From the Translator: Working with the Author

By Samantha Schnee

Editor's note: Translator Samantha Schnee worked closely with author Carmen Boullosa throughout the translation of the latter's "Sleepless Homeland." The following exchange, with its multiple rounds of drafts, queries, and responses, provides an instructive glimpse of the process.

Did we lose you in a game of dice?
Did you escape from us in one snort?
In which junkie’s syringe did you become trapped, my Homeland?
Maybe some Nordic addict’s from the north?
When did they [brand] DO YOU “BRAND” CATTLE? you with the mark of the pill that gives short-lived pleasure?
 
I’m addicted to you, branded but not for short DOES THAT WORK? EL NEGATIVO ES POR NO SER “SHORT-LIVED” SINO PARA SIEMPRE[but not the mess you’re in/your circumstance/the way you are now]., stamped with your indelible mark.
 
 
My HMy homeland,
One diamantine [or hard, bright] day you stammeronce eloquent, now you stutter,“PATRIA DIAMANTINA”´S A GAME WITH LÓPEZ VELARDE… THIS IS NOT EASY IN ENGLISH… IT´S ALREADY “BRANDED” … MAYBE “ONE DAY FLUID, NOW YOU STUTTER!  (UN DÍA MUY FLUIDA, HOY TARTAMUDEAS)
 
stutter daily,
Ever more aware of the nature of your wound, everNOW more alive,
voracious, arrogant
likeAS the mouth of an open wound!

 and fierce (sounds better than voracious but meaning is less specific)!

(A WOUND AS AN OPEN MOUTH, STUTTERING –THAT´S BEHIND THE “LLANA” AND THE “VORAZ”…, DON´T KNOW HOW COULD THIS BE CONVEYED TO ENGLISH
 
Whoring around in your shadowsIn the shadows you behave like a trollop,SURIPANTA IS VERY OLDFASHIONED, ANY IDEA OF A WORD FOR WHORE THAT COULD MORE OR LESS GIVE THAT SMELL?
 
you sell each part of yourself for the pleasure of others,
wearing dark glasses,
you sing along to the accordion and tamborines,
until you’re hoarse. [you lose your voice?], DESGAÑITARSE DOESN´T MEAN LOOSE VOICE, … PASO AL ESPAÑOL: SINO GRITAR SIN CONTENCIÓN, A TODO PULMÓN Y MUCHO TIEMPO MIENTRAS SE HABLA O CANTA
In bed you feign pleasure but feel pain.
 
 
(And sometimes you make music without poisoning others with your own flesh.) poisoning yourself).  “ENVENENANDO A COSTA PR
(And sometimos, my HoOmeland, you laugh without losing your voicemaking yourself hoarse.) SAME “YOU LAUGH WITHOUT SPITTING YOUR LUNGS OUT?” SOMETHING LIKE THAT).
 
 

¿Quo vadis?
 
Where did you fall, sleepless homeland,
like the star in the story,
like the drunk woman(IN FEMENINE?, “LA EBRIA”) who crashed into a lamp post?
 
Your fleshmass [what you are made of] (YOUR FLESH?) is denser,
more austere,
more solid,
more real,
can be compressed into a thimble,
or the embroidery on that blouse.
 
Of where you are “DE QUE ESTÉS” IS VERY COLOQUIAL, MEANS SOMETHING LIKENo doubt you exist, no question. there is no ques
But where are you?
Through the smoke of a war that sullies[that consumes] us all, (THROUGH THE SMOKES OF WAR THAT DARKENS US ALL… ES UNA FRASE DIFÍCIL: LOS HUMOS CUBREN A TODOS, LOS HUMOS SON DE LA GUERRA
           
in which no one
but mercenaries
participate
--the bullets that fly have no conviction,
they’re on the payroll of the fed, the state, somethis or that drug lord…
rounds of bullets for hire.
 
You’re [slipping away from us, SÍ, ME PARECE MUY BIEN “SLIPPING AWAY FROM US” PARA “TE NOS ESCAPAS], hHomeland in flight.
 
(Your honeyed
breath
of rounds of [bullets for hire.IRE]RAFAGAS A SUELDO…. NOT SURE IS “AMMO” OR “AMMUNITION”, RÁFAGAS ARE THE BULLETS THAT COME OUT NONE STOP FROM MECHANIC GUNS… MEANS MANY ON ONE BLOW… LIKE A RAIN… “RÁFAGAS A SUELDO” MEANS THEY´RE ON A PAYROLL. I DO THE REPETITION IN SPANISH FOR SOUND REASONS (“RÁFAGAS” ITSELF SOUNDS LIKE “RÁFAGAS” AND ALSO IS A REFERENCE TO LÓPEZ VELARDE, AGAIN…)
 
(Your breath of garlic and chocolate and chiles.)
 
(Your pestle-and-mortar breath
of garlic and hHoney and chiles and pepper and cinnamon.)
 
(Your breath of sacrificial stone,
of blood,
of a heart still beating.)
 

I love her anyway

 
Myy country land?, my water, my roots, my masts ARBOLADURA IS NO MARITIME REFERENCE BUT THE TRUNKS WHEN ALIVE… DON´T KNOW IT IT´S CLEAR ON “MASTStree trunks and flowers,
stony, little feminine island –THERE´S NO WORD FOR A SMALL ISLAND?, DIFFERENT FROM ISLAND?-,islet,
mine, mine, as only you can be,
quintessentialOld Mother, MAIN? FOR “MAYOR”? DON´T KNOW IF IT WORKS, “MAIN”… “MAYOR”
I call to you from another island without stones,
or serpents, 
where the eagle and the hedgehog work together,
planning to devour you.

¨¨
(Cactus!
We have made cactus
stew of my Homeland!
A delicious soup of pleasures
for foreigneres.
Cactus: ecstasy, [meth,? YES] and everything else.)


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