Z e t e o
Reading, Looking, Listening, . . . Questioning

Kaufmann, Melville, Suntory time: 7-13 April (ZiR)

Categories: Alexia Raynal, ZiR


LostAlexia Raynal, Zeteo Managing Editor

[One in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see
Zeteo is Reading.]

07 April 2013

I finally had the time to read The New York Times op-ed article from last Tuesday. In “Diagnosis: Human,” Harvard professor Ted Gup takes from his own loss to reflect on the lessons we miss from life, death, grief, and our (im)perfect way of coping with them through medication:

Ours is an age in which the airwaves and media are one large drug emporium that claims to fix everything from sleep to sex. I fear that being human is itself fast becoming a condition. It’s as if we are trying to contain grief, and the absolute pain of a loss like mine. We have become increasingly disassociated and estranged from the patterns of life and death, uncomfortable with the messiness of our own humanity, aging and, ultimately, mortality.

08 April 2013

Translating and interpreting are two different tasks. Translators interpret written texts, while interpreters translate oral statements (note the term-switching). Certainly, both activities/disciplines demand much audacity, preciseness, and love of language. Why Sofia Coppola decided to title her Tokyo-based movie “Lost in Translation” (2003)—when it captures, really, transferred attitudes and behaviors—is beyond my understanding . . . Nevertheless, the movie’s dialogue is remarkable. Perhaps as I put some of its words on “paper” and you read them, we may amend the movie’s initial act of interpretation and transform it into a true act of translation:

Director: [in Japanese] Mr. Bob-san, you are relaxing in your study. On the table is a bottle of Suntory whiskey. Got it? Look slowly, with feeling, at the camera, and say it gently – say it as if you were speaking to an old friend. Just like Bogie in Casablanca, “Here’s looking at you, kid” – Suntory time.
Ms. Kawasaki, interpreter: Umm. He want you to turn, looking at camera. OK?
Bob: That’s all he said?
Ms. Kawasaki: Yes. Turn to camera.
Bob: All right. Does he want me to turn from the right, or turn from the left?
Ms. Kawasaki[to director, in Japanese] Uh, umm. He’s ready now. He just wants to know if he’s supposed to turn from the left or turn from the right when the camera rolls. What should I tell him?
Director: [in Japanese] What difference does it make! Makes no difference! Don’t have time for that! [to Bob, in Japanese] Got it, Bob-san? Just psych yourself up, and quick! Look straight at the camera. At the camera. And slowly. With passion. Straight at the camera. And in your eyes there’s… passion. Got it?
Ms. Kawasaki: [to Bob] Right side. And with intensity. OK?
Bob: Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that.
Director: [to Bob, in Japanese] Listen, listen. This isn’t just about whiskey. Understand? Imagine you’re talking to an old friend. Gently. The emotions bubble up from the bottom of your heart. And don’t forget, psych yourself up!
Ms. Kawasaki: Like an old friend. And, into the camera.
Bob: Okay.
Director: [to Bob, in Japanese] Got it? You love whiskey. It’s Suntory time. OK?
Bob: Okay.

10 April 2013

From one of the best writers and translators that I have ever had the pleasure to read:

There are philosophers who can write and philosophers who cannot. Most of the great philosophers belong to the first group. There are also, much more rarely, philosophers who can write too well for their own good—as philosophers. Plato wrote so dramatically that we shall never know for sure what he himself thought about any number of questions. And Nietzsche furnishes a more recent and no less striking example. His philosophy can be determined, but his brilliant epigrams and metaphors, his sparkling polemics and ceaseless stylistic experiments, make it rather difficult to do so; and to read him solely to reconstruct the work of his ideas would be obtuse pedantry. At least two things should come first: sheer enjoyment of his writing, and then the more harrowing experience of exposing oneself to his many passionate perspectives.

Walter Kaufmann, “Introduction” to The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin Group, 1954)

11 April 2013

I have spent the last couple of years reading exclusively in English. This spring, I am back to my first language with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (Barcelona: Random House Mondadori: 2001), translated into Spanish by Enrique Pezzoni (and dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne!) I will quote extensively from his first pages to avoid chopping up Ishmael’s prayer-like reverence to the Nantucket natives:

Así, esos desnudos hombres de Nantucket, esos ermitaños del mar, salieron de su hormiguero acuático y recorrieron y dominaron el mundo de los océanos, como otros tantos Alejandros, repartiéndose entre ellos el Atlántico, el Pacífico y el Índico, como las tres potencias piratas se repartieron Polonia. Que Norteamérica agregue México a Texas y amontone Cuba sobre Canadá, que los ingleses invadan la India y planten sobre el sol mismo su resplandeciente estandarte: los dos tercios del globo terráqueo son de los hijos de Nantuchet. Porque suyo es el mar: lo poseen como los emperadores poseen sus imperios. Los demás marinos apenas si tienen derecho de atravesarlo. Los navíos mercantes no son más que una especie de puentes colgantes; los navíos de guerra no son sino fuertes flotantes; hasta los piratas y corsarios aunque acechen en el océano como los bandoleros en los caminos, sólo saquean otras naves, otros fragmentos de la tierra semejantes a ellos mismos, sin procurar extraer su alimento del abismo sin fondo.

Amen.

12 April 2013

Again, from Melville’s Moby Dick, now in English:

…consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return! (Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

13 April 2013

It is of common understanding that whales bonded with native tribes as friends, guardians, and, well, food. Here is what the Museum of Natural History in New York suggests to strengthen the (existing?) relationship between modern men and whales:

Through a variety of interactive exhibits, visitors will experience a re-created dive to the depths of the sea with a sperm whale on the hunt for a giant squid, crawl through a life-size replica of the heart of the blue whale—the largest living animal on the planet—listen to whale croons, and meet people whose lives have been inextricably linked with whales—from legendary whale riders to scientists and former whaling families. (Museum of Natural History, Whales: Giants of the Deep, running March 23, 2013-January 5, 2014.)

Photograph: still image from “Lost in Translation

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