Pagtulak, Pagbuo sa Sarili: Ukol sa Salin ni Janine at Tilde sa Apat na Tula ni Mikael Co


(Kung may tinutulak ka, bakit? Kung may tinutulak ka, patungo saan? Okay gets, ang pagsasalin hindi na lamang bilang pagkakawil na siya mismo ay tinulak mula sa “pagtataksil,” kundi pagtataksil muli na tinulak muli mula sa pagkakawil.)

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Ang reaksyon (mala-pagdepensa) ng sinaling awtor na si Mikael Co sa Kidapawan Massacre noong Abril 1 ang isa sa mga pinanggalingan ng proyekto nila Janine at Tilde

Sa “Apat na Tulak,” kinalasan at pinag-aklasan nila Janine at Tilde ang apat na tula ni Mikael de Lara Co, dating manunulat para sa nalusaw, lumutang na rehimeng Aquino. Kumalas sila sa mapagtalimang uri ng pagsasalin; sinalin nila hindi lang ang tula ng may-akda kung hindi ang buong panlipunang milieu na kinabibilangan at tinutulungang paganahin nito. Akala ko ang tinutulak ng proyektong ito ay mga tula ni Co o si Co mismo, ngunit naalala kong ang kritisismo ay ‘di dapat nagsasayang ng laway sa vanity, sa mga personalidad o indibidwal lamang. Tinutuntungan lamang ito upang magsalita ukol sa mas masaklaw na sityong ginagalawan nating lahat, at ang mga uri ng ugnayang meron tayo rito.

(I hope it was noticed, and if not, then here I am, making it explicit: how I am not bifurcating the individual, the author (and the author’s works) and the larger environment to which he belongs and where he works. A few times before, I was flirting with the idea of tagging Tilde and Janine’s project as a kind of conceptual translation, or, translating conceptually. Then, as now, I am coming from a small proposition I made about conceptualism based on two works by Angelo Suarez: that conceptual works can make more explicit the social relations that underlie its production. The same is at work in Janine and Tilde’s “Apat na Tulak”: the translation both of the texts and the social relations (including its author’s position) that engender them. Perhaps strangely, while I see this as a strength, this is also where one of my problems with the project is stemming from. How to reconcile, how to harmonize these two translations? Should one be privileged over the other? And how should the translational work fashion itself when it is translating more than one thing?)

Maybe looking at how their translations went will be helpful.

Ang “nature-nature” na source text na “Elegy,” ginawang literal na madugo sa “Elehiya.” There is Gelacio Guillermo’s “War,” which I was reminded of here, painting the similarity between birthing a human being and birthing a new social setup. There is also Carlos Bulosan, whose poetry I find eminent in depicting nature as violent, as uneasy, as clamorous: “All the night the sea rushed in silence and knelt/ In the darkness, complaining in monosyllables.” “red tiger lilies are bravely shouldering/ Their delicate thinness above the parched earth/ Crying for rain”

Renaming the seasons becomes “baguhin ang panahon,” and it was not just what is being changed, but more tenably, what process of change will be enacted which was violated. The first one consists of a more forward interpretation – it is not just the natural seasons that are changing, that will be changed, but the “times,” with its more social connotation. But what kind of change will be inflicted? “Elegy” speaks of a “renaming”; “Elehiya” speaks of the more general “baguhin.” The former homes in on the language, the name. The process of change it speaks of is a shallow one, I think: a renaming, a changing of the garb, a changing of external appearance comparable to the way we replace the calendars as a year ends.

Can we equate the act of making the name notable – foregrounding it – to positing it as the horizon of understanding? The only way to change things is by changing their names, changing their external appearances? The limit of my language is the limit of my?

The get-up and the make-up vary but the clowns keep mellowing, weeping on the inside.

In the original, already notable is the slight veer from the naturalization of phenomena: Yes, the seasons are renamed; seasons do not just change naturally. But the act of changing is not just in terms of how they are called. The natural is bloodied. The natural screams, is made to scream.

