failures of language, typography, and translation

Granta is publishing its first ever issue in Spanish, which is pretty awesome. I think it says a lot about the difference in thinking about diversity between laypeople and artists. Or something. I dunno. I just think it speaks well to the idea that there are more liberal and understanding people out there than we think. And given the current US stance on Spanish-speakers, it’s nice to know that there are people in other countries who aren’t nuts.

But look at the titles. On closer look, I realize that the title indeed says “Spanish-language,” not “Spanish,” but you can barely read “language,” and they’re missing a hyphen, so technically the title is grammatically incorrect, and it’s almost a misnomer, because it’s going to seem as if it’s only novelists from Spain. And it seems they did that on purpose, since they made the word “language” so small. Probably it’s because we consider Europeans to be superior to South and Central Americans. That’s confirmed by the representation of southern hemisphere writers, as many come from Argentina and Uruguay, arguably the most European of Latin American countries. In fact, 15 of the 22 authors represented are from Spain, Argentina, or Uruguay. Not that I know much about the current state of Spanish-language novels, as I really haven’t read anything contemporary in Spanish (I should get on that, starting with this issue of Granta), but I can’t imagine that there aren’t equally talented writers from other countries. Still, this issue is a start.

There’s also the issue of the title, which is not the same in English as it is in Spanish. I would say the Spanish title is more offensive given the unfair geographical distribution, because the Spanish title translates as “The Best Young Novelists in Spanish.” At least the English title doesn’t imply that these are the only hispanohablantes (I wish we had an equivalent word in English, but we really don’t–one language is never sufficient for expression) worth reading, just that this magazine compiles the best work of these 22 writers.

The youngest person is 29. That’s pretty young, but I’m curious as to whether there are younger novelists out there. Since there are a number of people my age in English-speaking countries who are publishing, there must be some in Spanish-speaking countries as well.

So much about publishing in other countries I’d like to study. I can’t wait to do a Fulbright. Also, I think I should read this issue in Spanish, as a challenge to myself.

o português é a minha língua preferida

I’m not bad at Spanish. In fact, I generally say that I am fluent, but that gets me into trouble when people speak Spanish to me and I’m not expecting it, as it takes me awhile to ease into it. I speak it when the mood strikes. Portuguese, however, I am finding incredibly easy and natural, and I’m realizing (thanks to my teacher identifying it as so) that, while my sister may have been a heritage speaker of Spanish, I am actually a heritage speaker of Portuguese. I take a Portuguese for Spanish Speakers class three days a week, and in just two weeks of class I feel more comfortable with this language than I ever have with Spanish. There’s something about Portuguese that makes you want to speak it, whereas Spanish doesn’t have that allure.

I always say that Portuguese is like a party in your mouth, which is true. And I seem to just have a natural affinity for it, after hearing it my whole life. Three weeks in Brazil four and a half years ago did something to me, and I adopted the country and its language as something that feels most like home to me. Maybe it’s that in Brazil more than any other place, nobody looks at me and asks me questions about what I am or how it is that I am so many things. Maybe it’s because I heard Portuguese growing up. Maybe it’s just because Brazil is an excellent country. But I can see that this one semester of Portuguese may make me more of a fluent speaker than Spanish classes ever will.

summer reading #3

Haven’t updated for awhile, and I am moving very slowly in some books, but I also read very quickly some others. What else is there to do but read when you are stuck in bed with the flu? Now, of course, I am better and off on adventures, but here are the latest books I’ve finished.

I have not read books that I expected to read, due again to the fact that I did not expect to be sick with so much free time. So I’ve been a bit disappointed in things. But such is life.

1. Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham. So disappointing! This woman, who also writes as Sophie Kinsella, has always impressed me, because while she writes chick lit, which basically means dumb, she writes it in a way that makes you want to read it, because both she and her characters have clearly read other books before. This one, however, was utter crap and made me really, really angry. Pregnant women being alcoholics, women being stupid, and just stupid, stupid, stupid. Don’t read it. That is all.

2. Social Justice: A Jewish Perspective by Bernardo Kliksberg. This was lent to me by a friend at Hillel after I was told to stay in bed for three days, and it’s a very good and pretty easy read. Since this is a vaguely religious trip that I’m on (or was on, since now I’m just vacationing and traveling), it was nice to kind of get in touch with my Judaism a bit and remember that there are ways I identify with my religion, even if for me it’s not about being completely stuck in the past or really Orthodox or keeping kosher. Even if you’re not Jewish, this book has a good outline of what social justice is and why it’s important that it exist. It didn’t exactly tell me things I didn’t believe in before, but it was nice to have them outlined well.

3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I didn’t want to read this book, but my friend lent it to me and I figured I’d at least look at it, and then I finished it in a day. Whoops. I guess part of my reasoning for not wanting to read it was my resentment for Americans who do “spiritual” things to be trendy, and also because I generally feel kind of icky when talking about it. For me, religion is very personal, and while I’m glad I have my beliefs, I don’t particularly care if anyone knows them or not and I don’t really enjoy evangelicals who are constantly trying to tell me what they believe and why I should believe it, too. Maybe that’s mean of me, but it makes me feel uncomfortable. But this book, even when it got borderline sappy, was a great read simply because Gilbert was a really great storyteller. I haven’t felt like writing lately, and in the middle of the book I just had to run upstairs and journal. And it reminded me how much I enjoy traveling, even when I don’t, and how much I like to write personal essays. So I would recommend the book above all. Plus, who wouldn’t want to read about living in Italy?

So that makes 10 books thus far through the summer, and I’m well into the middle of two/three others (a García Márquez book that I’m reading simultaneously in Spanish and in translation and a book of poems). We’ll see if I make it to my goal of thirty, though. And hopefully the rest of the books I read will be better.

Stuff about my latest adventures later.