★The End

Through out the course of time I have explored novels that were translated into English from different languages, authors, genres and cultures. Each had their own charm to them, and some went beyond what I thought any novel could be. At the beginning, I thought translating one piece of literature from one language to another was as easy as translating word for word.

After reading “19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei,” a book dedicated to looking at the poem of Wang Wei that is only 4 lines, and 20 characters. As the title of the book suggests, there are 19+ ways people have translated this piece. Which should be mind blowing! After reading and finding out more about the author and how others chose to translate his poem, I realized that it is not only an interpretation of the individual translating it, it is also about where that individual comes from. It’s moving from one culture to another. All that needs to remain is the meaning, sound, sense and the concrete ideas of the piece.

Interesting genre I explored were science fiction (utopia), African fiction (baho!), and Mexican fiction (signs…). Each had their own appeal to them that made me further think about translation. “Baho!” for example, it really was not about the plot, it was more about the themes the author tried to portray (miscommunication, justice). The same could be said about Tram 83, it felt more like a long never ending song, about two friends who were not in good terms but still ended up together. The two books that had more of an impact on me, were Utopia and Signs… Utopia because of the science fiction themes and the reality of it, the possibility of it happening. Signs… well I am a Mexican, and once again, the reality of the theme of the book spoke to me.

Overall, I have a bigger appreciation for translated works now! There is so much thought that goes into translating it. The author and the translator constantly having to communicate because of a single word that is crucial. Should it be translated this way, or that way? Which one will have a better impact or closer meaning to what the author intentionally intended? As I mentioned, I am Mexican and I have to constantly translate paperwork for whoever needs it in my family. it is difficult, but now knowing what i know from this course, it has become a little bit easier. Just translate it and interpret it in my own way, but keep the message intact.



★Something Beyond

The final book that was brought up was Baho! by Roland Rugero. This like the previous novel, Tram 83, has a different feel to it. The story takes place in Burundi, where our mute protagonist tries to ask a young girl of a proper place where to relieve himself. Unfortunately his actions are mistaken for something far more sinister and because of him running away from the screaming girl, to the town people this to them confirms his guilt of premeditated rape. The story does not focus too much on the plot but on concepts of communication, justice and other topics like African cosmology.

Communication should be an interesting topic considering that our protagonist is a mute. Before, he was just a child who did not want to speak, but because his parents worry he was taken to the wise folk of the town. They snipped some veins in his throat and thought that it would be enough to make him speak. Turns out it was something that actually made him become the mute he is in the novel.

He tries to communicate his innocence but can’t. It is interesting to note that when it came to his parent’s death, he did not try to communicate what had happened, if anything “Nyamuragi withdrew all trust from the words of men” (p 19) and attempted to not speak again. He then goes on to say “Man is all-powerful. He is to be feared. And fear, at its root, is but an unspoken questioning” (p 20). Men is to fear, specially considering his circumstances. The town’s people attack him and want blood because of what they thought he was going to do. Which brings in their own justice on the poor guy who cannot defend himself. They are not even willing to try and listen to him, and what little he can attempt to communicate, they use it against him and see it as him confessing to his crime. “He had made a vow to hold his tongue” (p 20), yet he broke it in order to keep living in the present. We also see no justice is trying to be brought to his parent’s death. If I recall correctly, they were killed by someone who wanted to to take their sheep and be wealthier. So far, there is silence on this topic, which makes me believe that there was no justice brought to them by these justice-hungry town people.


What a wonderful world

The third book I started to read is Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila was an interesting read. Completely different than the previous books, where the plot is not the most important part of the book, but how the story is being told. This book is about two friends (siblings??) – one is a writer and the other some sort racketeer – who meet up after long years of not seeing each other, and their days revolve around the nightclub Tram 83.

What I find more interesting about this book is how their lives are under the hands of the General. Who is a corrupt sort of government and only cares about the wealth that brings the mines. Basic essentials that we find in our everyday life cannot be found in the book. Things like water and electricity are a luxury to these people. “No running water these last two weeks for patriotic reasons, apologized the dissident General…” (p.115). The use of the word patriotic stands out the most in this sentence. It is used to force the citizens to comply, otherwise they will seem like they hate their country and are traitors to the nation. It also shows what kind of leader they have. Someone, as I mentioned earlier, who only cares about the wealth they will be getting in keeping mines operational, instead of keeping their people in good living conditions.

