One of the issues I’ve always had in being bicultural—especially now that I call Colombia my home (although I’m in England at the moment)—is the dilemma of loving a country…and yet not being able to represent it. Maybe the problem is the word “represent”—because I would never claim to do that. But even what love and gladness I’m able to express about being a dual citizen (of the U.S. and Colombia) is hampered by feelings of guilt. I am and I am not. I belong to both; therefore, wholly to neither. How can I gush about the sheer wonderfulness of García Márquez novels in supermarkets and say virtually nothing about the grim realities of a few streets away? There has always been an ambivalence in me—because I know that there are layers and layers of pain and joy and life and tragedy and stories that I have yet to access—so much I have yet to understand. And maybe I never truly will. But I have learned that for all of my dubious gladness about my carefree, running-through-the-neighborhood-barefoot middleclass childhood, there exists the sure gladness of carefree running-through-the-barrio-barefoot children in streets and soccer fields. Three-year-olds that leap off front steps and gleefully join siblings and neighborhood friends in reckless play…none the worse for wear.
I would never presume to speak for others. And since it’s self-indulgent to speak for myself, I never speak at all.
I know this is serious stuff…and that part of the reason I’m here is to begin to “unpack” (as academics love to say) this conundrum of identity. Because it does affect me as a translator. Translators are glorified readers. But simply conveying a certain “reading” of a text is not enough for me. Why this text? Why bother? There are ineffably important perspectives and realities that people of other countries should understand (especially the people of North America who are taught that North and South are two different continents, while people of South America are taught that it is all part of ONE).
What I keep coming back to are stories…individual worlds. Each poem, each novel, each essay is its own world. Worlds that readers of another language need…that other readers would be impoverished without. Our entire lives are a narrative. We are filled up to the eyeballs with narrative. Most everything we say is expressed as narrative. How can we not let the narratives of those of other countries, cultures, continents, hemispheres, worlds, enter our consciousness? How can we presume to understand the “issues” if we don’t allow other worlds to enter our realm of understanding?
A.M. Correa is working toward her masters in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. You will also find occasional updates on her litblog, "Out of the Woods Now."
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