Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What I'm reading

For the past year or so, I have making a somewhat more concerted effort than any since high school to learn Spanish again. With the kind and patient help of a friend in Bolivia I have been making slow but steady progress. I've also been seeking out opportunities to read and hear Spanish, translating various wiki articles (with more success translating out of Spanish than into it), listening to the radio, and so on.

A week ago I went to the library and got a book in Spanish, for reading practice. This is not the first book I've read in Spanish. (I've read one and a half others, so far). Despite being short with largish print, the present volume is proving a challenge. Spanish literature often incorporates something called Magic realism, employing fanciful metaphorical or symbolic elements that range from supernormal to surreal. This particular book (Bestiario, by Julio Cortázar), it seems, has lots and lots of this quality, and it makes for confusing, slow reading for one who is also new to the language. What follows is my translation of a short excerpt from the book, demonstrating how odd the book is and how many words I am still missing. (The missing words are decently specific, and I'm not troubled about lacking them just now. In a new language one learns common words like "airport" far sooner than rarer words like "tremble" or "hoarse". I tend not to pause to look up each of these terms in a dictionary unless I am lost because I can get many from context and get the gist without them. Also, it would take too long, and I would prefer to learn the language as much as possible on my own terms.)

When I feel as though I will vomit a somethingflower [conejito], I place two fingers in my mouth like an open (claw?) and I wait to feel in the throat the something something that rises like an effervesence of fruity salts. Everything is quick and hygienic, happening in a short instant. I pull the fingers from my mouth and in them I bring the subject ?? a white somethingflower. The somethingflower seems content, it's a normal somethingflower, only very small, small like a chocolate somethingflower but white and entirely a somethingflower. I put it in the palm of my hand [...?] caress it with my fingers. The somethingflower seems content to have been born and something something against my skin.

And no, this doesn't make a lot more sense in context or when I look up and verify the missing words. My tactic at the moment is to keep on reading, look up words that are interfering with my understanding of the story overall, and be glad that the book is not very long.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you're an English stickler, I thought you'd like to know that one person cannot make a "concerted" effort. A concerted anything involves two or more entities.

07 February, 2007 09:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just thought you'd like to know that your somethingflower, if it is conejito in the original, actually is a little rabbit (from conejo). :)

18 February, 2007 07:16  
Blogger Dvortygirl said...

Thanks, andré, for the clarification. The passage still makes no sense to me, but at least it will make no sense correctly.

19 February, 2007 20:32  

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