After hearing the sad news last week about the death of the great author Gabriel García Márquez, I began to think about how difficult it must have been to translate his work.
After doing a little research on the Internet, I found out that his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude (in Spanish, Cien años de soledad) has been translated into 36 languages. I happened to open a page where I read an interview with Edith Grossman, who translated most of García Márquez’s works into English, except for One Hundred Years of Solitude. They asked her if she felt as if she had to get inside the author’s head in order to translate and transmit his ideas, to which she responded that this was, indeed, the case, as it is very important to see the world through the eyes of the writer, and everything you need to know about a writer can be found in his or her works. Later, Edith added that to translate is to express an idea or concept so that it causes the same reaction in the reader that the writer sought to achieve in the original text, regardless of the language. Sometimes, when translating, one must write something very different from the original due to grammar and literary structure varying from one language to another. What caught my attention most of all was that the translator mentioned that whenever she has to translate a book originally written in Spanish, she feels as though she is actually writing a book in English from the beginning.
On another note, I read that plans had been announced in June 2010 to translate One Hundred Years of Solitude to Wayuunaiki, or Goajiro, a language spoken in an area of the northern border between Colombia and Venezuela, but unfortunately never materialized.
In my opinion, literary translation is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable types of translation, but at the same time, is an extremely difficult task, as we have discussed previously in a special entry in this blog. I imagine that the translation of García Márquez’s works and his unique and special “magical realist” style must have been rewarding yet exhausting, however paradoxical this may sound. We will definitely miss him, but will always have his work, among the best in Latin American literature, to remember him by.