16 February 2009

Arlt and his red moon (an introduction)

From my understanding, Roberto Arlt is considered an important figure in Latin American (particularly Argentine) literature but is not widely known outside that realm. Of all his works, only two--The Seven Madmen and The Mad Toy--have been translated. (Curiously, Los Siete Locos is only half of a story; that Los Lanzallamas, the second half of the story, has not been translated must make for a frustrating experience for the non-Spanish speaker.)

He's not generally considered a fabulist, more a student of Dostoyevsky than Poe, but the realism in his work can feature such strange elements as to seem more surreal. The Seven Madmen, for example, features a terrorist named The Astrologer, who plans to set-up prostitution houses all across Argentina to fund building of poison gas factories with which to take down the government.

(And on a brief side note, I considered comparing Arlt to Lovecraft. They were both autodidacts and outsiders who crafted their own unique literary styles. Of course, Arlt was the offspring of immigrants and Lovecraft thought himself something of a blue-blood, but the contrast only makes things more interesting. Mostly, though, I think I was pondering some mash-up tale where El Astrologo gets his hands on that Necronomicon in the UBA library. I'll leave it at that, though a little more on HPL later...)

As far as I can tell, his short stories have sadly not been translated. I first discovered "La Luna Roja" in a small collection of his short stories. From what I understand, it's a characteristically fantastic story for him, but one whose atmosphere of dread is quite palpable. The story moves from a somewhat mocking view of the city to a few strange incidents. People are out on the streets walking, though its unclear to where, in a way reminiscent of the prose poem Nyarlathotep. I won't reveal the end, since you'll have the opportunity to read it for yourself.

So, here I present my translation. I won't claim it's particularly good, since I don't really have much experience in this. On top of that, I found Arlt's Spanish somewhat idiosyncratic, probably not the kind of thing for a beginner to translate while trying to preserve both tone and coherence.

One last note: I'm not really sure about the legal status of this translation. Since Arlt's short fiction is up on the web, I figured that at worst it's technically a violation but one that's not being enforced. (Incidentally, you can find his stories here and the original to this story here.)

So, to follow is The Red Moon. I hope that I've done it justice.

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