Sunday, January 28, 2007

I like it when you shut up???


Mi favorito poema de Neruda de nuestro libro está “Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente” porque cuando lo leí en español, creí que era sobre una situación muy común pero él diseca la situación en algo más sencillo. Pensí que cuando dice “Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente” la mujer (quizá una novia) no está hablando a él problamente porque ella está enojado y por un momento es mejor que gritando. Pero al fin, dice que “distante y dolorosa como si hubieras muerto”, entonces la situación hace incómodo y lo ve la silencia como está mala; después dice “una palabra entonces, una sonrisa bastan” porque se gustaría que ella hable, casi negociando con ella por solo una palabra y una sonrisa. El último frase “Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto” significa que el está alegre que ella no es muerte.

Pero a mí, es interesante que en inglés, lo leyera diferentemente. I read “I like you when you are silent because you are as though absent”, and I saw different images of what Neruda was trying to convey. I saw someone who was sad and wasn’t speaking because they were unable, choked up perhaps. “and you are like the word melancholy” stands out to me more in the English version. Of course, I understand English better than Spanish (though I enjoyed the poem better in Spanish than in English) and I imagine that because of this my interpretation of the Spanish version was probably wrong. My point being though, that translated, the poems meaning changes and certain things that are more significant in Spanish can sound less in English and vise-versa. What threw me off initially was the word “callas” in comparison to “silent”. I read callas to be something a little more malicious, like “I like it when you shut up because it’s like you’re absent” (haha, not quite as poetic as the translation). As you may well see, from that starting point, the poem takes on a whole new meaning.

I would like to know more about how other people interpreted this poem. Please share…

6 comments:

Jon said...

It's certainly an interesting poem. And you're right that "callarse" can indeed be translated as "shut up." As we've discussed, there's some ambivalence or ambiguity here: though elsewhere the poet seems to be pained by the woman's absence, here when she is present he wants her to be quiet so it's as though she were (still) absent.

I'm not sure how the poem is generally translated. sometimes it seems the line is rendered "I like for you to be still," but that doesn't seem right to me.

Dave said...

I feel that many people are being a little harsh with the translation. I take it as a literal translation: callarse = to be quiet, to stop talking. I thought I was cynical for thinking The Alchemist is a tonteria, but after hearing a lot of the cynical translations of Neruda's poems, I don't feel so bad :).

My reading stands as a positive reading. I picture a couple very much in love who spend a lot of time together. This poem is just a snapshot of one of the moments they spend together. It's a moment where they may be relaxing. The man is just saying how when she appears absent, or even dead, it evokes a longing for her. And when she speaks or smiles, it reminds him that she is in fact there beside. I see as a kind of artificial attempt to evoke feelings for her by imaging here absent, sort of like a little game. I know of (and I imagine many other people do) so many couples that fight and argue often, then make up. In reality, these are just games too. This poem is positive version of the little games between couples.

Fernando said...

Bueno primero voy a comentar sobre la traducción porque tenemos que tener mucho cuidado cuando interpretando la poesía originalmente escrita en español y traducida al ingles. El ano pasado tome un curso donde al principio estaba leyendo muchas de las escrituras en inglés y usándolas para analizar pero me encontré con la realización que no era igual. El único consejo que te puedo dar es leerlo en español y preguntarle a alguien si no entiendes algo porque para mí, encontré que se pierde demasiado del sentido cuando una obra se traduce.

Segundo, estoy acuerdo con Dave sobre el uso de la palabra callarse. Esta palabra como muchas en español se puede usar en varias formas. Aquí se pueda interpretar como una de cariño.

Dan said...

I think this is an interesting discussion, and an interesting poem. I took a class in Spanish translation at UBC and developed an understanding of how subtle differences in connotations of words can drastically affect the meaning of a piece of writing, and especially in the case of a poem like this one.
When I first read it in Spanish, my reading was similar to Dave and Fernando's, that it was an expression of affection. I understood "I like it when you are silent," because she is being quiet and contemplative and they are enjoying an intimate, quiet moment together.
But when I read an English translation that had the line as "I like for you to be still," it seemed a bit less affectionate and a bit more controlling, like a parent telling a child to sit still. As has been said already, the word callarse does certainly have different meanings, but considering the tone of this poem and the poems around it, the sense of the word seemed to me more like "remaining quiet and not speaking" than like an angry parent yelling "¡Cállate!"

Anonymous said...

From a native spanish speaker and Neruda lover: In Spanish the line is soft and full of tenderness... To my non-english ears.."I like it when you shut up..." sounds violent.

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