The Mookse and the Gripes discussion

El Llano in flames
This topic is about El Llano in flames
53 views
Republic of Consciousness Prize > 2020 RoC longlist: El Llano in Flames

Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Paul (last edited Jan 25, 2020 12:20PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments El Llano in Flames by Juan Rulfo, tr. Stephen Beechinor (Structo Press)
https://structomagazine.co.uk/structo...

From the judges:

First published in Mexico in 1953, El Llano en Llamas is a collection of stories by seminal Mexican writer Juan Rulfo, whose few books were a profound influence on contemporaries including García Marquez. This is the first complete English translation of all seventeen stories (and the first publication from Structo Press), by a translator who has taken to heart the landscape and mood of the collection: a realm of narrow choices, stark, arid land and crushing poverty. The parallels with Mexico and other countries today are unavoidable, while Rulfo’s language still speaks powerfully out of his own experience.


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Pedro Páramo by the same author is of course one of the great works of Latin American literature. Been almost 20 years since I read it, but I remember being very impressed.

Garcia Marquez credited it with inspiring his works, and Borges, Vargas Llosa etc were all huge fans.

This review sums it up well:

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-en...

without Pedro Páramo there would not have been One Hundred Years of Solitude, Hopscotch or Midnight's Children. The literature of the past 50 years, our conception of the relationship between the word and reality, would have been measurably poorer.

so I'm rather looking forward to seeing the short stories - although these have been translated before, but seemingly not as a whole


message 3: by Ella (last edited Jan 25, 2020 08:21PM) (new) - added it

Ella (ellamc) | 1019 comments Mod
Huh... I read this one in Spanish years ago (so long ago, I just had to check that I actually owned it via Amazon - and quickly downloaded it again before they could do something stupid like pretend I never bought it -- this is why I detest kindle editions.)

So the previous English translation wasn't complete? Who knew? (I guess everyone who read it.)

PS: I originally read this b/c it was on one of the 1001 lists. Looking at other people's tags, it looks like a 2008 addition, which would mean that the 2012 edition wasn't the first in English? Or do they add books that haven't been translated to the 1001 books list? I actually don't know.


Tracy (tstan) | 314 comments This is on the 1001 list, and I read an older translation a few years ago. The version I read was from the U. Of Texas press.

And yes, there are books on the 1001 list that haven’t been translated yet, and one may not ever be, since very few people read Aramaic.


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Must admit I am a little surprised/dubious about the first complete translation claim, although have no factual reason to doubt it. It does I think make it a slightly odd inclusion on the list.

Although the lack of eligibility rules on the RoC is a good thing generally - every year there seem to be otherwise strong contenders ineligible for the Best Translated Book Award because of a previous translation, albeit one incomplete or unsatisfactory.


message 6: by Tracy (last edited Jan 26, 2020 07:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tracy (tstan) | 314 comments The Burning Plain and Other Stories by Juan Rulfo

I’m going to hopefully assume the translator (George D. Schade) was familiar with the 1953 dialect. He was a professor of Latin American literature at the University of Texas, and translated other works. He passed away in 2010.

I was surprised to see this book on the list, but if it draws new attention to it, all the better. It’s a good read.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments The book itself refers to it being the first translation for English readers outside North America - which I take as being the first by an English translator perhaps.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments This Wiki link will serve as a very good summary of the stories I think

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Ll...

I am note that it criticises a title translation in the Schade volume - the “correct” title is used in this collection.

It also says about two of the stories “This is one of two short stories that the author added to the second edition of the Spanish language collection in 1970. The final version of the collection has seventeen short stories”. I wonder if they are the ones not translated before? From a look on Goodreads previous versions refer to 15 stories.


message 9: by Ella (new) - added it

Ella (ellamc) | 1019 comments Mod
I can imagine some hilarious translations for this title. My nephew used google for something the other day & it mixed up both llana (like "even or straight" --> y ya no está llana) and the animal la llama which is the same in English & Spanish (vimos muchas llamas en los Andes) but also can mean flames/passion/fire/etc and the whole verb group llamar and its twin reflexive llamarse.