Ang “panahon” ay di lang pag-ihip ng hangin o pagputok ng bulkan; ang “panahon” ay pagtaas-pagbaba rin ng presyo ng petrolyo at mga bilihin; ang panahon ay ang state of national emergency, ang dahas ng bombahan at sagupaan. This is elegiac.

In “Warrant,” what was “A sky, teeming with spears” in “War Chant” became “Ang langit, lango sa pulburang pumurga sa komunismong nagpalaganap ng kagutumang nilunasan natin ng kaunlaran at kaayusan sa daang makatuwirang tadhana ng lahing maka-demokrasya.” Why such protractedness?

Again: the translation here explicates the web of social relations to which the author of the original text belongs and which he actively, if not smugly, reinforces. “Daang makatuwiran” and “lahing maka-demokrasya” recall the Aquino regime. The safe and universally sweet final line in “War Chant” became reeking of sour mockery in the lengthier, albeit syntactically and semantically suspicious (“sa komunismong nagpalaganap ng kagutuman”?) final line in “Warrant.”

Not just elegiac but foreboding are the last lines of “Gravedad”: Minsan napapaginipan ko ang pagbagsak ng demokrasya/ Nagpapasalamat ako sa bawat paggising sa tuwid na daan. It cannot be mistaken: the “demokrasya” here is the same as the one in “lahing maka-demokrasya” in Warrant. This is another jab at the very role and position of the original author in society.

Elsewhere in the translational work are other cute parts: “I wish more creatures had evolved wings” was translated to “Sana mas maraming nilikhang binigyang-bagwis ng evolucion” in Gravedad. The sleek Hegelian sound of internal or self-development in the former is erased in the latter where a more complex relationship can be read. “Mind” became “naudyukang isip”; “sparrows” became “Sparrow yunit.” “The weather” becomes “panahon ng pagbabago.”

Generally speaking, I like this project, I like the concept most of all. I get what is being articulated in the work’s preface: “Kailangang kasangkapanin [sic ba ito dapat?] ang wika bilang larangan ng pag-aaklas at ang metodo ng pagsasalin bilang paraan ng paglikha at pagpuna. Sa huli’y dapat itulak ang “Four Poems,” upang ibunyag nito ang kanyang sarili, ang tunay nitong sarili, ang tunay na reaksyunaryong sarili. Itong tulak ang tangka ng proyektong ito.”

But I have questions, questions that concentrate mainly on the project’s form (even as frankly, I am also questioning my questions, clarifying to myself my premises). I am thinking if it would be dry and dull to demand some kind of internal solidity (“unity” is a word I avoided, because of its connotations not the least of which is the formalist one) from the work.

“Elehiya” is most effective in enacting the multi-layered translations: the text-in-itself and its sociality: “Ilang bala ba ang kailangan/ para sa isang masaker?” More vitally perhaps, “Elehiya” to me is the most solid in-itself; that is, not just as a work of translation, but as a work in its own right.

Which I think finally brings me – after a semi-circuity – to the core, the rock, the rurok(?) of my concern. Is it fair or reasonable or not too demanding to ask a work of translation whose task is to explicitly translate both texts and social locations — explicitly because while all translations speak of or symptomatizes social location, very few explicitly do – to be also solid in-itself? What does it mean for a work to be solid in-itself: this is somewhat akin to the formalist notion of organic unity but without the sound of closedness; this speaks of the work being self-organized enough for it to command meaning. In “Manikluhod” for instance, the pronouns (the “nila,” “sila,” “ating,” “aking” etc.) and their antecedents are confusing; blocking meaning-making in the process.

Varied a little: does this demand not miss the point of translations like this? Is a kind of internal solidity still desirable – if not possible – when the translations are openly working on both words and social relations? External logic (ibunyag ang reaksyunaryo) seemed to predominate the translations and so they become internally loose.

In their efforts to betray, reveal, burn the reactionary, can we affirm that the translations have forsaken to build themselves?

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