A Translation of A Translation

Eponine Howarth

[Juan Arabia in Torn Page, New York. Photo by Patricio Ferrari]


Ignacio Oliden’s translation of 'Bulmenia' by  Arabia

I work at night, forsaking the insatiable ogre
that leaves the young men disfigured and acephalous,
not trading a sack of apples for my head. 

I work like the sea, like a shadow,
where sparrows jump on the crumbs of the day,
and the swallows make a fuss for a bite of sky. 

I drink cyanide and poisons unknown,
          for this thirst has no lamps
and its crust is multiplied like dearth. 

I work as everybody works,
not achievinga star, not satiating a quill
          losing the ways
giving slight uneven deaths on my body.  

Not reaching at least one dream,
I let some helpless drunks proceed, enslaved remains
that have been and forever will be defamed
          dried in the air of the crime.


Eponine Howarth’s translation of Ignacio Oliden’s translation of 'Bulmenia' by Arabia 

Ivo, a knight—fork, sake in the Inn—Satan’s boater
that leaves the omen, this figure and: ass, phallus,
no trade. Inn: Isaac, Paul, forth might head. 

Ivo likes the sea, likes ash, dough.
Where? Parro, Jim, upon the crumbs of a lady,
Andy swallows MAGA fuss for a byte-sky.

Ida rings. And Ida poises on—none,
has no clams.
And Ida’s crust is multiplied like death.

Ivo, as ever his body, lurks,
not chief in a star, not eating a quill
                loose in the ways
giving lighting, even death on my body.

No tree. Shhh in Atlas, on the rim,
ill, some help, less drunks, pro-seeds, enslaved mains
that have been. Inn forever! Will’s bed-frame,
                died. Inn: the air of the crime.


Y en el juego angustioso de un espejo frente a otro
cae mi voz
y mi voz que madura
y mi voz quemadura
y mi bosque madura
y mi voz quema dura
—'Nocturno en que nada se oye', Xavier Villaurrutia

This phonetic interpretation of 'Bulmenia' (turned ‘Bullmania’), a poem by Juan Arabia, plays with sounds to (re)create meaning.

The text explores a different form of translation. While fidelity is traditionally conceived as the extent to which a translation accurately renders the meaning of a source-text, without distortion, this translation actively seeks to distort meaning to conserve phonetics. Instead of remaining faithful to meaning, the translation remains only faithful to the sounds produced by letters and words juxtaposed in a particular order—thus providing an entirely new meaning to the poem.

In a similar way that a ‘traditional’ translator infuses a text with their own vast interconnecting system of references, 'Bullmania' reverberates the erotic and violent sounds of Antonio Ungar in Mí-rame.

'A Translation of a Translation' is intended as a satire of translation. The beauty of translation is surely that dilemmas that present themselves to the translator have no definitive right answers—though this translation rings resoundingly wrong.

The idea for this text came from reading Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli.

Eponine Howarth

Eponine Howarth is co-editor-in-chief of La Piccioletta Barca.

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