The Beauty in Translation

This class really made me sit back and reflect on the definition of translation. Before this semester, I saw translation as taking a piece of literature in one language and simply translating each word to another language. I thought of the process as simple with no real work. It never occurred to me though that some words cannot be translated. I never considered that translation could be more than just words in different languages. The first book we read this semester opened my eyes to the real definition of translation. Reading each poem and then writing my own made me realize the importance of putting your own experiences into your translation.

Because certain words cannot be translated, it is impossible to truly state everything the original author was wanting to say. In those times, it is important to add your own experience of the literature piece and write what you got from it and what you felt it was trying to say. Obviously, it will not have the same effect, but that is what makes translation so beautiful. Every author adds their own unique twist to it and makes it beautiful in another way that the original author could not capture in their own language. Each language has its own personality and own words just like each author has their own way of writing.

This class taught me to appreciate the tedious work that goes into translating and truly changed my view of it completely. I now define translation as taking main elements from the original text and making it your own from your own experiences. Translation is sort of like literature classes. Every student reads the same novel, but when it comes to discussing the meaning behind each character and each symbol, everyone sees something different. Everyone processes information in their own way and each person adds a new perspective to the already amazing story. Discussions help other students understand the text in a different way and that brings a new element to the story. Translation does the same exact thing that literature discussions do and this class gave me the tools to comprehend that.


More Than A Moment In Space

Baho’s meditation on time and the way it is presented in the novel really stood out to me. I first noticed when I began reading, that time is mentioned at many points in the opening pages and so I began to highlight each sentence that contained the word.

“Times have changed (2).”

“How times are tough (3).”

“They did not run from time; they knew it was always near them (3).”

“Time had carried him off (4).”

“Time had been unjust to her (4).”

“The war severed time from humanity in the Hariho way of life. It showed that time does change (5).”

“in reality, life is a trilogy. A trilogy of humanity, time, and place (5).”

After looking at all of these passages as a whole, I saw time as more than just a moment. I saw time almost as a character in the novel as a figure or a spirit. Maybe each line is describing the character of time. Time is tough. Time has changed. Time carried her husband away from her. Time was unjust to the old woman. Time was severed from humanity. Time is apart of the trilogy of life itself. Time is more than just a moment in space.

This idea of the author taking something as simple as time and creating a whole character out of it exemplifies the idea of how art is portrayed in the novel. It creates a whole scene from a small moment. The whole novel is filled with moments and stories that are expanded and made into something that is much more than it was originally. The author adds more emotion and feeling to each idea he creates. He takes time and gives it rough characteristics of being unjust and taking away from people, but then he adds the fact that nobody is running from it. Time is the evil monster that everyone accepts and faces instead of living in fear of. They know that time will change the way of life and time will take their loved ones and themselves eventually and time will be unkind, but they also know that there is no way of stopping time from doing what it does. And although time has brought these people sorrow and hard times, it has also brought them their happiest moments that they will always cherish. They do not run from time because maybe they know that while they are running from the bad times, they might miss out on the good times as well. Time can be evil, but there is also beauty in it.


Unfinished Metal Structure

When I first began to read Tram 83, I was intrigued by the phrase “in a station whose metal structure is unfinished.” I wondered why the phrase was repeated so many times and what the meaning behind it was. Some quotes that first stood out to me were,

“A girl, dressed for a friday night in a station whose metal structure is unfinished.” (2)

“No doubt haunted by the girl dressed for a friday night in a station whose metal structure is unfinished.” (5)
“Two fat tears slid down the face of the man who’d arrived by train in this station whose metal structure…” (5)

The metal structure seemed to be a place that these folks had in common. It was their escape from the real world. 
I also saw this metal structure as a representation of each of these people that inhabit it. They are all unfinished and possibly have not figured out their true place in this world. Their lives act as an unfinished structure. They are searching for meaning and purpose to keep them going in a world that is broken and unfinished. This metal structure is their way of pursuing the idea of possibly being whole. 

