Friday, January 13, 2017

When you write a fan letter to a translator

I nearly called it a "love note," which may be an exaggeration, but after I returned from a conference on literary translation in Oakland last year, I found myself with a new habit on my hands, thanks to the books I'd spirited away from the conference. Namely, I found myself reading over and over a book of poetry by Eduardo Chirinos, which had been translated from the Spanish by G.J. Racz.

The Spanish is on one side, and the English translation on the other, and for fun (literary translation world fun!), I've been reading the Spanish version first and then marveling over the word choices the translator made (and also finding out in some cases what the poem really means, since I am not fluent in Spanish).

And since I was having such fun, and since I also felt like I had uncovered a new micro-hobby (is that a word?), I decided to write an email to the translator, to thank him for bringing this wonderful work of Spanish poetry to English-speakers like me. It's particularly important given that Chirinos died last year age 55. (Someone needs to keep his voice alive).

So what happens when you send a note like that to a translator?

This happens: Racz ("Gary"!) insists on sending me two other books of Chirinos poetry that he's translated.

When I return from my Christmas holidays up North, a little package of books is waiting for me -- like Santa had to come back because he forgot a gift.

Maybe I'm a bit TOO into the "small things," but honestly I am thrilled!

Send a translator a love note, and who knows what might happen? He or she just might send you another book.

(And a book for a book-lover is the paper equivalent of chocolate.)

Thank you thank you thank you, Gary.

And thanks also to the American Literary Translators Association for a lovely conference and for stocking the book room with so many wonderful titles.

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