthirsty needles became spindles, ”sländor” – a word that first and foremost means a type of flying insect of a particular shape, think mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies. Those meanings are noise for this use, but they’re a good noise, I feel.

Perhaps, if I had thought of it at a time before right now, five minutes before posting this piece, it would have been a good idea to prime the sewing connotations by using a phrase connected to needle and thread. All the ones I can think of at the moment don’t fit as synonyms for anything in the same paragraphs. But it’s a good thought and so I’m writing it down.

Because I’ve picked a much more oral version of Swedish to write in here than I usually do, I could use less correct-seeming phrasures, such as rendering “spend time” literally. (See last week’s notes on why some people are irked by this.)

The word “appendage” caused me some headache, because as far as I can see there is no equivalent word in Swedish that can imply both plant and animal “limbs” at least not in this context. You can say armar, “arms,” but that seems wrong. So I went with an all-plant word, utlöpare, suggested to me by a botany friend. A good thing about this word is that it means “offshoot” and thus suggests/collaborates the nice violent draining process already hinted at in the piece.

Next week’s piece is “Vanishing Point”!

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: DEATH OF A JOURNALIST

Good afternoon! Today’s translated piece is Death of a Journalist. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story. If you speak a Germanic language but not Scandinavian, you should try to read everything out anyway, and you’ll be surprised at how much you understand from just the sounds (and from having read the original, I guess). Follow this link for the rest of the pieces in this series: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: EN JOURNALISTS DÖD
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Efter journalistens död blev han mummifierad i tidningspapper från fjärran länder. De som deltog i jordfästningen såg in i hans sarkofag och läste om hur han hade dömts till elektriska stolen i de agarthanska förorterna, den hemska jaktolyckan som hade tagit hans hjärtslag ifrån honom vid utkanten av Eldorado och krokodilen som hade slitit ut hans strupe i kloakerna under New York. Tydligen hade också en skarpskytt tvingat livet ur honom när han var i tjänst som krigskorrespondent i Troja. Varenda centimeter hud och varje hypotetiskt sår skymdes av motsägelse.

Den enda berättelse som de flesta trodde på var den som täckte hjärtat: att han hade lönnmördats i den grå staden efter att ha fått reda på för mycket om stadens innanmäte. Gravplundrare på jakt efter sanningen skulle senare gräva fram liket ur jorden och slita av omslaget. Till deras stora förvåning tillhörde kroppen inuti sarkofagen någon helt annan, vilket förstörde alla kvarvarande teorier; men vem den än tillhörde hade han genomlidit varenda ett av de dödliga sår som det stod skrivet om på utsidan.

~

Notes

I’m always a bit wary of the phrases that sound calquish. A prime example of this is the phrase “spendera tid,” which obviously comes from the English “spend time.” Stuck-up people use this obvious heritage to say that it’s bad Swedish, but it’s really not – it’s been in the language for three generations at least, probably longer. That is to say, it’s older than basically all the people wailing about the death of the Swedish tongue. There are more arguments about this, they’re all inane. Sorry.

All the same, I would not like my translations (nor my own writing) to look as though they’re full of bad calquified strata of Swenglish phrases. Therefore, I am cautious about the phrase “take a bullet” – in Swedish, after a comparatively cursory investigation, it seems to only exist in the phrase corresponding to “take a bullet for someone.”

Translation, as they say, is by nature one of the most conservative uses of language (after perhaps writing laws and wedding invitations). Although that is not entirely true – the translator must stick to treaded ground as much as possible, but many are the inventive texts that have been squandered by a limiting translation. The best option for translating “Apparently had even taken a sharpshooter’s bullet” that I found was to write “Tydligen hade tillochmed en skarpskytt tvingat livet ur honom,” which we can backtranslate to apparently, a sharpshooter had forced the life out of him also.

