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Old 05-08-2017, 04:11 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Default López--Hotel Nights

Another cheery little sonnet by a Mexican modernist—this time Ramón López Velarde (1881-1921). Meter is tetradecasyllabic (fourteen syllables), rhyme scheme is ABAB CDDC EEF GFG.


HOTEL NIGHTS

They’re oddly entertaining, these hotel-room miseries,
a heterogeneity whose jumble never bores:
Yankees, preachers, tinkers damned for faithless guarantees,
just-wed, ingenue-ish girls, and jaded, teenaged whores.

In closed-door gloom... the chipped moon makes a copy of the guest
within its tarnished mercury; and wafting in between
the dusty curtains, calendars, and cots of spartan mien
floats angst from trips more obviously jinxed as they’ve progressed.

The native land stayed out of reach; the family, remote;
and in the gray departure hour, the traveller takes note
that in this world, some journeys are disastrous, some fantastic,

but passing through the vile hotel together, they commune—
the death throes of the overdosed sophisticate (now spastic)
accompany the frenzied thrustings of the honeymoon.

L1 was: They’re awfully amusing, these hotel-room miseries,
L7 was: the dusty curtains, calendars, and cots of shifty mien
L9 was: the childhood haunts stayed out of reach, the family remote
L10 was: and in the gray departure hour, the wanderer takes note
L11 was: that in this world, some journeys lead to joy and some to crying:
L12 was: that passing through the vile hotel together, both commune—
L13 was: the paroxysms of the cosmopolitan who’s dying
L14 was: trail off just like the frantic thrustings of the honeymoon.
L14 was: trail off with the frenetic thrustings of the honeymoon.


NOCHES DE HOTEL
Text at http://www.los-poetas.com/i/Una.htm

Se distraen las penas en los cuartos de hoteles

con el heterogéneo concurso divertido

de yanquis, sacerdotes, quincalleros infieles,

niñas recién casadas y mozas del partido.

Media luz... copia al huésped la desconchada luna

en su azogue sin brillo; y flota en calendarios,

en cortinas polvosas y catres mercenarios

la nómada tristeza de viajes sin fortuna.

Lejos quedó el terruño, la familia distante

y en la hora gris del éxodo medita el caminante

que hay jornadas luctuosas y alegres en el mundo:

que van pasando juntos por el sórdido hotel

con el cosmopolita dolor del moribundo

los alocados lances de la luna de miel.


Literal English prose crib:

NIGHTS OF HOTEL

They are amusing, the pains/troubles in the rooms of hotels,
with the heterogeneous confluence (that is) entertaining
of Yankees, priests, tinkers who are faithless,
girls recently married and prostitutes (lit. “young women of the game”).

(In) half light... copies the guest/lodger (direct object of “copies”) the chipped moon (subject of “copies)
within its mercury without shine; and floats in between calendars,
in between curtains (that are) dusty and cots (that are) mercenary/cheap
the nomadic sadness (subject of “floats”) of voyages without luck.

Far stayed the native land, the family distant
and in the hour (that is) gray of the exodus meditates the traveler (lit. “the walker”)
that there are journeys tragic and happy in the world:

that they (i.e., the “throws/duels” below) go passing together through the sordid hotel
with the cosmopolitan sorrow of the dying man
the frantic throws/duels (plural subject of “go passing”) of the honeymoon.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-22-2017 at 06:39 PM. Reason: Extensive revisions
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Old 05-11-2017, 06:04 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Julie,

I can't really judge the Spanish, but the English is very nice. My only thoughts would be to add two commas:
in S2, after guest, just for a breath really;
and in S3, after family, to make it clear that this is not a TV remote.

I have no other suggestions at present, I thought this reads very well!

Cheers,
John
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Old 05-14-2017, 12:32 AM
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Thanks very much, John.

I've tweaked L9 and incorporated your suggested comma there (and also gone with the more straightforward "native land" instead of "childhood haunts").

I'm hesitant to put the other comma you suggested into that whole complicated chipped moon/tarnished mercury business. To me it seems important not to take a breath until all the components of that complicated metaphor are ready to be tallied up into "Oh, he's describing a..."
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Old 05-27-2017, 03:10 PM
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This doesn't really work for me. It seems to be laboring at paraphrase. As if form and content have been detached from one another, each having been impoverished in the process, and then just patched workmanlike back together. The Spanish has undertones and overtones that are gone in English. It reads almost like it was done based more on the English crib, than directly from the Spanish.

