20 April 2012

Sweating Ink

So, you’re trying to complete a difficult task.  You’re working your socks off, slogging your guts out.  In fact, you’re probably sweating blood as well. 

It all sounds a little messy. 

But if you’re Spanish, you wouldn’t be sweating blood at all, but ink. The Spanish language seems to have come to the conclusion that any job worth doing must involve a guttering candle, a quill, a full inkwell, and piles of vellum parchment on which to scribble, blot and smudge your tome. And so sudar tinta (to sweat ink) is the phrase you would use for such strenuous efforts.

I think I can vouch for this.  Recently I’ve been mopping my brow and armpits as I endeavour to translate into Spanish the poems from the collection I’ve been working on. I’ve pored over dictionaries, scratched lists of vocabulary, written and rewritten drafts.  (Why on earth are you doing this?  you may well ask.  Because it means I don’t have to think up any new poems.)  

The perspiration comes from the need to nit-pick for accuracy.  And there lies the fascination of learning another language – its quirky expressions that don’t have direct equivalents in English.  I came across one yesterday at my Spanish lesson with the wonderful Ana María, when we were looking at an article about the Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón, who wrote The Shadow of the Wind.  Zafón, it would seem, divides his time between Spain and the United States

Except, as Spanish would have it, he lives on horseback between Barcelona and Los Angeles.  (Zafón vive a caballo entre Los Angeles y Barcelona).

And you can just picture him: gripping the reins of his white stallion in one hand, a couple of copies of his new book The Prisoner of Heaven  in the other, galloping at full tilt for Zaragoza, for the Picos Europa, steering a course for the port of A Coruña where, incognito in a cape, he’ll stow away on a transatlantic clipper.  Down in steerage with his horse, he'll enjoy a reflective - if a little stormy - five-day crossing before disembarking  at New York.  Then he’ll speed ever westward, stopping only for sunrise over the Grand Canyon, and on towards California.  As soon as he arrives in LA, there’ll be just enough time for a booksigning, a hurried interview, and a rub-down of the steed before saddling up and cantering off to Spain once more.

I admire and applaud Zafón's horsemanship.  Not to mention all the ink he sweats into his books.

No comments:

Post a Comment