Then vs. Now

Coming into this class, I thought translation was expressing the sense of something someone was saying or had written in another language. I thought this class was just going to be reading a translated version of some type of work, such as novels or poems… something a little boring. Starting with 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, I knew my classmates and I were going to be reading a direct translation of the poem by Wang Wei.

However, what I was not prepared for was the fact that not only will I be reading many different translations of the poem, but I would be making my own version, or translation, of the poem. In doing so, I realized that translation is much more than just another way of conveying something being said or written in another language.

I realized that translation became a sense of interpreting what I was reading or seeing into something that I felt while reading what I wanted to translate. I realized that translating is more than just reiterating what someone said in your own words, but putting your own twist on it, bringing your own flare to it, and including your own experience(s) in the translation.

Throughout the other works I read through this course, I understood how to use translation as a way to convey one’s own experiences and feelings.

These novels gave me more insight on how translation is change. In translation, there is a tension between fidelity and originality. This blurs the line between what it should be to what it could be. It changes how the text is interpreted and used in order to convey change and experience according to the writer.

Translation is a journey into the translator’s emotional and intellectual life in which the translator reflects on cultures and experiences of his/her life.

Before, I thought translation was one cut-and-dry action. Now, I believe it is a way of change and new experiences.

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Rugero’s Art


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When I think of art, I think of music, paintings, sketches, food… The list is endless.

To me, anything can be art and art can take many different forms. Art is not something that is restrictive or rule-abiding. It can break “rules” and “traditions” and still be something as beautiful as a traditional piece of art.

The novel Baho! by author Roland Rugero creates a beautiful meaning of the word art, in which Rugero takes a certain scene by linking moments together and goes in detail in that scene to make the reader feel like they are right there with the characters in the novel.

Rugero makes art by making a meaning of time- creating a scene from everyday moments in the protagonist Nyamuragi’s life.

Rugero shows his written form of art when he writes;

“To his unsteady eyes, the sky is red. The clean sky morning has transformed into a bloody glow, pushing through the cracks of his swollen eyelids with spite and fury. His mouth is no more than a ball of muddy fesh mixed with drool and sweat. The torture of this victim (or perhaps we should say this cursed soul) has gone on for too long. Thirty minutes. Thirty minutes: a succession of blows—mostly accurate and excruciatingly painful—unfortunately aimed kicks, and carefully chosen curses. All accompanied by gobs of spit in varying sizes, depending on the saliva stock possessed by each contributor.” (51)

This creates a great scene for the reader in the form of a clear picture. I can clearly see that the sky was once clear but because Nyamuragi has been beaten due to people’s accusations of rape, the sky that he sees now is red from the blood in his eyes. I can see the time that Rugero is explaining, “Thirty minutes” of being beaten and abused physically and verbally.

Not only can I see the pain Nyamuragi is experiencing in this scene from the novel, but I can feel it. This makes Rugero’s written art even stronger. It invokes emotion through its descriptive tone in the writing and makes me feel pain and anger and sadness all at once.

Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that is art. Being able to paint a picture in the reader’s mind just from words and invoke emotion from that one scene. That’s not just art- that’s talent. A talent that Rugero shows off very nicely.

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An Unfinished World

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is writing his novel Tram 83 as a “reaction[s] to the political turbulence that has come in the wake of the independence of Congo and its effect on day-to-day life” (211).

Mujila has created an undeniably irresistible novel, Tram 83, that showcases his world as “unfinished” through a fictional story that represents the belly politics present in post-colonial and post-independent Africa (2, 5, and many other instances in the novel).

“Unfinished” sounds like something that still needs to be completed. Something that is waiting to be finalized.



Belly politics refers to patron-client relationships and, to me, it makes me think of the corruptness of a government and its relation to its people that it oversees.

Belly politics, to me, sounds simple: hungry pigs. Pigs because I think of pork-belly pigs which makes me think of dirt that is under the belly of a pig- just like how the government of the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is letting shady things happen under the radar just because they can.

Hungry because people in the DRC are either hungry for power or people hungry for food.

Regardless, belly politics is a corrupt form of running a country, but can be seen all throughout Mujila’s novel, Tram 83, in which the two main male characters, Lucien and Requiem, are experiencing firsthand. Lucien, the dreamy writer who is inherently a good person in life goes through this novel with the other main character, Requiem, who is the bad-boy gangster/pimp of the novel.

Requiem represents belly politics because he is pimping out girls in order to gain the money he needs to survive in the world he lives in: a clear example of patron-client relationships in which he provides his clients no-strings-attached sex for money. Now everyone is happy… right?….?