There are a one or two other loose translations like such in this piece, maybe because my brain was configured a particular way when I set about mapping out the translation of it, or maybe because of something in the source language. Most clearly, the “inner workings” of the city became “stadens innanmäte,” the guts of the city. It’s not entirely analogous, although some synonym lists put “innards” and “inner workings” in the same column. I had a long and boring thought process about it and in the end I picked it because it sounded right. That’s also why I used the word for grave-robbers instead of the one for grave-diggers, in the second paragraph. Sounding right is what it comes down to, always.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: THE GLORIOUS DEAD

Good! You’re here. Just in time. Today’s story is one of ethereal awesomeness in the full sense of the word, The Glorious Dead.

I’ve received two of Uel Aramchek’s secret fictions now, and they’re amazing. There is a nowness to them. These are not things meant to go down in history, but they are experienced now and then sunk. It is a bit like going to poetry readings five hundred years ago. There is some power in the secrecy. You can join the exclusive club here: patreon.com/uelaramchek?ty=h

Translation notes in English, as usual, are to be found at the bottom of the post. If you would like to contact me about translations or stories or ideas, my email is johannespunkt at gmail dot com. You can find the rest of the translations in this project at this link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: DE UNDERBARA DÖDA
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Inte mer än minuter efter det att viruset tog deras liv började offren växa sina första fjädrar. Varje plym var gyllene och genomskinlig och skimrade violett och smaragdgrönt. Metamorfosen ägde rum ögonblicken efteråt; deras pupiller virvlade utåt tills de var avgrundslika spiraler, deras lockar vällde fram i lejonlika manar, och all färg i deras blod avtog tills det var klart som regnvatten.

Vi föreställde oss aldrig att zombierna skulle vara vackrare än oss själva. Det svåraste med att slåss tillbaka var hur de sjöng när de närmade sig, ljuva och främmande psalmer i ett språk som bara kunde talas med flera röster åt gången. Varenda en av dem var en änglakör i sig själv. Det var svårt att tro att det fanns något värde i att vara vid liv ifall döden kunde se så här ut, men likväl stod vi på oss.

De som såg på dem med avund i blicken var de första som gav vika. Vad gäller överlevarna tog vi upp våra vapen, våra pilar och våra svärd och vi tog isär dem. De var perfekta från insidan och ut – benen vi hämtade från liken kunde till och med användas som prismor. Nu när allt är över finns det samlare som köper och säljer deras fjädrar på marknaden. För någon som mig finns det dock bara skam i att ens titta på dem.

Jag hemsöks av sånger jag aldrig kommer höra igen. I mina drömmar låter jag deras kristallina tänder sjunka ner i min vanliga dödliga hud och då, då kan jag godta att bli någonting fulländat snarare än förruttnat.

~

Notes

The word “centered” (especially in comnbination with “accents”) posed a problem here, because I found no real equivalence in Swedish. I didn’t find this meaning in the dictionary either, but to me that sentence seems to mean that the feather’s centre area (spol in Swedish, apparently, if you were curious. Or maybe spole; I’m extrapolating from other terms) is golden and there are hints and accents of violet and clover (which I rendered as smaragd, “emerald” to keep the feeling more than the exact colour) at the tips of each featherbarb. I wrote this instead as the feathers shimmering with the accent colours, I imagine like the rainbow you can see in oil leaks and such.

I added the word “vanliga,” usual/normal, to “mortal” to suggest the right kind of mortality, because otherwise it seems the flesh is deadly. “Vanliga dödliga” is a common idiomatic phrase meaning “‘mortals.”

I had trouble with the combination of spiral as a verb and whorl as a noun, because the cognates of those – spiral and virvel/virvla – work best in the other configuration, until I realized I could just translate “spiral” into “virvla” and “whorl” into “spiral.” The rest was straightforward or things I’ve already gone over until the last three words, where some poetry had to be involved. According to this handy graph that I made, the words perfection and putrefaction are alike:

A hand-drawn Venn diagram with one circle containing the letter E, one side containing the letters UTA, and their intersection containing the letters PREFCTION.

