I caught up earlier this year with Roger Wolfe, a bilingual poet with roots in Alicante and Kent. He told me about his upbringing in Alicante and studies in Kent, as well as his rationale behind writing in Spanish. Here is the second part of our discussion, where we talked about the merits of translation, whether literary movements will still happen in the twenty first century, and Roger’s latest projects.
Looking forward to the next year, many language students will be scratching their brains over translation and finding the “right answer” to convey a sentiment in another language. But can we ever really translate a work into another language, or do we have to accept that some element will be lost.
Octavio Paz said translation was metaphor. A translated work is indeed another work, meaning a different work. Yes, it’s possible to recreate the same work in another language, and that in fact is what the best translations do. But the key word here is ‘recreate’. You’ve got to get in there and rip the guts out of the original, and then put it back together, so that it sounds right, and natural, in the new language. In the end it’s a different work, technically, but the spirit is, or should remain, the same. Even if the original author might not recognise his own baby if he had the chance to get a proper look at it.
Translating other authors is just part of Roger’s work, and his own creative work is rich and varied. Keen to find out from an author who appears to defy definition, I asked him about his views on literary movements.
“I’ve never conceded them the slightest importance. They usually have more to do with the creation of power groups and pressure groups, and the safeguarding of special interests, and getting certain people into print and into positions of power. Literature, like everything else, is in the hands of cliques, and different groups of more or less powerful ruling elites. Literary movements have served a purpose, in addition to that, in the past. I’m thinking about Surrealism, for instance, or German Expressionism. It’s not all bad. There’s a legacy there – a freeing up of discourse, and the potential for breaking new ground and introducing things that had never been done in exactly the same way before.”
“Of course, that can also be achieved by single writers who operate as ‘lone wolves’ (as in my case). It’s much more difficult, and recognition is not usually forthcoming until the author in question is either very old or dead – but such is the nature of things. Literary movements today, like practically everything else that has to do with so-called ‘minorities’ and ‘collectives’ of every shade and hue, are nothing but pressure groups struggling for power and influence.”
It seemed to me that with his latest work, Roger was taking a step away from the creative scene. I wondered if this was just the natural cycle of an author’s work, or whether it was a conscious progression to the next stage of his career.
“I’ve always combined genres. I’ve recently finished a long creative effort, as it happens: the first volume of my memoirs, which I’m writing in the form of a long biographical novel which should take up several books, by the time it’s finished. I plan on writing about five volumes, covering a span of time that will reach from my earliest childhood to about the age of 40. This first volume covers my childhood, from my earliest experiences until the age of 14. It’s been a wonderful experience, although it has taken years, and a huge effort, to write.”
“My main problem as a writer of long narrative projects is combining the writing with my bread-and-butter work (translations, interpreting), which gobbles up about 70% of my time. So I’m forced to get up at the crack of dawn and work in the very early hours of the morning, every day for months or years, if I really want to get anything serious done. The hard life of the struggling writer! A familiar story if there ever was one.”
In addition to his ongoing autobiography, I wanted to know what was next for the author: “A ‘megabook’ of aphorisms, short pieces, fragments, micro-essays and sundry reflections collected over the last five years. There’ll be a bit of everything in there, as there has been in some of my celebrated ‘patchwork’ books in the past. But this one’s going to be a whacker. It will even include all the material I wrote on Twitter and Facebook during the brief spells I ran an account on those social media in 2012.”
Visit Roger’s website here.
Follow @exeposearts on Twitter and like us on Facebook here.