Interview with Xavier Queipo

Xavier Queipo

Foto: Cé Tomé

A couple of weeks ago, Xavier Queipo visited us in Cork for a day full of fantastic activities. We didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of asking him about his experience in Cork and getting to know a bit more about his work on the translation of Ulysses… as well as his favourite words in Galician. Below you’ll see a short interview with him in both Galician and English:

  • Hai uns días estiveches en Cork falando de escritura creativa e das vantaxes dos exercicios de estilo para os escritores. Coidas que sería interesante que os estudantes de linguas fixesen exercicios similares para mellorar o seu nivel?

  • A few days ago you were in Cork speaking about creative writing and the advantages of style exercises for writers. Do you think it would be interesting for students to do similar exercises to improve their level?

Eu non estou moi a prol da separación de ciencias e letras, e daquela coido en pensar que a experimentación é sempre necesaria para avanzar no coñecemento.  Cando de estudar una lingua se trata e se se quere avanzar alén do nivel básico de comunicación o feito de facer exercicios axuda a acadar un maior dominio da lingua que se estuda (como diría eu esto mesmo se fose un neno?, como podería describir o mesmo sentimento dun xeito romántico?, ou funcionarial?, ou técnico?, ou sintético?). De seguro que hai moitos manuais que eu non coñezo, pois sempre fixen estes exercicios de xeito intuitivo, mais se cadra podería recomendar os exercicios de estilo de Raymond Queneau, que se ben están orixinalmente en francés, xa foron traducidos a moitas linguas, entre elas o castelán, o galego (en edicións Xerais de Galicia) e mais en inglés (Exercises in Style, by Raymond Queneau – Oneworld Classics)

I´m not very keen on the separation between sciences and arts, and so I believe that experimenting is always necessary to acquire knowledge. When studying a language, if one wants to go beyond the communication basics, doing exercises helps to achieve a better command of the language being studied (how would I say this if I was a child? How could I describe the same feeling in a romantic way? Or bureaucratic? Or concise?). I am sure there are a lot of manuals that I don’t know of, as I always approached those exercises in a more intuitive way, but I could possibly recommend Raymond Queneau’s style exercises, which, although originally in French, have now been translated into many languages, among which are Spanish, Galician (by Edicións Xerais de Galicia) and English (Exercises in Style, by Raymond Queneau – Oneworld Classics).

  • Formas parte do grupo de tradutores que fixeron fronte á titánica tarefa de verquer o Ulysses ao galego por primeira vez de forma completa; que se sinte ao comezar un traballo semellante? Dende a túa experiencia, tes algunha recomendación para os estudantes da UCC que se queiran dedicar á tradución literaria?

  • You are part of the group of translators who faced the titanic task of translating the entire Ulysses into Galician for the first time. What do you feel when you begin such a project? From your experience, do you have any recommendations for UCC students who wish to focus on literary translation?

O que se sinte é medo, de non poder chegar a acadar o obxectivo final, mais tamén, ao unísono, unha gran ilusión, a de poder avanzar no coñecemento dun dos textos literarios marcantes do século XX. A tradución do Ulises que queriamos facer requiría non só a capacidade de trasladar do inglés ao galego palabras e frases, senón que esixía —entre moitas outras cousas— malicia lingüística (para reproducir o ton irónico que percorre sutilmente o texto orixinal), ouvido musical (para seguir o ritmo mudábel da prosa joyceana e captar a cadencia específica de certos treitos), memoria selectiva (para lembrar frases, palabras e situacións que se repiten ao longo do texto), coñecementos profundos da evolución da lingua galega dende que hai rexistros escritos (para ser quen de emular o xogo evolutivo do inglés que hai que traspor ao galego)… Ningún de nós reunía en grao superlativo as características, capacidades, destrezas, habelencias e intuicións —lingüísticas e literarias, enciclopédicas e mundanais, comúns e singulares— que o labor esixía de palabra en palabra, mais por xunto si que atesourabamos esas competencias, e daquela mellor traballar en equipo ca de xeito illado.

Aos estudantes da UCC quixera dicirlles que quen traduce ten a obriga de investigar, desenvolver e innovar cando fai o seu traballo, pois escribir «bonito» sen posibilidade de inventar verbas ou grafías, sen liberdade para modificar o ritmo pautado dos parágrafos ou a posición das partículas en cada frase, é exercicio para amanuenses que repiten fórmulas estritas, mais non debe ser norma común entre escritores (ou reescritores, que non outra cousa son os tradutores). Investigación, desenvolvemento e innovación (I+D+I) son pois as chaves para este traballo reconfortante que é a traducción, onde un é quen de entrar noutros mundos, de de descubrir novas cosmogonías e de desenvolver as súas capacidades de análise, de síntese e de recreación.

