The Translator's Task: Recreating the Textual Atmosphere of Isla Cofre Mítico by Eugenio Fernández Granell
Brockway, Joseph Ellison
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In this dissertation, I introduce the Spanish painter, poet, essayist, and novelist Eugenio Fernández Granell and his seminal surrealist work, Isla cofre mítico. Granell was born in Galicia, Spain, in 1912 and can easily be described as a key figure within the surrealist movement in the second half of the twentieth century. Isla cofre mítico was Granell’s first published book, and it is the fullest published discussion about André Breton’s short work Martinique charmeuse de serpents, giving followers of Surrealism a deeper understanding of Breton’s time in Martinique. When you first pick up Granell’s book Isla cofre mítico, you are immediately struck by the cover’s fantastic, mythical creature composed of vibrant colors and amorphous features. The image is a pictorial representation of Granell’s island book that is Isla cofre mítico. The book represents the act of translation in all senses of the word. In it, Granell translates his violent experiences from the Spanish Civil War into words and images. He translates the foreign sights and sounds of the Caribbean geography and culture as he tries to make sense of the place that becomes his temporary home. He translates his experience of the world in the aftermath of the Second World War. For Granell, the aesthetic vision of André Breton is the only mode of expression capable of translating his experiences and thoughts into visual images and words. Isla cofre mítico is a visual, textual, and auditory experiment in translation for the original author and for me, the translator. In Isla cofre mítico, Granell translates the soundscapes of the island through the sounds created in and between words. He translates French passages from André Breton’s Martinique charmeuse de serpents into Spanish, as well as passages from other literary texts and historical documents. He translates images into words, and he juxtaposes words to produce sound and create meaning. How does one approach the translation of such a complex work? This dissertation presents an analysis of the complex textual environment of Granell’s text as well as my interpretive act of translation. I present a number of considerations for the translation process, including approaches to recreating complex patterns of repetition and textual musicality. I highlight the problematic role of textual ambiguity created by the author as translator from French into Spanish and my role as translator from Spanish into English. I also bring in translators who have contributed to the discussion of translation as an act of violence, and I attempt to demonstrate that Granell challenges previous notions of translation violence through his clashes of textual juxtapositions.