Knowledge is Power

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

 Exposure to different genres and literature can allow one to broaden their personal perspective. After taking taking this course, I gained knowledge on African and Mexican literature, which are works that I had never been exposed to prior.

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The African historical significance of Baho! by Roland Rugero reflected language of power because it explained the horrifying attributes people attained during the war. Literature has the power to transform the past to hold importance with those of the present. Personally, I was not educated on such African history, but I am now impacted by the awareness of the information.

The novel, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera brings up the controversial perspective of the border between Mexico and the United States. The emotions and actions of those dealing with such conditions became aware to me, as I was exposed to this controversy through literature.

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Literature gives the reader a chance to be exposed to issues and thoughts they may or may not personally understand. By having people gain knowledge on different cultures and society’s impact on such cultures, one can be more accepting and understanding of diverse concepts.

I believe more courses should choose works from different lingual translations or cultures. Diversity is an important societal construct that more readers should be exposed to.

Readers should take the time to dissect and educate themselves on foreign literary genres and translations. I am glad this course is part of my major’s curriculum, because I have greater respect for works that I would not have read otherwise.

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All knowledge is power.

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Does language unite or segregate society?

There are 6909 total languages currently in the world. If you went to a country where they spoke a language you do not understand, would you feel segregated? Roland Rugero explores this language barrier in his novel, Baho!, through his mute main character Nyamuragi.

Little and LargeWith tensions high in Burundi due to the war, people are on their toes and more protective of those in their particular societies.  Nyamuragi gets blamed for raping a fourteen year old girl, however that is not necessarily the case. Because he is mute, he cannot defend himself or have people see the situation from his point of view.

This language barrier between him and his people made him feel alone and helpless. He tries to defend himself but, “The pain of misunderstanding… He fails. He wants to explain himself. But in a squirming that reads like a new attempt to fee, there seems to be only one response” (21). Miscommunication lead to violence, because most saw him as a threat.

Understanding language is more important than most believe. It is how humans communicate their knowledge and stories. If one is not able to vocally speak, human nature should try to understand them in other ways, rather than just to resort to violence.

Nyamuragi,  “Foaming at the mouth, the mute has accepted his lot. He has ceased to offer upany resistance: Yes, he is everything, even evil incarnate” (31). His human spirit and being had no other option than to accept his fate, due to the fact that the people were not willing to understand his side of the story. It was easier for them to execute Nyamuragi than take the time to hear both sides.

maxresdefaultThe author makes it clear to the audience the importance language has on culture and everyday communication. Times of war make it hard for people to see the goodness in human nature, making it easy to kill one who threatens their livelihood. There is a consequence of language, due to the possible miscommunications and confused meaning that can occur.

Will language be Nyamuragi’s innocent downfall? Read Roland Rugero’s, Baho!, to find out.

 

Nighttime: A perfect setting for sex, scandal and survival

Nighttime gives people an excuse to become risky. In Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s novel, Tram 83, workers, prostitutes and tourists come out of their hiding places to pursue the lavish, inappropriate setting of the tram. Because it is the only entertainment club in central Africa, Tram 83 offers plenty of sketchy and wild opportunities for those who attend. Mujila uses the image of night to illustrate the steps some must take in surviving and how the darkness entails manipulation among human nature.

The City-State the tram resides in is a mining town, where most of the male workforce consisted of miners. After mining all day, they were desperate to escape the lives they had lived hours earlier, and the fact that they will never resort to any job better than that. This type of human condition can result in careless and unbecoming behavior. Those workers that appeared at night, “knew the plot, the prosody of events, the convulsion of circumstances, the gloomy processions toward the unknown,” (Kindle Loc 2505). They used the naughty and improper environment of Tram 83 to numb their troubles away. Most looked at prostitutes, alcohol, music, and violent actions as an escape from the poverty of their lives. The night allowed them to avoid their problems.

