Tuesday, April 10, 2012

57. A difficult } translation.

Nathalie Z. was a student of mine a few years ago. She took a literature course with me when I taught for a Boston-area design school. She was studying interior design but brought to it a strong desire for activism, and in fact hoped she might combine the two. She is Bolivian and Canadian, shuttled back and forth by family throughout her childhood. During the same semester Nathalie told me about her life in Bolivia, my friend Sarah Gray returned from her travels in South America. Sarah and I talked about her visit to Bolivia over beer at Matt Murphy’s in Brookline.

A result of these conversations, and an invite to contribute to Danel Olsen’s Exotic Gothic series, was “A Line Through el Salar d'Uyuni,” which ends on that salt flat in Bolivia (Nathalie had never been to the flat, but Sarah traveled across it, and my sister contributed some of her experiences on a Tunisian salt flat). I had material left over—notes that didn’t fit into “A Line” that became “The Great Blind God Passed Through Us,” published in Strange Tales III.

I decided to push to do a third “Bolivia story,” which proved to be very complex, bringing together elements of New York City, Henry Walter Bates’ In the Heart of the Amazon Forest, Beowulf, the Popol Vuh, and some very excellent field notes written for me by Jenna Lawrence. (She made an appearance in an early draft of the story, but proved to be too nice a person to deserve such a fate.) The result is “Translation,” available in the current issue of Supernatural Tales, available both in print and as an e-book from Lulu.

Pictured above are some of the first notes I made for the story, a jumble of Popol Vuh translations of and my interpolations to the Mayan myths regarding the Hanahpu brothers, the calabash tree, and the Blood Maiden.

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