It was some sentence from a kid's book about llamas in pajamas -> google = something like "he's going to evenly burn your name".

Luckily humans are way better at this stuff. Computer translators have improved, but it can still be very funny. If you throw actual spoken spanish into google, it can get hilarious.


message 10: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments The Schade translation did only include 15 although I wonder if that was because the source used wasn’t the definitive complete collection.

The next English language translation The Plain in Flames by Ilan Stavans and Harold Augenbram stared that it drew on a definitive version of the original and added the other two stories.


message 11: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Basically the prize blurb has got it wrong I think.

The translator himself has made it clear in both his preface and interviews (https://structomagazine.co.uk/stephen...) that it is the first published outside of North America as does the publisher’s blurb on Amazon.

Although that seems a slightly odd distinction to claim as it is unusual for separate translation to be prepared for the US and non US market.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments I agree.

That’s a great interview and nice to see an author we shortlisted for the RoC - Preti Taneja - mentioned.


message 13: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments An interview here with the translator of the 2nd English language translation:

https://biblioklept.org/2013/05/16/yo...

https://biblioklept.org/2014/01/22/la...

He seemed to assume it would be a while before another translation appeared. He also comments on how he felt able to preserve more Spanish words on the grounds that Spanish is widely spoken in the US: will be interesting to see if that differs in a translation intended for a non-US audience. That is something generally I've noticed (comparing BTBA to MBI longlists is one example) - the greater dominance of Spanish vs French/German in the US vs UK translated scene, and indeed in which words are left untranslated.

His take on how to translate the title:

The title in Spanish has the alliteration – El Llano en Llamas. Llano. Llamas. In English, the first translation was The Burning Plain, which is so dull, so plain, so uninteresting. I immediately said I’ll do it, but it has to be The Plain in Flames, which plays with the alliteration. The Juan Rulfo Foundation said “we love it.” The publisher said “we can’t do it” – because people have already connected The Burning Plain with Rulfo, and if you change the title, you can lose readers. And I said I’m not doing that. If we don’t have “The Plain in Flames,” I won’t do it. And finally we were able to convince them. So they resisted for marketing reasons. That’s something that translators often have to deal with.


message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments And a translation comparison from one of my favourites passages from the first story. I can't find an online copy of the Schade version:

Beechinor:
The earth sucks at the drop that fell by mistake and swallows it down

Who in hell would make this llano so vast? To serve what purpose, huh?
...
Still as a boy I never saw it rain on the llano, not ever, not in the proper sense of rain.

No, the llano isn’t good for much.  Not a rabbit, not a bird to be seen.  Not a thing.  Other than a few mangy huisache shrubs and the odd scrap of grass and the blades all curled up; other than that, not a thing.  
...
Such land and so much of it, and what for?


Stevens version:
And the drop that fell by mistake is devoured by the earth, which makes it disappear into its thirst.

Who the hell would make this plain so big? What’s it good for, eh?
...
All in all, I know that from the time I was a boy, I have never seen rain fall on the plain, what you might call rain.

No, the plain isn’t good for anything. There are neither rabbits nor birds. There is nothing. Except for a few huizache trees and one or two spots of zacate with their leaves curled up; aside from that, there’s nothing.
...
Such vast land for nothing.


Original:
Y a la gota caída por equivocación se la come la tierra y la desaparece en su sed.
...
¿Quién diablos haría este llano tan grande? ¿Para qué sirve, eh?
...
Con todo, yo sé que desde que yo era muchacho, no vi llover nunca sobre el llano, lo que se llama llover.

No, el llano no es cosa que sirva. No hay ni conejos ni pájaros. No hay nada. A no ser unos cuantos huizaches trespeleques y una que otra manchita de zacate con las hojas enroscadas; a no ser eso, no hay nada.
...
Tanta y tamaña tierra para nada.



Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments This is an interesting article by the newly appointed Goldsmith judge

https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments Paul wrote: "He also comments on how he felt able to preserve more Spanish words on the grounds that Spanish is widely spoken in the US: will be interesting to see if that differs in a translation intended for a non-US audience."

I have just finished the book and there was I felt very little Spanish - almost none other than names of drinks, plants, places etc.

I had a quick look at the article - there are references to translation debates:

How (if at all) do you translate Campesino and Patron
How do render the phrase "el rumor del aire" in the story

I would be interested in the views of others when they have read this version but currently I am struggling to see where those words/phrases even fit. I think Campesino is being rendered as "speople"


message 17: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Campeniso would I think be an odd word not to translate for an English audience and patron would have French rather than Spanish associations, so that does rather back up this being a non-US version of the book. What's the spelling - UK or US English?


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments I cannot work out where a translation of Patron is in the book and I can only guess people is Campeniso as its the main collective term (but it has no particular sense of peasant etc other than implicitly in the people being described)

Spelling is UK I think although I tend not to notice as I switch between both several times in a normal work day.


message 19: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments "El rumor del aire" becomes "the moan of the breeze" here (4th para page 98)


message 20: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "I cannot work out where a translation of Patron is in the book.."

On page 42. Turns out he translates it as Patrón!


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments But also bossman on the same page


message 22: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Yes patrón used also twice on p41, but that 2nd time on p42 the original does say patrón. And that is the one time it is used more as a description than a title/proper name - the other three are "patrón don Justo" in the original. I think that's a sensible translation approach actually.


message 23: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2630 comments Those of you who've read both this and Pedro Páramo, is Páramo the better / justifiably more famous work?


message 24: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments I think this is a strong short story collection but, at least viewed now, doesn't seem anything that innovative. Although at the time, giving direct voice to those living on the llano was, I think, more radical, for example as opposed to via a paternalistic, upper class, narrator.

Pedro Páramo to me still feels pretty strikingly innovative - George Sanders won the Booker, and a lot of plaudits, for doing something similarish 55 years later.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments One story "Luvina" starts heading in the direction of Pedro Páramo (from what I have read of that book)


message 26: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Yes it does and is often cited as a prototype for Pedro Páramo


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5232 comments My thoughts

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I see this as a strong shortlist contender.


message 28: by Paul (last edited Jan 28, 2020 04:33AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments My one big question with this is whether a new translation was really necessary. It was interesting from the Stavans translation that while he was expecting his to not be the last translation, he assumed it would be more a generational thing, not 6 years later. And when I've compared them I probably lean towards the Stavans version, or at least don't see any significant enhancement here - albeit less use of Spanish terms for non-US readers as discussed above could be one.

The weakest of the three translations I've read from the list so far. ADDITION: Qualified that this is from a very strong field, plus the other two are books previously untranslated .

I also found my favourite story was the one most like Pedro Páramo, and think that is the more significant book.


message 29: by Ella (new) - added it

Ella (ellamc) | 1019 comments Mod
Antonomasia wrote: "Those of you who've read both this and Pedro Páramo, is Páramo the better / justifiably more famous work?"

Paul wrote: "I think this is a strong short story collection but, at least viewed now, doesn't seem anything that innovative. ... Pedro Páramo to me still feels pretty strikingly innovative "

I totally agree. If you're only going to pick one, pick Pedro Páramo.


message 30: by peg (new)

peg | 133 comments Just read The Man, and was quite taken with the landscape imagery ( a path the size of an ant trail) I was confused as to who was chasing whom, So glad to see you fellow Mookse-ite’s have already reviewed and see now the narrator(s) device as used in LOVE. Thanks for all your informative reviews on this list....4 to go for me


message 31: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8482 comments Having mentioned at the start of the thread how influential Pedro Paramo was - I see two books on the International Booker acknowledge a direct influence: Tyll and Hurricane Season (and Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is inspired by books that Pedro Paramo directly inspired).


back to top