Friday, June 30, 2017

The Person You Are Trying to Reach Is Not Available, by Andrea Chapela

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(SF) In an age where death and dying are rare, the narrator’s mother decides she’s had enough of life. (6,044 words; Time: 20m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"," by (translated by Andrea Chapela, edited by Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde), appeared in issue 06/26/17, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Notes on the translation: I read the story in Spanish first and then compared it with the Engish. For the most part, the translation is okay, but it could have been better. Take this sentence:
Me apoyo contra la pared, dejo salir el aire mientras la alarma parpadea en la esquina superior de mi campo de visión.
Which is translated as
I lean against the wall, which is cold against my back. I let out a breath while the notification blinks in the upper corner of my sitefield.
But which I would translate as
I leaned against the wall and let out a breath while the alarm blinked in the upper corner of my field of view.
The biggest difference is that I’ve used the English simple past tense instead of the “historical present tense.” The historical present is very common in Spanish, but not in English, and even when it is used in English, it's not for this type of story. (There’s not much action here.) Getting the tenses right in a Spanish translation is quite a chore, but simply translating them literally is usually the wrong choice.

“Sitefield” isn’t an English word, so that’s a simple error, but the biggie is where did “which is cold against my back” come from? It’s not in the text at all. It’s a really bold translator who takes that much liberty with the text!

It turns out that the author is the translator, so it appears that she took the opportunity to make a few last-minute tweaks when she translated it. About a dozen more of these are sprinkled through the text.

When you consider that the English was written by someone whose native language is Spanish, it’s very impressive indeed. When you compare it to most professionally published stories, though, it’s fairly rough.

Pro: This is about how the narrator (who we know is female because Doña Carmella calls her mija not mijo) grants her mother’s wish to die naturally in her own home. In the course of the story, we learn all about the relationship between mother and daughter, and we experience the exquisite pain of sharing a loved one’s last days.

Con: The speculative element is peripheral to the story. You could move this story to 2017 and make it about a woman who refuses chemotherapy or dialysis or something and the heart of the story would be unchanged.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 06/26/17)
Andrea Chapela Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. Very touching. I think the speculate elements do make it more poignant. The fact that she's turning away from many years of relatively good health as opposed to months of very poor health. Then being unable to return their virtual space is more immediate than any present day equivalent I can think of.

    Interesting notes on the translation. Especially that things were added, instead of lost! I hadn't noticed the tense, but I know that will bother some people. I assumed "sitefield" was a term specifically for SmartLenses.