The translate guide of Yta for stubborn readers

I believe that I learned to read so early because I am a stubborn. Since I was a baby I have been used to going to bed very late, unlike my mother who often fell asleep before nine. Forget about asking her to read me a book or watching television at night!

To combat the boredom that caused me to watch the ceiling and count the turns of the fan blades in silence, I began to explore the house. My dad had a large collection of books dotted in every corner of the house, including the bathroom. It was there where I discovered The Far Side Gallery, the collection of comics from the New York Times Magazine.

Then and there, my parents complemented The Far Side Gallery with the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrau, the Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm brothers or the Slavic folklore, illustrated by the watercolors of Russian artists as Nikolai Brjuhanov or Ivan Bilibin. While Disney monopolized the fantasies of American children, my world is filled with the best of the art behind the Iron Curtain. They taught me how to read and draw at the same time. I was 4 years old.

(Ivan Bilibin’s illustration)

A year later I accomplished the feat of reading a book of 200 pages. My grandmother gave me an old illustrated edition (1956) of “The spettecake holiday”, written by the Swede Edith Unnerstad. Pell’s story, his sick mother and his grandmother who cooked delicious food to make him forget his pain (like mine did) just shocked me. From that moment I decided to be a writer, to have the ability to create stories that captured the imagination of people and make forget their problems. I wanted to get the gift of Unnerstad, who sweetened the bitter divorce of my parents with her fictitional spettecake. I wanted to be a modern Sherezade (Arabian Nights).

Then Halley’s comet (1986) brought me The Little Prince as a gift. I loved the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book immediately. At that time, I understood that the snake that he drew – able to swallow an elephant and make me mourn- exists in the hearts of men, waiting to take them. As my sister, who left the world at age 15, from a heart attack. Some call his venomous bite “despair”, others “surrender”, and some the “final farewell”.

After that, I was able to recognize Tánatos in literature and life. I learned that not all stories have a happy ending, as happened to the owner of “The Skin of Zapa” (Honore du Balzat) or Dorian Grey (Oscar Wilde) and that nightmares could become reality, as happened with a miaow after reading Edgar Allan Poe.

It was a dark age between seven and 14 years old. My mother tried to force me to be a more “normal” girl and play volleyball outside with another girls. I prefered to hide in a corner of the school to read Fiódor Dostoyevski and see parallelism between the inhabitants of pathetic Ruletenburg (The Player) and its delusions of grandeur and the beach town where I grew up.

In fact, the dilemma between faith, rationalism and free will that Dostoyevski raises in “The Brothers Karamazov” still haunted me. At some point I took a bad direction when I read Friedrich Nietzsche and I became a nihilistic teenager under the influence of “Beyond Good and Evil”. But when I calmed my hormones, I realized that nobody has the right to do “tabula rasa” with the human race, which includes myself.

Indeed, a single man can make a difference. Could be a roman imperator trying to be a fair man like Adriano (as you can read in his biography by Margerite Youcenar) or a writer with the courage to questioning all the ideologies of his time in search of what makes us human, like Albert Camus. Also, the fact that he wrote “Betwixt and Between” (also translated as The Wrong Side and the Right Side) when he was 24 years old was a inspiration for me, a wannabe writer studying literature at the same age when I read the book.

Well, I jumped 9 years of my life; a period of my life dedicated to pursuit a career in literature and journalist at the same time. At that time my country suffered two coup attempts and gave “The Turn of the Screw” (as the Henry James novel that sent me to read my literary mentor) which ended in Hugo Chávez’s rise to power. But we thought that everything was Ok, because we liked to imagine that Chavez was another Aureliano Buendía (One hundred years of solitude), another magic surreal character invented by Gabriel García Marquez.

But no, our president (in power since 1999) was a real nightmare. We realized that when in April 11, 2002 Chavez orderd the army to shoot at the crowds who marched against him, while he locked radio stations so that no one was aware of this fact “in time”. At that time my despair was accompanied by the poetry of Wisława Szymborska:

“It can’t even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.”
(Fragment of “On Death, Without Exaggeration”, Wisława Szymborska)

Did I tell you I’m stubborn as a mule? A mule that gets into trouble by sprinkling information over the Internet when hackers government “tokens” those who are against him (check “programa maisanta” in Google). A mule who strived to do reporting about the corruption of a increasingly authoritarian government. A mule afraid to see how her country became the scene of “The Feast of the Goat” (by Mario Vargas Llosa). A mule who had to move from her country to avoid more problems.

A mule who stopped to dream and read in Spanish in hopes of better times.

For a year I did not read anything more complicated than Harry Potter. I was living in Miami and I preferred to go to the beach. Then I began ELS courses, one after another, until I took the GRE and TOEFL tests. Nothing relevant, except my subscription of The Economist Magazine, the New York Time Digital, The Guardian and the Miami New Times.

Well, I am unfair. I did not tell you about the return of my old love: the art books. The Taschen art book was the best thing in my life in that moment, besides sex. I was like the comic revelation in my parent’s bathroom: I was able to enjoy a book far removed from words. And now I have money.

Then I met my husband and his incredible collection of books. The excuse was Bukosky and his poems (I personally prefer his “Old dirty men memories”). Then he introduce to me his friend “Sandman” (Neil Gailmand) and after that I could walk by my own for the path of American Literature. Now I just “dated” a English book that returned me the hopes of the easy –but deep- reading. His name is “The Wondrous Brief Life of Oscar Wao”, written by Junnot Diaz. Did you know him?

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  1. Yta, what a beautiful recount.

    Somehow, your style –the one that I remember– fits perfectly in your second language. Must be those new books that you’re exploring.

    A kiss. best of luck!

    dp./




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