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First sentence of a novel
Thread poster: Max Zalewski

Max Zalewski  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:46
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 4, 2014

Hello all,

I am currently translating a novel called La Alhambra de Salomon from Spanish into English and I wanted to get some advice from some fellow translators about the first sentence, as it is very important for setting the stage for the novel and has some tricky issues regarding its translation. Below I’ve posted the original Spanish version as well as 2 potential options for its translation and the issues that this sentence poses. I’d greatly appreciate any feedback and suggestions that you may have regarding the issues and the options.

Spanish: Los recuerdos grandes se quedan a vivir en los cuartos del corazón, durante la vida asoman cuando quieren, vuelven a la hora de la propia muerte y se transmiten por la sangre.
Option 1: Big memories reside in the rooms of the heart, resurfacing throughout life on a whim; they return upon death and ultimately are transmitted through blood.
Option 2: The most profound of our memories remain alive within our hearts, resurfacing throughout life on a whim; they return upon death and ultimately are inherited through our blood.

Issues:
o “los recuerdos grandes”: The author has explained to me that he intentionally put the adjective “grandes” after the noun in order to convey the meaning of “big memories” rather than “great memories”. The problem is that “big memories” sounds strange in English.
• “se quedan a vivir”: This literally means “to reside”. It is tricky to translate because memories don’t really “reside” anywhere.
• “cuartos del corazón”: This is a reference to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Love in the Time of Cholera in which he says “his heart has more rooms than a whorehouse”
• “ultimately”: The adverb does not exist in Spanish but seems to add a good flow to the English sentence.
• Translating impersonal style as personal (“el corazón” as “our hearts”): This is changing the meaning but seems more effective at drawing the reader in immediately.
• “se transmiten”: Are memories transmitted, bequeathed or inherited through blood?


 

Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:46
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Some remarks Sep 4, 2014

Hello, it is not really my field and I'm not a native in English; just in Spanishicon_smile.gif but maybe this can help you:

. "cuartos del corazón": they seem to be dark (whorehouse), memories hide there --> back rooms?
. "se transmiten por la sangre": I don't understand this sentence, but maybe "are conveyed by blood" is enough?

As to "grandes", it's difficult to translate, I think of "paramount" but I don't think it fits here.

Greetings and good luck.


 

Roy Youdale
Spanish to English
+ ...
A couple of suggestions Sep 4, 2014

Dear Max,

Thank you for sharing your translation questions, which are very interesting. I don't know what you think, but here are a couple of suggestions:

1. "recuerdos grandes" - "memories that fill us"
2. "se transmiten por la sangre" - "are passed on down/through the generations." This gets around the awkwardness of "blood", but retains the meaning.

I really like "resurfacing throughout life on a whim", which has a great flow and the English is beautiful. Good luck with this. All the best,

Roy


 

Ledja  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Some suggestions Sep 4, 2014

Spanish is not a language I know on any level, but having read both proposed translated versions, and discussions from peers, I'd suggest the following:

"memories lodged in our hearts" - certainly more poetic than "reside"

"passed down our bloodlines" - I didn't make sense of the translation until I red Roy's suggestion

Regarding the adjective to go with memories, it really depends on the mood it is meant to set: "hefty memories" would evoke a negative feeling; "powerful memories" could stray slightly off but give a more general context.

I wish you all the best in your work,

Ledja


 

Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
I don't know much Spanish, but... Sep 4, 2014

1. Maybe "grand memories" would work? This has the advantage of meaning big but with other connotations such as magnificent, profound, lofty, etc. The word grand is also commonly paired with memories.

2. Maybe "dwell within" instead of "reside in"? Just a thought.

3. Maybe "chambers" instead of "rooms"? This would provide a good double-meaning since the word chamber is used to describe both a room and the spaces within the heart.

Here are some other changes I might make (the last part incorporates Ledja's suggestion about bloodlines):

Grand memories dwell within the chambers of our hearts, resurfacing throughout life on a whim; they return upon death and are ultimately passed down our bloodlines.



[Edited at 2014-09-04 19:10 GMT]


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:46
Italian to English
Something like this? Sep 4, 2014

Los recuerdos grandes se quedan a vivir en los cuartos del corazón, durante la vida asoman cuando quieren, vuelven a la hora de la propia muerte y se transmiten por la sangre.

Momentous memories live on in the chambers of the heart, emerging whenever they like, sitting by your death bed and passing down your bloodline.



[Edited at 2014-09-04 19:49 GMT]


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Blank post

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:46
Chinese to English
Some ideas Sep 5, 2014

Max Zalewski wrote:

Spanish: Los recuerdos grandes se quedan a vivir en los cuartos del corazón, durante la vida asoman cuando quieren, vuelven a la hora de la propia muerte y se transmiten por la sangre.
Option 1: Big memories reside in the rooms of the heart, resurfacing throughout life on a whim; they return upon death and ultimately are transmitted through blood.
Option 2: The most profound of our memories remain alive within our hearts, resurfacing throughout life on a whim; they return upon death and ultimately are inherited through our blood.


I don't have any Spanish, either.
One option that's always worth thinking about is shorter words over longer ones. "Live", "come and go"... and avoid abstracts when you can (no "life").

Big memories live in the rooms of the heart. So long as we are alive they come and go as they please, and at the moment of our death they return to...?

Some issues:
1. If I'm reading this right, you need to do much more to dig the meaning out. It seems to be saying that memories have a will of their own. They take on strange powers - we can't control them when we are alive, and when we die they do their own thing again.
2. Personal/impersonal. I think you need to make it at least partly impersonal, so that it has the ring of a philosophical truth. I chose to break it and make the first sentence impersonal.
3. What is this transmission? Is it transmission to the next generation? Why would that happen at the moment of death (rather than sex)? You can't translate that verb until you're clear on what it means.

I think "big memories" will be fine if the rest of the sentence works around it. And the Marquez reference, you'll just have to leave it to fend for itself. It's a famous quote in English, too. Readers will either get it or they won't.


 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2012)
French to English
. Sep 5, 2014

I would be inclined to use a word synonymous with 'significant' or 'important' rather than 'big' for the memories.

 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:46
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
You need a big context Sep 5, 2014

I wouldn't dare start without reading up to the end. For all you know, it's about "momentous memories that come to dwell..."

A sneaking suspicion suggested by "se transmiten por la sangre": genetic memory, coping mechanisms and survival issues. This usually refers to life-changing experiences involving groups of people, not just one person. That is, anthropologically speaking.

You know memories aren't transmitted physically, but this is how cultural prejudices start and spread. Before you know it, they're visceral reactions.

[Edited at 2014-09-06 09:26 GMT]


 

Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
French to English
+ ...
recuerdos ...asoman cuando quieren Sep 5, 2014

I was thinking of something like "at random" for this, as "on a whim" almost suggests it's the individual's whim, but I like Giles's version too.

 


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