By 10 pm, Tram 83 is filled with those whom live to drown their lives in temporary pleasures. Nighttime became a “symbol of society in perfect harmony, intermixed, intermingled…forced infatuations and premature ejaculations” (Kindle Loc 830). The darkness allowed society to accept cheaters having sex in the bathroom with underage women, because everyone knew that when the sun came up, none of it would matter. The money given to tips of those who could give minute pleasures was not wasted in their eyes, because all people wanted was to forget the tragedy of the present.

Nighttime legalized sex, scandal and any ways of survival. Human nature will do anything when it’s desperate. How does one survive nights like these? Read this novel to find out.  

WHAT IS ON MAKINA’S MIND: INTIMACY OR SEX?

A question raised when reading Signs Preceding the End of the World by Uri Herrera, is whether or not the strong-headed main character, Makina, seeks something much more sex within her relationships. Because she is in search of her brother across the border, her mind seems to be set on finding him and returning home as soon as she can. However, it isn’t until she meets Chucho that her interests seem to change.

Makina had a boyfriend before leaving to the United States, but the audience was never given a name for him. She described her time with him as “…every weekend they would shuck, and whenever she senses he was about to declare himself, Makina would kiss him with extra dirty lust just to keep his mouth shut” (Loc 192). Her behavior shows her use of her boyfriend, and how she tried to avoid as much connection as possible. He was her sexual escape, because she did not want the capacity to have more. Perhaps she does not know what a physical, intimate love is like.

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As she hangs around Chucho she begins to recognize her attraction for him. She was expecting him to comment on her looks when they first met, yet he stayed quiet (Loc 299). This made Chucho more desirable to Makina because he was not like most men. The audience can see Chucho’s respect towards Makina when he refuses to look at her when she is changing in front of him. Makina, on the other hand, secretly wished he would look, because she “knew he was still staring out the window but his voice enveloped her”(Loc 355). Makina is somewhat entranced by his behavior and wants him more and more as time passes.

The men where she lives are always disrespecting and objectifying women, making Makina always have her guard up against men. However, Chucho is slowly chipping away at Makina’s internal barrier, making her wish for something more with him.

As Makina stumbles upon a wedding, she has thoughts about how “It must be that they know… other marriages, good ones where people don’t split up, where fathers don’t leave and they each keep speaking to the other. That must be why they are so happy…or perhaps they just want the papers, even if it’s only to fit in; maybe being different gets old after awhile” (Loc 630).

She secretly wishes that intimacy was more common and made a priority in society, even though she herself seeks out more sexual connections than personal ones. Makina feels like she won’t have the opportunity to have marriages built on love, but rather on the idea of just having a paper identity.

The more this book continues, the more we see the intimate sides of Makina and what she truly wants. Will she settle for sex or search for something more?

 

TRANSLATION? WHAT’S THE POINT?

What truly is the purpose of translation? Eliot Weinberger explores this question in his novel, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, as he analyzes different translations of the same poem. The reader gets to experience the same poem over and over again within fifty-four pages, but one will eventually raise the question: “why would I read the same poem over again with a different translator’s version?”

Weinberger purposely created this novel to bring to light the beauty of translation. A work is supposed to be interpreted hundreds of different ways, because each reader gets something out of it in their own unique experience. Yes, the famous Wei poem “Deer Park” can be analyzed nineteen different ways, but each version is it’s own work.

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Some translations are inaccurate, less successful, and translated by those whom English is not their first language. However, it is important that the reader understands to not completely trust the translator, but rather see the work from their own point of view. We will never officially know the original version of Wang Wei’s poem, but we can build from past translations and transform them into our own poetic illustrations.

So why not have only one translation that everyone can refer to? When a poem is not translated multiple times, it becomes two-dimensional. The more versions, the more creativity and alive the poem becomes among an individual. Art is not seen in one particular way; each individual is supposed to have their own personal experience.

Even though this novel takes less than an hour to read, Weinberger will open up your mind and allow you to find the beauty and purpose of translation. It is not about making each word as accurate as possible, but rather the emotional experience you personally feel with the work. The point of translation is more than intellectually reading another’s art; it is allowing yourself to encounter the art with your own interpretation.