Mujila is showcasing the fact that everyone in the world of this novel is living in an unfinished society. Because of this, the repetitive “unfinished metal structure” (15) that is countlessly mentioned throughout the novel is a constant and clear reminder of the shady belly politics going on and the immense amount of poverty that follows with it. This is seen in the novel when the narrator states, “Does it serve any purpose in a country where you only eat every two days?… the guy found himself joining the ranks of the unemployed, like ninety percent of the Republic’s population” (171-172). This shows the poverty of the DRC and how most of the population represents geography of loss and geography of hunger when they are unemployed and can’t provide themselves or their families food for a couple days.

Mujila is exemplifying an unfinished world in this intriguing novel.

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Makina’s Way

The novel, Signs Preceding The End Of The World, by Yuri Herrera is about a young girl named Makina and her journey to her brother, who is in a whole new country that she has never been to before.

Throughout the novel, Herrera shows the reader just how tough Makina really is.

In the beginning of the novel, Makina explains that her mother had tasked her with a special errand in which her mother told her, “Go and take this paper to your brother. I don’t like to send you, child, but who else can I trust it to, a man?” (pg. 12). This quote, right off the bat, shows how Makina is more fit for this “errand” than a man, giving the reader a little insight on how strong Makina really is (pg 12). This novel is challenging the idea of traditional Hispanic femininity and being a traditional Hispanic woman who sits silently and does not speak up for what she wants or what she does not like.

In another instance, a young man comes to sit beside Makina and tries to make some moves on her, which Makina does not welcome kindly. Once he makes a move, Makina bends back the “middle finger of a the hand he’d touched her with almost all the way back to an inch from the top of his wrist” and told him, “shhhh,” as to not make a sound (pg 31). This shows how Makina is in control of herself, what she wants, what she is looking for, and how she decides to let herself be treated.

Makina does not answer to anyone or anything, especially to danger. In the novel, she gets “clipped” by a bullet on her side by a rancher (pg. 50). This “caused her to whirl but not fall, and as she span she took two steps forward and dealt the rancher a kick in the jaw” (pg. 50). This shows that not only can Makina handle get hurt, but she can deliver hurt back.

Makina is a strong protagonist in this novel that continues to get into situations where she needs to show her strength and her toughness, whether she likes it or not. She challenges gender roles and creates her own mold instead of fitting in someone else’s, aspiring to be her own strong version of a woman- and feminine in her own way, in her own right.

So creepy, this story should be told on Halloween…

What makes us human? Is it our emotional attachment? Or is it our overbearing arrogance of power? Is it our minds in which we invented everything we use nowadays? Is it our capability to feel remorse and regret?

Maybe none. Maybe all. Maybe just one. To each his own.

To me, what makes us human is our emotional attachment to other living and/or nonliving things (like I said- to each his own), our connection and emotional attachment to one another, and our ability to reason and change throughout our lives based on how we’ve lived and what we’ve been through.

The novel Utopia, by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, challenges its readers to really question what makes us human. Set in Egypt in the year 2023, Utopia is an isolated colony the rich created on the Northern coast to keep the poverty and all the baggage it comes with, out.

The residents, Utopians, are spoiled, wild, they have lots of sex, have every need taken care of, don’t have to worry about a thing in life, are emotionless, poisoned by their possessions, and are bored, entitled, and infatuated with death. To them, death is so intriguing, it’s seductive. It’s romanticized.

And to me- that’s creepy.

Yes, there is something somewhat interesting about death. It comes with all its questions such as: Is there an afterlife? Are there ghosts? Is there really a God we get to meet once we die? And many, many more… But in Utopia, that’s all the young people think about.

In the novel, Alaa, the “predator” narrator of the book, is cocky, violent, rapes for fun, intimidating, self-centered, and looks like the Grim Reaper because he wants to. He has a fake scar and uses contacts to make his pupils white, he colors his teeth, and he has a purple mohawk. If that is not screaming for attention, then I don’t know what is. He is bored with his life- he wakes up, goes to the bathroom, uses drugs, eats, throws up, has sex with his African maid, eats, and throws up more. This is his morning routine. Once finished, after just a mere hour, he is done for the day and has nothing left to do. Having done everything is not enough for him.

He is bored. He needs MORE. He now needs a new way to kill time, and for that he needs to kill. He decides to go where The Others are, those outside of Utopia, who are poor and and full of disease and starvation. The Others are his target, his prey.

This novel brings to light how, to the Utopians, life outside of Utopia is nothing and The Others are just people waiting to get killed, showing how little they value lives that are different than theirs. Life and death play an important role in this novel, especially when death is as romanticized as it is by the Utopians. They make a game to invite death into their lives, all because they’re bored and ran out of things to do.