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Summary of an article by Janice A. Jaffe

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1 Summary of an article by Janice A. Jaffe
Translation and Prostitution: Rosario Ferre’s Maldito Amor and Sweet Diamond Dust Summary of an article by Janice A. Jaffe

2 “El pasaje entre ambos”
Ferre says that her “verdadera morada” is “ni Washington ni San Juan, ni el pasado ni el presente, sino el pasaje entre ambos.” Gloria in Sweet Diamond Dust combines English and Spanish, Black and White into one wordweed of love. According to Ferre, it is the ability to pass back and forth between cultures that is at the core of Puerto Rican identity. These are the similarities that Jaffe ties together in her article.

3 On Destiny, Language and Translation: or, Ophelia Adrift in the C
On Destiny, Language and Translation: or, Ophelia Adrift in the C. & O Canal Ferre makes a connection, in this essay on translating Maldito Amor, between the translator and the prostitute. One is an emblem of linguistic marginalization. The other an emblem of sexual marginalization. Translators vanish as they translate Women’s individuality vanishes when they become prostitutes – they are only body, only “woman.”

4 Translation as Gendered
Composing is often thought of as a masculine activity. A writer is generative, in control, active. Translation as a feminine one. A translator is secondary, s/he has a “reproductive” status, s/he is dependent and lacking authority.

5 Pasaje entre ambos – Moving back and forth
Both the prostitute and the translator act to disseminate knowledge, whether sexually or linguistically, that has potential transformative power for society. The translator is an agent entrusted to linguistically uncover and “carry across” into his or her homeland the secrets of a foreign culture. The prostitute has been ascribed a parallel knowledge of the soul of a culture or the secrets of sexuality.

6 Pasaje entre ambos – A space in which to pass between
The translator is also seen as someone who violates frontiers, who pollutes by mixing. And, the prostitute can destroy, at least according to some sources, the moral and political order of a society. In the US, laws forbid entry, residency, or citizenship to anyone who has been a prostitute. Similar laws apply to Communists or others who might be considered political subversives.

7 Translator and Prostitute and Cultural Identity
Rates of prostitution rise in societies undergoing flux, social disorder, or change. Translation occupies a more prominent role in “marginal, new, insecure, or weakened cultures.” For example, in colonial societies, the translator is essential for communication, but is also viewed as a potential rebel. Societies try to limit or control the translator and the prostitute’s access to power by marginalizing them or denying them entry.

8 Transitoriness Both the prostitute and the translator move – from client to client, from voice to voice – and are thus perceived to have more freedom than most people, thereby creating an idea of power. But, without a clear, authorized place from which to speak, both also remain unheard. The translator speaks through and for many other voices, but her voice is seldom heard directly. Prostitutes are silenced, move in and out of prostitution and from client to client. They seldom are granted authority to speak.

9 Prostitutes, Translators and Puerto Ricans
All three are transitory, according to Ferre, who defines Puerto Ricans, with respect to their Commonwealth status using terms like Cambio Transformacion, and Transitar entre dos extremos o polos

10 Ambiguity of Identity Like prostitutes and translators, Puerto Ricans are caught between traditional notions of fidelity and license, of powerlessness and power, of assimilation and independence. This transitory or liminal state can be destructive, limiting, inhibiting. Or, it can be powerful. The fluidity of their state can lead to unimagined possibilities.

11 The “Verdadera Morada” or the spiritual/emotional home
Through translation, because of the transitiveness of her work in the passage from Spanish to English, however, Ferre says that she has discovered her verdadera morada or her spiritual home. In the movement between the two worlds/languages is where she really feels at home. Somehow, moving between the two worlds/two languages doesn’t destroy the Puerto Rican, but instead it preserves the tensions between both cultures which is integral to Puerto Rican identity.

12 Ferre and Translation She claims that as a translator of her own work she prostitutes herself by rewriting into English and by “adulterating” her work with omissions and additions. But, this process breaks down the dichotomy of production/reproduction implied in the male/female division of writing translating. She says that in tampering with the original as a translator she participates in the work’s perpetual process of becoming.

13 What’s Added? What’s Missing?
Some critics think that Ferre adopts one cultural identity in Spanish and another in English. In Spanish she recognizes and critiques the discrimination that Puerto Rican’s face in the U.S. and she views English as a threat. In English she seems to become an assimilationist, silencing her native language and the non-technical vision of the world that Spanish represents to her.

14 Gloria, for example In Sweet Diamond Dust Laura describes Gloria as the New Puerto Rican because, “In her body, or if you prefer in her cunt, both races, both languages, English and Spanish, grew into one soul, one wordweed of love.” Wordweed – suggestive of a new language which is prolific in its growth, resisting boundaries. But this version of Gloria as positive, is not a part of Maldito Amor. It is only in translation that the fact that she is a prostitute is interpreted as positive, as emblematic of Puerto Rico’s and Puerto Rican’s future.

15 In Maldito Amor The focus is on the oppression she has experienced as a mulatta. The idea that she is a prostitute is only insinuated – and only by the men. The women, Laura and Titina, never mention prostitution with reference to Gloria, except to deny it. In Sweet Diamond Dust, it is only the male characters who cast pejorative aspersions at Gloria for being a prostitute. Laura describes Gloria as “the priestess of our harbor, Pythia of our island’s future, of a time when a scanty, meager land that for centuries had condemned us to immobility and backwardness will ultimately have no importance and where our souls, our very lives will be determined by transformation and daring, in other words, by change.

16 The Future Laura bequeaths the plantation to Gloria with the expectation that she will sell it off little by little – not to North American Sugar interests, but to Puerto Ricans returning to the island after picking grapes or driving taxis through New York. It is the prostitute/translator who builds bridges that create opportunities for cultural survival in Sweet Diamond Dust. The prostitute/translator is the reproductive one, giving birth to something entirely new – Nicolasito – fathered by Nicolas or by one of her clients, the child of all.

17 Murakami and Translation
MY MOST INTENSE EXPERIENCE with translation, thus far, has involved a Japanese author Haruki Murakami is a writer who is intimately acquainted with Anglo-American culture even as he remains outside it. (I think writers of this kind may well make the most interesting test cases for translation; at any rate, I find myself repeatedly drawn to them.) Murakami, who has translated Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Paul Theroux into Japanese, is quite attached to the Beatles, jazz, Scotch whiskey, Marx Brothers movies, and many other products of Western culture. He repeatedly injects something akin to an American sensibility -- a rebellious, non-salaryman's sensibility -- into his hapless fictional protagonists. Yet the novels are written in Japanese and set, for the most part, in Japan, so when we read them in English, we get . . .a strange sensation of foreignness mixed with familiarity, of worlds collapsing in on each other.

18 Translation by Rubin Here, submitted as Exhibit A, are the opening sentences of the Rubin translation: "When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini's The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta. "I wanted to ignore the phone, not only because the spaghetti was nearly done, but because Claudio Abbado was bringing the London Symphony to its musical climax.” Not bad, eh? Perfectly good English sentences presented by a reasonably interesting narrator.

19 Translation by Birnbaum
But now listen to Exhibit B by Arthur Birnbaum: "I'm in the kitchen cooking spaghetti when the woman calls. Another moment until the spaghetti is done; there I am, whistling the prelude to Rossini's La Gazza Ladra along with the FM radio. Perfect spaghetti-cooking music. "I hear the telephone ring but tell myself, ‘Ignore it. Let the spaghetti finish cooking. It's almost done, and besides, Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra are coming to a crescendo.’” What’s the difference? Which one is better? Why?

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