For example, in mozas del partidopartido here seems to have overtones of "benefit, advantage, one's cut." What you might call "a good hustle" in English. The poem seems also to play off of another sense of "partido" which is "(political) party." "Hombre del partido" or "soldado del partido" is a way to say "party loyalist." It gives an ironic nudge, the prostitutes having a different kind of pledge from that of the newlywed girls they are juxtaposed with. The interesting resonance of "fortuna" and "mercenario" doesn't come through much. I get what you're trying to do with "spartan mien" but the metaphorical idea of the cots being "up for sale" as a rootless soldier of fortune would be (and here, at a low price at that) is lost. The subtext that "everyone's out to get theirs" is much muffled in the English.

Rendering "sórdido" as "vile" rather than "filthy" seems off. I think you're trying to go for the sense of "degrading" that "sórdido" has. But "vile" I think misses the mark, there's a different kind of judgment attached to "vile." "Teenaged whores" is wrong in terms of tone. (More tonally appropriate would be something in the neighborhood of "girls turning tricks.") There's something very labored and prolix about things like "just-wed, ingenue-ish." "Niñas recién casadas" are simply newlywed girls — "recién casado/a" is the normal idiomatic way to say "newlywed." (In modern times it's also the equivalent of "Just Married" as written on a car-banner or sign or the like.) It took me a hot minute to get a sense of what "more obviously jinxed as they’ve progressed" was supposed to even mean. Compared to the Spanish especially it seemed convoluted.

Last edited by AZ Foreman; 05-27-2017 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 05-28-2017, 07:57 AM
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Thanks, Alex. I still don't see any political overtones to this whatsoever, other than the general philosophical notion that all human joy is tainted by other humans' suffering. But I agree that there's waaaayyyyyyyyy too much rhyme-diven circumlocution throughout my translation. I'll keep working at it.
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Old 05-30-2017, 03:35 AM
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I didn't mean to say I see political overtones. I see someone playing with slight resonances. More like...slight punning undertones. Then again, maybe I'm just imagining it it. It's happened before. I might just be overreading the moza del partido in context. I showed the poem to a well-read Mexican and she basically said "I don't know, I could go either way."

All human joy comes at a cost, I think, is how I'd put it. Whether monetary or not.
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Old 05-30-2017, 08:35 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Julie, I think you said it yourself. There's way too much circumlocution. I would add that an awful lot of it seems to be taking more than the generous share of liberties that I readily accept in translations. The Spanish is far more direct, and its lines strike me as more suited to IP than to heptameter even though I understand that the original uses longer lines than the typical sonnet does. I'd rather risk losing an image or two by having shorter lines than go with the extra wordiness that you seem to have needed to fill lines this long.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Julie Steiner View Post
Another cheery little sonnet by a Mexican modernist—this time Ramón López Velarde (1881-1921). Meter is tetradecasyllabic (fourteen syllables), rhyme scheme is ABAB CDDC EEF GFG.


HOTEL NIGHTS

They’re oddly entertaining, these hotel-room miseries, Where does "oddly" come from? The Spanish does not proclaim any oddness, and it's almost like you are trying to soften the poet's unapologetic claim that he finds the misery amusing. If there's irony that comes through, it comes through on its own and without the need to add a gloss. . . Also, this opening line seems to have six beats, while the rest of the poem has seven beat lines. There's no cue for the reader to promote the final syllable.
a heterogeneity whose jumble never bores: "jumble" seems like an unnecessary addition here after "heterogeneity".
Yankees, preachers, tinkers damned for faithless guarantees, "damned for faithless guarantees" seems quite a gloss on "infideles," which doesn't suggest anything to do with guarantees or damnation. It might be worth the liberty if it gave you a rhyme, but I didn't hear it as a rhyme with "miseries" since, as I mentioned, I didn't promote the final syllable of the first line.
just-wed, ingenue-ish girls, and jaded, teenaged whores. "Mozas del partido" apparently does mean prostitutes, but it's an expression that Cervantes used and Spanish journalists of our day had to have explained to them. Look here. So he's using a purposely obscure expression that might have been recognized by his most educated readers. I'm not sure it's worth trying to translate that particular nuance, however, beyond selecting a word that is something of a euphemism (as I think the original intended). Your introduction of "teenaged" doesn't seem to be in the text, however, and I would avoid that. While "mozo" implies young, it is often applied to people older than their teens, like waiters and bellhops and various young men and women.