Then we have the electricity issue. The narrator says that “people used to have power twenty-four-seven before companies started sprouting like mushrooms” (p.73). The narrator then goes on to say that the half brother of the General declared that there will only be four days of electricity, and those four days were cut down to two hours a week. This is so that “businesses can operate at full tilt” (p.73). He reasoned that the plants that processed the minerals needed it more than the citizens. All this leads the citizens to live under these circumstances and develop their own belly politics.

I see belly politics as a “this is what I must do to survive,” who cares if it is legal or safe, as long as I survive. In order to survive many do what is necessary. Most of the girls and women in the story end up prostituting themselves to get that money from the many tourists that visit. The men and boys end up being diggers, students or mercenaries. All of these individuals mix themselves up in our lovely Tram 83, and interact with our protagonists.


★Losing ones identity’s through borders

Signs preceding the end of the world is another great book that I’m currently reading. The story is about a woman (girl?) who ventures out to cross the border to find her brother who did the same thing, but to find land that was said belonged to their family. So Makina, our main character, sets off to find her brother, and what she ends up finding is not what she thought.

There are several themes we see across her journey to find her brother. The crossing of borders, losing one’s identity and expectations versus reality among other things.

Makina has to cross the border in order to find her brother and has these expectations of what the other side looks like, that when she gets there those expectations are destroyed. For example, she goes into a supermarket and she sees the “anglogaggle at the self-checkouts…she noticed how miserable they looked in front of those little digital screes…” (57). One of the most devastating expectations she finds, is when she finds her brother but he is a completely different person, almost a stranger she didn’t recognize. Here we see a sense of lost identity from her brother and maybe even from Makina. Her brother also mentions that “it’s not like the movies” (57), further destroying those expectations.

He goes on to say “that’s what happens to everybody who comes…[they] forget what [they] came for, but there’s this reflex to act like [they] still have some secret plan” (93). This can easily be seen when some individuals cross the border from Mexico to the U.S., in hopes to better the lives of their loved ones. their intentions are good but they up straying from their path, and end up in the wrong path. Usually, the family members never hear or see them again. It is easy for someone to forget who they are and they are doing, specially when large sums of money are presented. Makina’s brother takes a special job in order to have money, but ends up completely changing him. To the point he wants to stay behind, and see it all through.

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So I started reading Utopia a translated book by Ahmed Khaled Towfik. The book is about a not so distant future that takes place in Egypt, where the rich have alienated themselves from the poor. There is no middle class, only the rich and the poor. When I say alienated from the poor, I mean really alienated from the poor. The rich have built fences around a compound where they have trapped themselves inside and the poor struggle outside to live. In this compound we meet our main character, who remains nameless until further chapters.

The main character lives in Utopia and just seems bored with his everyday life of luxury. Poor guy. Before I got to how he was describing himself, the book was a bit boring. It just sounded like one of those try hard action books where there is only death and destruction. Things get interesting when I finally met the narrator.

Alaa ( spoiler! ) describes himself as a punk rock, kind of, teenager who has a purple mohawk, a fake wound on his forehead, white pupils thanks to contact lenses, and voodoo necklaces. For having a dramatic look one would think his life was filled with excitement. Instead the guy wakes, pees, smokes, drinks coffee, shaves, fixes his wound to make it look worse, has sex with the maid, has breakfast, or attempts to. He tries to make eggs with a splash of milk, it grosses him out and throws it away, then he yawns, laughs, spits, eats meat, then pukes it, and he’s such a nice son that he pukes it all over his mom’s room. He laughs, sticks his finger in his ear, drinks whiskey, dances, staggers, gets up on the couch, falls on the carpet, rads the paper, gets high, laughs, walks naked in the living room, puts his clothes back on, writes a slogan on the wall, puts “orgasmic music,” dances, pukes, and eats again. All of this in an hour and he doesn’t have anything else to do. ( pg. 16-17 )

The maid should hint that this kid has all sorts of luxuries, and yet he’s bored out of his mind. Does that mean that luxury causes boredom? I like to think so, he has everything and can’t seem to find anything to do. It almost dehumanizes him. Would a normal person go out of their way to puke in their mother’s room? The constant movement made me think of a caged animal waiting for something exciting to do. The only thing that seems to excite him, is going out to hunt the Others ( the poor living outside of the compound ) and violence. What an animal.

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