Friday, August 06, 2004

Ex Libris: Angélica Gorodischer's "Kalpa Imperial"


I'm trying to do a review of Angélica Gorodischer's wonderful book, Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire that Never Was but I'm afraid I won't be able to do justice to it. Where do I begin?

But what is Kalpa Imperial to begin with? Part fairy tales, part oral histories and (more than likely) part political commentaries, Gorodischer weaves the eleven chapters of Kalpa Imperial tapestry-style to give a picture of a fabled nameless empire which has risen and fallen innumerable times.

However, as the description of the book states, Kalpa Imperial is much more than a simple political allegory or fable as it is also a celebration of the power of storytelling, in more ways than one.

This is also the first work by the Argentinean writer translated into English by none other than acclaimed fantasist and another great storyteller Ursula K. Le Guin (she of Earthsea fame). Together, it would seem that the pairing of the two authors would be perfect.

Serendipitously, I picked up this article on translation (can't remember where, maybe bookslut or languagehat?) that I thought raised some question marks in my mind about this translated work.

From Lawrence Venuti's How to read a translation, he writes:

A translation ought to be read differently from an original composition
precisely because it is not an original, because not only a foreign work, but a
foreign culture is involved.

Likewise, he states that the reader must:

Read translations, although with an eye out for the translator’s work, with
the awareness that the most a translation can give you is an insightful and
eloquent interpretation of a foreign text, at once limited and enabled by the
need to address the receiving culture.

Considering we're talking about an 'invented' culture, I doubt we'll see Venuto's problem here.

Still, the presumption is that the work's creation is credited to Gorodischer. However, we have to consider the book's prose-- which I thought was one of the book's greatest strength-- has been diluted by Le Guin. Definitely to the good, of course, but it also raises the inevitable question.

Where does Gorodischer begin and Le Guin end?

Wala lang.

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