I’m not going to lie, I’m not into poetry very much. There is of course the classics that I enjoy reading such as Robert Frost and Walt Wittman but these are the exception to the rule. That being said, when I started to read this novel, Buzzing Hemisphere, I was a bit thrown off.
There were a few things that contributed to me not really enjoying the novel. First off, in this, what I would call, “poem book” there is no true meaning behind the words or any meaning that was clear to me anyways. There was also the inconsistency of the novel’s format. Another thing was that I am not able to read Spanish so I wasn’t able to get the true l feel of the book.
The problem with my opinion though was that the things I didn’t like about the book were that things that made it good. The novel doesn’t go “by the book”, the rules of poetry aren’t followed its almost all free write where the writer is changing the layout, the context, and the language constantly without warning. The book is also not biased, it does not favor one language over the other. Both the English and Spanish language are needed for the book, there is no dominate language here. Using both of these languages in the book opens the door to a vast amount of readers, the writer gets to share his thoughts with double the amount of people he could have is he decided to use only English, for example.
So, I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that though I personally did not enjoy reading this book, it’s a novel that is definitely going places. No one became great or legendary by following the rules. Hopefully one day the author, Rumor Hemisferico, will be someone who becomes hugely famous because of breaking the rules of literature.
While I was reading the novel Utopia, there were constant references to the people in the novel being something less then human. Maybe not even less then human but not human at all. One spot I found a reference speaking of this less then humanness was on page 37 where it says “they pretend their eating meat, and pretend that they’re drinking alcohol, and of course they pretend they’re drunk and have forgotten their problems. they pretend they have the right to err and sin. They pretend to be human.” So, the real question is, if these people are not what can be considered “human” then what is? What does being human mean if not just our anatomy?
To figure that out we need to know what isn’t considered human. The novel constantly makes it clear that they way these people were was not human. They lived for the next day, they had no morals, they loved violence (it was part of their lives), had no natural affection for other people, they had no purpose, and frankly no real freedom of choice. Their lives were hard and short, their lives were spent “looking for bits of food thrown in the rubbish heaps. Then they’ll die of tuberculosis one day and they’ll find them beside the wall. That’s their lives” (pg. 92).
So, if these things weren’t human, then one would assume that the opposite of these things would be what being truly human is. Being human would be having morals, caring about other people, practicing our freedom in choice, and not just thinking about how to get to the next day but actually thinking and planning for our distant future.
When we think about these things though, is that what being human is? Is that how we ourselves act all the time? Yes, there are some qualities that we display or try to display but as a whole are is this really how others would describe us as acting all the time? Would this be how we describe ourselves all the time? Probably not but were still human, aren’t we?
The fact of the matter is this, there is a million and one was to describe what being human means. None of these ideas are wrong, yet not everyone in the world will ever be able to agree with one single idea on what makes us human. All we can do is try our best and live the way we personally feel is human.
Here is a bit of background information on me, I have only ever known one language. I have tried to learn other languages but none of the others have stuck, one such language being Spanish. That being said, as I was reading the book Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera I found the book was excellently translated from Spanish to English. This came as no surprise to me since the book has won an award on its excellence in translation.
There are so many things that could have gone wrong when translating this novel. Different, purposeful accents in characters could have been lost, the true meaning of certain words or phrases could have been completely changed, or the choice of wording in the translation could have made the novel hard to read.
Translation is and always has been a very tricky thing that a person could try to tackle, one cannot simply press google translate and hope for the best. There is so much room when translating for a person’s own opinion to be added into the work. There are even times when a translator has no choice but to add their own ideas into a piece because there are times when some words and sentences don’t exist in the translation language. Some say that a translation can never be a perfect correspondence, that once you translate something it becomes something new altogether.
But when you pick up the translated version of Signs Preceding the End of the World, translated by Lisa Dillman, you feel as though you are reading the words directly from Yuri Herrera’s mouth. At no point in this poetic story are you confused as to what is going on in the novel, you never feel that this character painted in the book is someone you can’t understand due to language barriers. You never find a section in the novel where you feel Lisa Dillman has painted her own story. It is truly an excellent work of translation, and beautiful novel in itself. Let us all give a round of applause to Yuri Herrera and Lisa Dillman for this beautiful novel and the work they have put into it.