In closed-door gloom... the chipped moon makes a copy of the guest "In closed-door gloom seems" too much of a liberty for translating "in half light," since it introduces an entire new metaphor that isn't in the original (the door) and while the scene is gloomy, the original understood there was no need to say so. What's more, I think the door metaphor doesn't fit, since the moon doesn't have doors to be closed or open, and I believe it's the moon and not the hotel room that is being described. (If it were the hotel room, I don't see what the closed door has to do with it anyway. Would a door open to the hall be less gloomy?)
within its tarnished mercury; and wafting in between
the dusty curtains, calendars, and cots of spartan mien I don't know where you get "spartan mien." I think it's important to keep the mercenary sense, since spartan is almost a compliment, and everything here is tawdry and involves poverty and squalor. The mercenary and the prostitute both sell something they maybe shouldn't, as do the quincalleros infieles. And can a cot have a "mien"?
floats angst from trips more obviously jinxed as they’ve progressed. The original just says "the nomadic sadness of luckless voyages," so "more obviously jinxed as they've progressed" seems a rather wordy departure.

The native land stayed out of reach; the family, remote;
and in the gray departure hour, the traveller takes note Perhaps "wanderer" would be better here. Also, "note" is good enough if you need the rhyme, I suppose, but it loses some of the mood of "medita"
that in this world, some journeys are disastrous, some fantastic, "fantastic" seems a bit slangy for the register here when the original simply says "happy"

but passing through the vile hotel together, they commune—
the death throes of the overdosed sophisticate (now spastic)
accompany the frenzied thrustings of the honeymoon. I'm somewhat baffled by the way you handled the final tercet. I don't see anything in the text to justify "commune" or "death throes" or "spastic," and your interpretation of "lances" as sexual thrusting is interesting, and possibly correct, but not one that I find in my dictionaries. The word could just as easily be translated as "quarrels," and "alocado" doesn't necessarily imply a frenzy but could simply mean crazy.

L1 was: They’re awfully amusing, these hotel-room miseries,
L7 was: the dusty curtains, calendars, and cots of shifty mien
L9 was: the childhood haunts stayed out of reach, the family remote
L10 was: and in the gray departure hour, the wanderer takes note
L11 was: that in this world, some journeys lead to joy and some to crying:
L12 was: that passing through the vile hotel together, both commune—
L13 was: the paroxysms of the cosmopolitan who’s dying
L14 was: trail off just like the frantic thrustings of the honeymoon.
L14 was: trail off with the frenetic thrustings of the honeymoon.

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Old 05-30-2017, 12:48 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks, Alex, for coming back, and Rogerbob for your detailed comments.

I'm guilty as charged, for the most part, of over-complicating this, but permit me a small whine that the Spanish isn't always 100% straightforward here. For example, the chipped moon copying the guest in its mercury without shine in Q2 seems to me a metaphor for a decrepit old mirror in each room--part of the cheap décor, like the calendar graphics--rather than the literal moon. I stuck "closed-door" in there in hopes of steering the modern reader's thoughts indoors, but maybe I should just give away the riddle and say "mirror."

In Q1 was trying, clumsily, to keep the ironic play between "niñas" and "mozas," but "teenaged" isn't the way to preserve it, and extras like "ingenue-ish" and "jaded" didn't help, either. (Like the English word "maid," "moza" carries both connotations of virginity and servitude, although "criada" is the usual term for the latter type of maid.) The main objective is to convey an array of saints and sinners--male in L3, and female in L4--but the way I've gone about it is too flawed to save, so I'll just scrap it and start over.

I have assorted other self-justifications and explanations of various decisions that are probably just my wounded pride talking, so I'll keep them to myself rather than appear argumentative. If they didn't work, they didn't work, and that's all I need to know.

I won't be able to give my attention to this for several months, but I did want to thank you both for being so generous with your time and attention. Much appreciated!

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-30-2017 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 05-30-2017, 02:42 PM
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For what it's worth, I've definitely heard moza del partido used in living speech. I have met exactly four people who used it. Three from Spain and one from the Canary Islands. All somewhat eccentric sorts, who were distinctive enough for me to remember their way of talking years later.
Today the word is obscure or odd to use and evoques Cervantes. The reason I suggested "turning tricks" is because this is a poem from a century ago, and my sense is that the term was not as obscure then. I am pretty sure I've encountered this term once or twice in old novels and short stories from a century or more ago, but more recent than Cervantes.

Last edited by AZ Foreman; 05-30-2017 at 04:38 PM.
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