Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Chronicle of a book, translations and a death

Back in 2004, I signed up for an English course called Development of the American Literature, marking the first of three classes I took with Jose Skinner. The first thing he said was the class isn't American literature in the sense that it would primarily focus on books by authors of the United States, but would focus on writers from the Americas. 

While I can't recall most of the authors covered - William S. Burroughs was one - Gabriel Garcia Marquez stood out the most. Skinner, opting not to play the typical Garcia Marquez book, chose Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a 120-page novella detailing the events of the murder of Santiago Nasar.

I haven't the faintest clue why I didn't read it for the course; half of me probably held on to my  prejudices. I don't like reading translations for the sole reason that I feel they fail their original language. Books like Innocent World and Snakes and Earrings failed to keep me as an audience, even though I completed the book. However, with Gabriel Garcia Marquez I read and finished - even fell in love with - his novella, Memories of My Melancholy Whores - Memoria de mis putas tristes - which, obviously, is also a translation. Of course, this leaves it all open to the fault of the translator and not the original writer.

Six years after being introduced to the novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold, I'm at the library browsing through used books when I see a new copy on the shelf. It's been a while since I've sold mine - probably shortly after the course concluded - so I decided to attempt another read through. Costing only half the cover price, I saw it as a good deal. I paid for my purchases and went home, putting off the read until I finished at least one of the two books I'd been reading. When concluding Thirteen, I dived into this one.

Regretfully, I realized how much I missed out in 2004. The book was beautifully written (translated?), leaving me feeling helpless for not having been able to read it in its original language. I'm looking forward to reevaluating my stance on reading translations.

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