Sunday, November 20
Among the dozen or so who attended the book event at Chicago was a handsome young man who had been smiling up at me from the audience and who introduced himself as Álvaro Villagrán, son of Martín Villagrán who is a co-member of the Mansilla Club and presented at the Córdoba conference in July 2005. We had a delightful conversation; he’s studying nearby at Northwestern University where [my brother] Kirk took his bachelor’s degree. Alas, when we left for Indianapolis we realized Anita had not gotten a picture of him, nor a close shot of me with Jay and his son. But we did better in Indy. Anyway, Álvaro brought news of his father, who after heart surgery since our previous acquaintance has just completed his doctorate in history and is pursuing his bliss rather than scrounging for a living. History had already been his hobby, and one which he took seriously, as was evident from his contribution at the Mansillan conference.
Another Chicago note, aside from the excellent facility at the Instituto Cervantes: there were two members present from the Argentine Consulate [co-sponsor of the event], and I am told that everyone – absolutely everyone – at the consulate had read and were enraptured by the translation. None of them had read it in Spanish and are all now looking forward to doing so. The Head Consul herself, a pleasantly plump and bubbly woman whose portly husband was there beside her as we chatted over empanadas and wine, was particularly extravagant in her praise. I feel deeply touched by that warm reception of my work. My meager fame spreads, though more importantly (and significantly) does my critical reputation – though the members of the consulate are neither literary critics nor translation experts. Still, they are professional people of some importance, and their judgment matters to me.
Not sure if I mentioned this above in passing, but it merits its own note: Anita became so comfortable with the whole group we hung out with, María Rosa and all the rest with their native warmth and generosity, she now wants me to take her to Argentina. The social barrier broken, the linguistic barrier does not loom so heavy. In a moment of extreme exhuberence in the car yesterday as José Luis was driving us all around, Anita sang snippets of songs I had taught her, like “Adiós, muchachos,” “Cielito lindo,” and “De colores” (to the point where she loses the tango, anyway), and as an encore the first Spanish verse of “Silent Night.” The latter earned her a fervent round of applause. When María Rosa and I said our final good-byes, to my thanking her for putting Anita so much at ease, she exclaimed joyously that how could they not take a liking to her, she was so much fun, that her vibrancy must be a perfect foil to my melancholy – earlier she had commented that for that combination of qualities we were a perfect match – though of course life preys on us both in the long and short of our time.
* * *
Around the table Friday night, echoing my statement earlier in my presentation of Eva Gillies’s telling me that María Rosa might have need of me to translate that very novel whose first English edition we are now celebrating, it was perhaps she who commented to María Cristina Botelho that she might be needing me to translate her work. Later we were discussing the problem of my father’s open rejection, at my mother’s [September] funeral, of my gay daughter and her wife. And suddenly Paola was handing me a copy of her mom’s book of stories La última estación (The Last Station, or Season), showing me a copy of this short-short on a gay male union.
Here is the Spanish text in its entirety:
De mi diario
Mis amigos Luis y Felipe se aman intensamente. Ayer se casaron. Asistí a la boda. Lucieron ropa diseñada por los mejores modistos de la farándula. Siempre soñaron que su unión celebraría con tortas, damas y padrinos. El notario, un gordo calvo y risueño, selló su unión para toda la vida.
La fiesta duró hasta la media noche. Bailamos. Echamos confetis y arroz. Ellos a estas horas deben estar disfrutando su luna de miel en Venecia. Ambos son excelentes profesionales. Ahorraron para cuando llegara el día más importante para ellos.
And here the draft of a translation, made up before family all showed up to celebrate my birthday one day early:
From My Diary
My friends Luis and Felipe love each other intensely. Yesterday they were married. I attended their wedding. They looked brilliant in clothing designed by the theater’s best seamstresses. They always dreamed that their wedding would be celebrated with cake, maids of honor, and best men. The notary, a portly man at once bald and beaming, sealed their union for all their life.
The party lasted until midnight. We danced. We threw confetti and rice. By now they should be enjoying their honeymoon in Venice. Both are excellent professionals. They saved up for their most important day whenever it might arrive.
As I wrote just now I modified the last sentence which, following the Spanish structure too closely, had it that “they saved up for whenever their most important day might arrive.” I am still uncertain about the last sentence in the first paragraph, whether it should read “all their lives” instead of “life,” or instead something more bold: maybe “until death do they part,” which has a better sound to it and packs more of a punch, while still being true to the meaning. Yes, I think that’s it: “until death do they part” it shall be!
I like this mini-fiction. The conceit of the diary entry justifies the bare-bones relation of the event, which need only be bare bones as that little bit says it all, with no need for editorializing. This might even be an easy one to place in some journal or magazine.
Spanish text © 2011 María Cristina Botelho English language translation © Brett Alan Sanders