En breve, precisarán de entusiasmo, de coñecemento das dúas linguas (a de orixe e a de destino) e de vontade de exploración. Os resultados non os deixarán indiferentes, pois sentirán a proximidade do autor, do texto e do coñecemento alquímico da esencia da literatura.

You feel fear of not being able to achieve the final goal, but also, at the same time, a great thrill coming from getting the opportunity of getting to know one of the works which marked the 20th century. The translation of Ulysses that we wanted to do required not only the ability to translate words and sentences from English into Galician, but also -among many other things- linguistic mischief (to reproduce the subtle sarcastic tone of the original), musical ear (to follow the changing rythm of Joycean prose and capture the specific cadence of some of the parts), selective memory (to remember sentences, words and situations repeated across the texts), deep knowledge about the Galician language evolution since written records exist (to be able to emulate the evolutional game of the English used that needs to be rendered into Galician)… These characteristics, abilities, skills and intuitions linguistic and literary, encyclopedic and mundane, ordinary and unique that the job required from word to word were not present in any of us in their superlative sense, but together we did possess them, which is why it was better to work as a team rather than in isolation.

To the students of UCC I would say that translators have a duty to research, develop and innovate when they work, since writing “nicely” without the possibility of making up words or graphical symbols, without the freedom to modify the marked rythm of the paragraphs or the position of particles in the sentence is only an exercise for scribes who are limited to repeat strict formulas, but shouldn’t be the common norm among writers (or re-writers, which is what translators are). Research, development and innovation (R&D&I) are then the keys for this comforting job that is translation, in which one is able to enter other worlds, to discover new cosmogonies while developing their analysis, synthesis and recreation skills.

To sum up, they’ll need enthusiasm, knowledge of both languages (source and target) and a willingness to explore. They will not be left indifferent by the results, instead feeling the proximity of the authors, the text and the alchemic knowledge of the essence of literature.

  • No seminario sobre a tradución do Ulysses comentaches que non poderás volver escribir do mesmo xeito despois de lelo e traducilo. Cres que traducir a Joyce mudou tamén a túa visión de Irlanda? Como foi a túa experiencia en Cork?

  • In the seminar on the translation of the Ulysses you said that you would not be able to write in the same way again after reading it and translating it. Do you think translating Joyce also changed your perspective about Ireland? How was your experience in Cork?

En Joyce, en Faulkner, en Cortázar, en Kafka, en Musil, en García Márquez, en Borges e en tantos outros está a esencia de literatura, a exploración da complexidade do mundo. Nese sentido un non é o mesmo logo de ler as grandes obras deses escritores xeniais. Polo meu traballo vistei Irlanda unha ducia de ocasións na última década do século XX e mesmo convivína bordo dunha fragata irlandesa durante un mes enteiro, patreullando polas augas de Terranova. Logo vistaría por razón literarias (dúas vistas a Cork) ou peroais (dúas visitas a Dublin e unha a Galway e Connemara) xa no século XXI. Joyce presenta unha visión da Irlanda do inicio do século XX e nese sentido o que me revelou foi a esencia dun país que xa non existe, que estaba baixo o dominio imperial dos ingleses e que vivía na miseria ética e o oscura,tismo da dependencia do poder central. Por sorte, ese perídodo pasou, mais quedan trazas dese pasado e Joyce axudou pois na comprensión de como esa dependencia puido influír na historia posterior de Irlanda logo da súa independencia.

Non é a primeita vez que visto o UCC. Na vista precedente –chovía como na xeira do dioivo- sentín un aquel de tristura. Chegar, falar un par de horas, e saír de regreso no día seguinte sen moito “feedback” do que para os alumnos e os profesores significara a miña presenza. Esta vez foi distinto. A xornada case maratoniana, fixo que me enchoupara da esencia do College e do ánimo que destilan estes profesores e estes alumnos embarcados nese barco de tolos que é a aventura de aprender, de explorar o coñecemento, de procurar un lugar no mundo. Percibín tamén un College moito máis multicultural e multiétnico e, porén, moito máis rico en experiencias, circulación de ideas e xeitos de ver o mundo, o que non pode ser senón enriquecedor a nivel individual e colectivo. Vin atención e respecto, ilusión ás veces como naqueles que no obradoiro de creación literaria descubriron que eles sí podían escribir, que sí podían experimentar distintos puntos de vista e crear una nova versión dunha historia xa contada. Vin bo ambiente entre alumnos e profesores, interese por aprender, solidariedade entre departamentos, nunha palabra vin harmonía e futuro.