The next thing I noticed while reading these passages is that Mujila starts to stop his sentences short and replaces the endings with “…”. He does not finish his sentence about the unfinished structure. 

I saw this almost as Mujila using his sentences to represent the metal structure itself and the city-state. The city-state is experiencing blackouts with their electricity and their water is dirty and their government is crap and society needs help to rebuild the state back to its full potential. By leaving the last few words out, Mujila is having us as readers participate in the readings. He says this phrase enough times for us to know how to finish it ourselves. We are helping to rebuild the sentence, which reminds me of how Lucien tries to create an ideal city-state on paper and show everyone how great it could be. He is trying to complete the “unfinished structure” just as we as readers are completing the unfinished sentences Mujila creates for us. 

What Is A Child?

When I think of the word child, I picture a young and innocent being. I think of one who has not experienced much of life and the cruelties it brings. I think of a fragile life that must be protected at all times because they do not know what is out there in the real world yet.

This novel, Signs Preceding The End Of The World, took my idea of a child and completely changed the meaning of it. Honestly, I am not sure how this book would completely define a child, but I do know that it is not the same as how I would.

On page 12 of the book, Makina’s mother calls her a child when she informs Makina that she will need to send her on this trip to find her brother. This was the first time I was taken back by the novel’s idea of a child. The mother refers to Makina as child, but is willing to send her on a quest across the dangerous border, to an unfamiliar land, to find her brother and bring him back. Personally I do not understand that because a child to me would not be capable of such a task and I would never send a young child on a quest like that alone.

Next, on page 13, Makina goes to visit Mr. Double-U, who offers her a beer, which she accepts and drinks with him. Then, on page 15, Mr. Double-U calls Makina child also. What? Who offers a child beer? Then on page 21, Mr. Q gives Makina coffee. Personally, none of the young people I refer to as child, are crossing major borders alone, drinking beer, or drinking coffee.

This novel’s idea of a child is confusing to me. It takes the pureness and innocence out of the meaning it usually has. Makina drinks alcohol and has sex and crosses dangerous borders and acts as an independent woman…so why is she referred to as a child by everyone?

Are We Really All That Different? 

Utopia, written by Ahmed Towfik, is a story created from the point of view of a privileged young man, and also an under privileged young man. The story switches points of view after each section ends. In this writing structure, Towfik is creating a theme of the rich and the poor. 

In Utopia, the rich are valued and separated from the “others”, who are those who are submerged in poverty. You can see this line between them on page eleven that says, “Utopia, the isolated colony that the rich created on the North Coast to protect themselves from the sea of angry poverty outside, and that now fences in everything they might want.” The rich have everything and because of that, they feel the need to protect themselves from anything outside of their little colony. They have taken everything from the “others” and left them with scraps and are unwilling to fix their problems. I see this attitude the Utopian’s have towards the Others as out of sight, out of mind. By creating this barrier between them, they are able to ignore the problems and pretend as if they do not exist. 

Now the Utopian’s see themselves as superior to the Others, but as the story later unfolds you can see that they really are not all that different. On page 104, Gaber, who is the poor “other”, says, “The most important thing is that every moment makes me feel that the points of similarity between us are quite strong. Here and there, we’re both in love with violence. Here and there, we both love drugs. Here and there, we both avidly watch movies about rape. Here and there, we both talk about religion all the time. There they take drugs to escape boredom. There they practise their religion because they are afraid of losing all of that, and they do not know why or how they deserved it. Here we take drugs to forget the agony of the moment. Here we practise our religion because we cannot stand the thought that our efforts are nothing but scattered dust with no value. The human mind cannot endure a terrifying idea like that, otherwise it would go mad.” 

I think Towfik made these connections between these two completely different boys, who grew up in extremely opposite classes, to show us that although we all come from particular backgrounds and we have various opinions, we really aren’t all that distant from each other. We as a society have been constructed to think that it is impossible to have anything in common with someone who was not raised the same as us. I think Towfik blurred the binary he created between the rich and the poor to show us that we are all humans in the end and we truly aren’t all that different from one another.