At 4:55 this morning I finished the third volume of Los Hijos del Pueblo: Historia de una Familia de Proletarios a Través de Veinte Siglos, por Eugenio Sué. Only one more volume to go. The first contains 1,150 pages; the second, 912; the third, 1,070; the fourth, 962. I read ten pages every morning while having my first cup of coffee. Sometimes, later in the day, when it’s too hot out to pick peppers and cucumbers, I read another ten pages. I always read aloud, and am careful to study and pronounce every word. In this particular work there are many French names. This makes for some awkward moments. Some lend themselves easily to Spanish pronunciation. Others, like La Rochefoucauld, do not. Sometimes I sound like I have a mouthful of marbles. And I can hear my mother say, “I hope you washed those before putting them in your mouth.” And I think, isn’t it interesting how we say, washed those, before putting them? What happened, exactly, to the marbles in the space of three words? I don’t know. But at least I didn’t swallow them.
I had a similar experience when I was reading Samvel Mkrtchyan’s brilliant Armenian translation of Ulysses, by James Joyce, which is challenging enough to read in the original. How does one read a symphony? With his ears, of course. How does one pronounce a musical score? By enlisting the help of an angelic choir. All simple enough. And so it’s quite obvious to me that Mkrtchyan, rest his soul, was mad, in the way waterfalls are mad, dashing and shimmering and breaking on rocks. And to think this is the same man who translated several of my stories and poems. And it wasn’t too long before he died that he told me he wanted to translate A Listening Thing. My novel in Armenian. Not a waterfall, perhaps. Maybe a rivulet.