In Joyce, in Faulkner, in Cortázar, in Kafka, in Musil, in García Márquez, in Borges and in so many others we can find the essence of literature, the exploration of the world’s complexity. In that sense, one is never the same after reading the great works of these magnificent writers. I visited Ireland for work a dozen times in the last decade of the 20th century, and I even spent a month co-inhabiting in an Irish frigate patrolling the waters of Terranova. After that, I would visit again for literary (two visits to Cork) and personal reasons (two visits to Dublin and one to Galway and Connemara) in the 21st century. Joyce shows a perspective of Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century, and in that sense what he revealed to me was the essence of a country that doesn’t exist anymore, which was under the imperial rule of the English and lived in ethical poverty and the obscurantism of the dependence from the central power. Luckily, this period ended, but traces of this past are still visible and Joyce helped me to understand how that dependence influenced the history of Ireland after it got its independence.

This is not the first time I visit UCC. In my previous visit it rained like in the times of the Flood I felt a touch of sadness. I arrived, I spoke for a couple of hours and I left the next day with very little feedback of what my presence had meant for students and teachers. It was different this time. The almost marathonian journey allowed me to get steeped in the essence of the College and the spirit of these teachers and students embarked in this ship of fools that is the adventure of learning, exploring knowledge and looking for a place in the world. I also perceived a much more multicultural and multiethnic college, much richer in experiences, exchange of ideas and ways of seeing the world, which is nothing but enriching both at an individual and at a collective level. I saw attention and respect, excitement at times, like the people who discovered, in the creative writing workshop, that they were able to write, that they could experiment different points of view and create a new version of a story already told. I saw a good relationship between students and teachers, interest for learning, solidarity among departments… In a nutshell, I saw harmony and future.

  • Por último, como sabes, na UCC temos un grupo de estudantes que comezaron a estudar galego este ano. Poderías falarlles dalgunhas das túas palabras favoritas en galego?

  • As you know, in UCC we have a group of students who started studying Galician this year. Could you tell them a few of your favourite words in Galician?

Hai dous campos semánticos que me resultan moi caros. Se cadra porque introcun un aquel de nostalxia do paraíso. Un deles é o dos nomes que nós os galegos utilizamos para definir os distintos tipos de chuvia coa que aquí, en Cork, estaredes familiarizados: Arroiada, ballón, bategada, dioivo, zarracina…cando é forte, orballo, chuviñada, chuviscada, poalla… cando é máis feble e xa logo esas expresión magníficas como chove con toda, chove que alimenta, chove as refoleadas… as arrañapedras… a cachón… os caldeiros… O outro é o léxico máis íntimo, o que se utiliza no eido do privado para nomear ao amado/amada segundo gustos e intereses, dende “compañeiro” para indicar unha relación persistenet no tempo ata garimos varios como miña rosa, meu caravel, meu ben, meu rei… raíña, princesa… e logo ferrete, crica, amorodo, pube,… e non sigo que me poño estupendo.

There are two semantic areas that are very dear to me. Perhaps because they bring a touch of longing of paradise. One of them is made out of the names that we use to define the different types of rain which are so familiar to you here in Cork: Arroiada, ballón, bategada, dioivo, zarracina (when it’s hard), orballo, chuviñada, chuviscada, poalla (when it’s weaker) and all those fantastic expressions such as chove con toda, chove que alimenta, chove as refoleadas, as arrañapedras, a cachón, os caldeiros… The other semantic area that I feel close to is more intimate and has to do with the words used in more private spheres to call lovers depending on preferences, from compañeiro to indicate a long term relationship to various endearments such as miña rosa, meu caravel, meu ben, meu rei, raíña, princesa… and also ferrete, crica, amorodo, pube… I won’t go on or I’ll risk losing the run of myself.

Entrevista e tradución de Laura Linares, lectora de galego en Cork.

Interview and translation by Laura Linares, Galician Lectora in Cork.

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  1. Pingback: Entrevista de Laura Liñares a Xavier Queipo | ::Axenda cultural AELG::

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