This requires there to be at least some semblance between the two words. This proved a bit difficult. I initially wanted two noun phrases but the only two acceptable direct translations of “perfection” are perfektion and fulländning. There’s no noun, as far as I can find, that half-rhymes with either and means ‘rot.’ So I went over to verbs, for which fullända and förruttna work pretty well. I couldn’t separate them with just one word, which is a shame, but I think this translation holds up. As a final touch, I glitched the word “then” – – and had it repeat once in order to get the same sense of arrest right before the final clause.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: DARK TAXIDERMY

Good afternoon. You know the drill by now probably! Today’s piece is Dark Taxidermy. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story, so even if you don’t know Swedish you can enjoy the thing. You can find all entries in this project neatly organised at the following link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

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

För en del kanadensiska jägare var det inte tillräckligt att göra troféer av sina villebråds kroppar. Ett visst jaktsällskap i Newfoundland utvecklade en teknik för att stoppa djurskinn med träskelett och glasorgan för att låta dem återgå till det vilda. Det främsta återuppväckningsmedlet var artificiellt blod med en formel som innehöll, bland annat, björnbärssirap och svartkrut och krossade eldflugor.

Dessa mekaniska varelser återvände till skogen som parior. De erkändes inte av sina egna arter. Det är oklart huruvida de identifierade med sin egen päls eller om de helt enkelt såg den som någon slags klädnad. Om de verkligen var samma djur eller inte efter prepareringen var en fråga ingen kunde ge definitivt svar på, men beteendeskillnaden var tydlig för vilken betraktare som helst. Deras ben böjdes på underliga håll och deras huvud verkade endast blicka åt ett håll.

För jägarna som beställde dem blev sådana troféer inte stilla påminnelser av deras triumf över naturen utan gav dem alla en chans att återuppleva den gång på gång. De återvände till skogen när än nostalgi grep tag i dem och spårade upp dessa varelser de lämnat kvar som släpade sig fram i fuguetillstånd, för att skjuta ihjäl dem en gång till. Deras omtåliga inälvor splittrades lätt, vilket framkallade en tillfredsställande explosion av lila vätska då kulan kolliderade med kroppen. Det var aldrig helt och hållet samma sak som den första gången, men det var mycket mer spännande än blotta minnet.

De som hade råd till det fick sina favorittroféer återuppbyggda igen och igen. Till slut var skinn och päls alldeles värdelösa, ty det var antalet glashjärtan en man hade splittrat som tydligast vittnade om hans rikedom.

~

Notes

Svart = black. The svart- in the title is the same black as in “the black market,” or the same dark as in “the dark arts” (svartkonster). Also, svarttaxi already means “irregulated taxicab (service),” so we’ve got echoes of that.

I also got to use the word villebråd, which technically means game rather than prey, but a) I really like that word and b) the predator/prey structure (one might even call it a discourse) doesn’t translate as well onto humans in Swedish as it does in English. It works, for sure, but it’s not as widely adapted. Or it’s adapted in other ways, at least.

“Sporting lodge” had to become “jaktsällskap” (hunting society) because I found no smooth way to communicate the concept of a sporting lodge. However, I would call them synonymous (i.e. not equivalent but close, corresponding). A much smaller thing that I changed was the list with the Oxford comma at the end of the first paragraph. The Oxford comma is incorrect in Swedish, and I thought the comma placement looked too messy without it so I made the list a succession of “and”s instead.

And here the word automaton stumped me again. Robot seems the wrong word to describe reanimated flesh, does it not? I’ve not translated this word the same way twice so far, and that has not been intentional but it seems to be becoming a trend. Zombie seemed the wrong choice partly because of the pop-mythology around it and partly because Swedish learnt the word from English, and rather recently, so I’d rather not use it anywhere other than where it says zombie in the original. I went with saying they were in “fuguetillstånd,” fugue state, because ambulatory automatism is a psychological term and this was fitting. Also, with the musical overtones to that word I would like to be seen suggesting, ever so slightly, that their state has indeed been orchestrated.

In the last paragraph we’ve got a curious case of what might be called the “middle voice.” Or, it’s a standard case of the middle voice, but it’s curious because it’s the middle voice at all. That is, it’s the thing between passive voice and active voice, not officially part of English. The only language I know off the top of my head where it shows up is Greek, but phrases like “got his hair cut” or “had her toenails removed” are usually used to illustrate the concept. In Swedish, the verb for get, , is usually used in such constructions.

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: CURTAIN CALL

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/

~

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.

~

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.