By Any Other Name: The Power of Translation

November 11, 2011 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (2)


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There are a few writers whose work I adore and whose writing originated in a language other than that which I speak. Paulo Coelho, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and, the writer who has moved me most of late, Pablo Neruda.

In all the above cases, their work is available in English (and many other languages) crafted from its original form into equally powerful and moving work. While I speak passable Spanish, attempting to read complex prose in Spanish and still bask in the beauty of the storytelling is an arduous task for me – something I am hoping to work on; and so I have found that diving into the poetry of Pablo Neruda gives me a nice entry point.

As I’ve mentioned, Neruda’s work carries great meaning for me and so this morning I wanted to share one of his poems that seems to resonate today. Whether or not one speaks Spanish, I feel as though the melodic lilt of his words carries the emotion of his work quite beautifully.

Para Que Tu Me Oigas

para que tu me oigas
mis palabras
se adegazan a veces
como las buellas de las gaviotas en last playas.

Collar, cascabel ebrio
para tus manos suaves como las uvas.

Y las miro lejanas mis palabras.
Mas que mias son tuyas.
Van trepando en mi viejo dolor como las yedras.

Ellas trepan asi por las parredes bumedas.
Eres tu la culpable de este juego sangriento.
Ellas estan buyendo de mi guarida oscurca.
Todo lo llenas tu, todo lo llenas.

Antes que tu poblaron la soledad que ocupas,
y estan acostumbradas mas que tu a mi tristeza.

Ahora quiero que digan lo que quiero decirte
para que tu me oigas como quiero que me oigas.

So That You Will Hear Me

So that you will hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

Necklace, drunken bell
for your hands smooth as grapes.

And I watch my words from a long way off.
They are more yours than mine.
They climb on my old suffering like ivy.

It climbs the same way on damp walls.
You are to blame for this cruel sport.
They are fleeing from my dark lair.
You fill everything, you fill everything.

Before you they peopled the solitude that you occupy,
and they are more used to my sadness than you are.

Now I want them to say what I want to say to you
to make you hear as I want you to hear me.


2 responses to “By Any Other Name: The Power of Translation”

  1. I found this article on Neruda very interesting as he’s not a writer that I know that well. I’ve ready other authors mentioned like Garcia Marquez and I really enjoyed his famous novel “100 Years of Solitude”. On this recommendation though, I’ll certainly be having a go at reading some of Neruda’s oeuvre. Many thanks! J Ireland

  2. Cathy says:

    So glad that you enjoyed! His work is truly powerful. If you are able, I highly recommend reading it in Spanish *and* English.