Soneto XI, by Pablo Neruda, translated by Stephen Tapscott
I was a bit annoyed recently by a post on Buzzfeed that made an unfavorable comparison between the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Taylor Swift. Not that I prefer Taylor Swift, or, like some commenters on the post, feel that the very act of comparing the two is an insult to the dignity of Pablo Neruda. What bothered me was that the quotes from Neruda were in English, with nary a mention of the translators of Neruda who had written the melodious lines in question.
I don’t feel that the translator must always be mentioned when discussing translated works, but in this case not mentioning the translator gives the impression that the authors at Buzzfeed have no idea that Neruda didn’t write in English.
To take one example, the post includes lines from Neruda’s Sonnet number eleven:
Tengo hambre de tu boca, de tu voz, de tu pelo
y por las calles voy sin nutrirme, callado,
no me sostiene el pan, el alba me desquicia,
busco el sonido líquido de tus pies en el día.
Estoy hambriento de tu risa resbalada,
de tus manos color de furioso granero,
tengo hambre de la pálida piedra de tus uñas,
quiero comer tu piel como una intacta almendra.
Quiero comer el rayo quemado en tu hermosura,
la nariz soberana del arrogante rostro,
quiero comer la sombra fugaz de tus pestañas
y hambriento vengo y voy olfateando el crepúsculo
buscándote, buscando tu corazón caliente
como un puma en la soledad de Quitratúe.
The lines that Buzzfeed quotes are from this exquisite translation by Stephen Tapscott:
I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me,
all day I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
These poems aren’t going to translate themselves, people.