Article published on November 28, 2017.
Inspired by the evening of translation discussion and debate that took place last night at Blackwell’s Edinburgh as part of Luis de Miranda’s Who Killed the Poet? and 88 Translations project, Jade Craddock posed some questions to Luis:
Jade Craddock: The idea of a novella being translated around the world is a fascinating one, how did it come about and how did you decide on 88 translations?
Luis de Miranda: Good ideas sometimes come from the capacity to be self-critical. When I learnt in the early months of 2017 that my novella was going to be published in English in the USA, my first thought was this is the climax of its journey because English is such a dominant and global language. But immediately afterwards I felt something was wrong with this way of thinking. To be translated into English is fantastic in itself, but on a deeper level my novella is about the liberating power of the Creal, a concept that means – among other things – diversity, pluralism, and infinite multiplicity. That’s when I had the idea of propagating the text into diverse cultures and languages. The number 88 came quite easily because the number 888 plays a symbolic role in the narrative of the novel, in relation to a forgotten Shakespearean text about two characters looking into each other’s eyes during 888 breaths. There are also – coincidently – officially 88 constellations of stars in the night sky: each language being like a constellation of possible worlds.
Jade Craddock: What are you most looking forward to and most nervous about with the project?
Luis de Miranda: I wish the symbolic horizon of 88 translations will be reached before I die, but I’m not nervous about it. There are already a few translations going on and I believe in natural rhythms and cooperation. Since I’m not a millionaire or even a “millenaire”, I go with the Creal, as some people say “go with the flow”. I’m also confident that the translators will do an amazing job, because of the way we choose each other, not based on materialistic concerns but on passion and respect.
Jade Craddock: Some people feel that something is lost in a work when it is translated from the original, do you share this concern or in fact do you think that translation can add something to a work?
Luis de Miranda: My experience with the previous translations of my books is that a translation is a creative work, not a photocopy. So some parts will be stronger in the original and some in the translation. What’s important is the internal coherence and inspirational density of each text and the fact that the overall impression and deep message of the book is preserved. When I can, as for example in the case for the English translation, but also now with the Swedish translation, or soon with the Italian, I read the chapters as they are translated and verify that it flows and no contradictions has been introduced. But I’m not obsessive about it, as I trust my translators and we frequently have informal exchanges in which they discover my vision of the world. As I’ve mentioned, the project is going at a natural pace. I let the right people come to me without forcing destiny.
Jade Craddock: Is there a sense in which each new translation makes the novella new every time and how does that feel as the author of the original to have passed on some control to the translators?
Luis de Miranda: I trust them deeply and that’s why I give half my author’s royalties to the translator. But as I’ve said, we’ve chosen each other, not on capitalist terms, but based on a deeper level, which is precisely the very message of Who Killed the Poet? We love the deep, creative power of poetry and passion. We believe the world isn’t functioning properly today precisely because of an overload of function – we’re not machines and shouldn’t accept our robotisation! Additionally each translation is a constellation, a new configuration of possibilities and experiences that its readers create each time from the perspective of a different culture.
Jade Craddock: The novella has already achieved a number of translations, how has the experience been so far and what translations are lined up?
Luis de Miranda: There’s a Turkish and an English translation in the bookshops already and as we speak a few others are being carefully crafted by translators: Italian, Swedish, Korean, Hindi, Greek and hopefully German soon. So far it’s been a rewarding and adventurous experience. I wish I had more time to speak to more translators from various languages, any language, but since I don’t, I rely on chance encounters, word of mouth and interviews like this one which play an important role.
Jade Craddock: Is there one particular language or place that you would love to see the novella reach?
Luis de Miranda: I’d like to discover a language I’ve never heard of and see the novella translated into that. And perhaps Portuguese (in Portugal or Brazil), since it’s my mother tongue. But in fact I don’t really have a preference to be honest.
Jade Craddock: The story Who Killed the Poet? sounds like a fascinating one, how important was this particular story to the project or could the 88 translations have been pursued with any story?
Luis de Miranda: The text itself is fascinating of course! Perhaps we could meet for a second interview to speak about the book itself in more detail at some point in the future! There’s a deep relationship between the 88 constellations/translations and the message of the book which is: let’s stop accepting living in a world where poetry, magic, adventure, wonder and diversity are damaged everyday by the logic of capitalism and dull realism. Too many of us have to give up on our dreams and passions because of lack of money, institutional support or simply friendly encouragement. Not to mention the damage that’s being done to the non-human forces of life, animals, nature, what have you! The logic of our global economic system is boring and fatal – when not in the physical sense, in the symbolic sense. We kill a poet everyday in the metaphorical sense when we surrender and accept the logic of uniformity and excessive rule of money or bureaucracy.
Jade Craddock: What is the importance of translated fiction at this time do you think?
Luis de Miranda: There’s a lot of fiction out there that’s soulless, written-by-numbers, and mass-produced like yoghurt. Who Killed the Poet?, on the surface, is a pastiche of a whodunit thriller: the reader really wonders who has done it, but slowly understands the book should also be read as a critique of commercial writing. Too many important books aren’t translated because they didn’t sell or weren’t prize-winning in their original language. The original version of my novella, Qui a tué le poète?, wasn’t a bestseller in French, nor did it receive a literary prize (those are generally distributed among mainstream publishers and tend to overlook small presses). According to the dominant logic of capitalist publishing, it wouldn’t have been translated at all. The success of our 88 translations project will be the proof that beautiful things can still happen today that aren’t orchestrated by marketing and financial concerns.
Jade Craddock: Is enough done to help fiction cross borders?
Luis de Miranda: Again, “fiction”, I feel, is too vague a notion. There can be soulless fiction, commercial fiction, or deeply inspired fiction that shakes our illusions and conventions.
Jade Craddock: What is your one hope from the project?
Luis de Miranda: This novella is my – or should I say our – contribution to a better world, a more plural and diverse world where each human will be able to reconnect with its dimensions, including the creative and cosmic one. We shouldn’t accept being reduced to being an economic function, a cog in the megamachine. We’re all poets as are our children. I hope my daughter will grow up in a word of beautiful possibilities.
Our thanks to both Luis and Jade for this informative Q&A.
Who Killed the Poet? by Luis de Miranda
Snuggly Books 9781943813421 pbk Oct 2017
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