This might not be an exaggeration. Had Gregory Rabassa not translated One Hundred Years of Solitude the way he did, a good chunk of modern English literature might never have been written. Is there any contemporary writer in the English language who does not owe a debt to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s astounding novel?
Had there been no Rabassa, Garcia Marquez would still have been translated into English. Possibly. But would the magic have remained? With Rabassa’s death, translation has lost its superhero. His extraordinary translations of, among other things, the opening sentences of Spanish and Portuguese novels shows that at least some of the magic of Latin magical realism came from Rabassa himself.
The Autumn of the Patriarch, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Over the weekend the vultures got into the Presidential Palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows, and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur. Only then did we dare go in without attacking the crumbling walls of reinforced stone, as the more resolute had wished, and without using oxbows to knock the main door off its hinges, as others had proposed, because all that was needed was for someone to give a push and the great armored doors that had resisted the lombards of William Dampier during the building’s heroic days gave way.
The Return of the Caravels, António Lobo Antunes
He’d passed through Lisbon eighteen or twenty years earlier on the way to Angola and what he remembered best were his parents’ rooms in the boarding house on Conde Redondo where they were staying in the midst of a clatter of pots and women’s exasperated grumbling. He recalled the communal bathroom, a washbasin with a set of baroque faucets in imitation of fish that vomited out sobs of brownish water through their open gills, and the time he came upon a man on in years smiling on the toilet with his pants down around his knees. At night the window would be open and he’d see the illuminated Chinese restaurants, the sleepwalking glaciers of electrical-appliance stores in the shadows, and blond heads of hair above the paving stones of the sidewalks. So he’d wet his bed because he was afraid of finding the smiling gentleman beyond the rusty fish or the blond heads of hair that dragged clerks along the corridor, twirling room keys on their pinkies. And he’d end up falling asleep with dreams of the endless streets of Coruche, the twin lemon trees in the prior’s grove, and his blind grandfather, with blank statue eyes, sitting on a bench by the tavern door as a flock of ambulances wailed along Gomes Freire on their way to São José Hospital.
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis
For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I should put my birth or my death in first place. Since common usage would call for beginning with birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that I am not exactly a writer who is dead but a dead man who is a writer, for whom the grave was a second cradle; the second is that the writing would be more distinctive and novel in that way. Moses, who also wrote about his death, didn't place it at the opening but at the close: a radical difference between this book and the Pentateuch.
With that said, I expired at two o'clock on a Friday afternoon in the month of August, 1869, at my beautiful suburban place in Catumbi. I was sixty-four intense and prosperous years old, I was a bachelor, I had wealth of around three hundred contols, and I was accompanied to the cemetery by eleven friends. Eleven friends! The fact is, there hadn't been any cards or announcements. On top of that it was raining – drizzling – a thin, sad, constant rain, so constant and so sad that it led one of those last-minute faithful friends to insert this ingenious idea into the speech he was making at the edge of my grave: "You who knew him, gentlemen, can say with me that nature appears to be weeping over the irreparable loss of one of the finest characters humanity has been honored with. This sombre air, these drops from heaven, those dark clouds that cover the blue like funeral crepe, all of it is the cruel and terrible grief that gnaws at nature and at my deepest insides; all that is sublime praise for our illustrious deceased.”
Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar
Would I find La Maga? Most of the time it was just a case of my putting in an appearance, going along the Rue de Seune to the arch leading into the Quai de Conti, and I would see her slender form against the olive-ashen light which floats along the river as she crossed back and forth on the Pont des Arts, or leaned over the iron rail looking at the water. It was quite natural for me to climb the steps to the bridge, go into its narrowness and over to where La Maga stood. She would smile and show no surprise, convinced as she was, the same as I, that casual meetings are apt to be just the opposite, and that people who make dates are the same kind who need lines on their writing paper, or who always squeeze up from the bottom on a tube of toothpaste.
“The translator, we should know, is a writer too. As a matter of fact, he could be called the ideal writer because all he has to do is write; plot, theme, characters, and all other essentials have already been provided, so he can just sit down and write his ass off.”— "If This Be Treason", Gregory Rabassa
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on. He'd dreamed he was going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke he felt completely spattered with bird shit. "He was always dreaming about trees," Placida Linero, his mother, told me twenty-seven years later, recalling the details of that distressing Monday. "The week before, he'd dreamed that he was alone in a tinfoil airplane and flying through the almond trees without bumping into anything," she said to me. She had a well-earned reputation as an accurate interpreter of other people's dreams, provided they were told her before eating, but she hadn't noticed any ominous augury in those two dreams of her son's, or in the other dreams of trees he'd described to her on the mornings preceding his death.
Captains of the Sands, Jorge Amado
In the moonlight, in an old abandoned warehouse, the children are sleeping. In olden days this had been the sea. On the large, black rocks near the warehouse the waves sometimes broke fiercely, sometimes lapped softly. The water used to pass beneath the dock under which many children are resting now, lighted by a yellow moonbeam.
Conversations in the Cathedral, Mario Vargas Llosa
From the doorway of La Cronica Santiago looks at the Avenida Tacna without love: cars, uneven and faded buildings, the gaudy skeletons of posters floating in the mist, the gray midday. At what precise moment had Peru fucked itself up?
Seven Serpents and Seven Moons, Demetrio Aguilera-Malta
One day, when the Santotontonians were facing the sea throwing their harpoons, a strange thing happened. Before Crisostomo appeared on the beach there were no fish to be seen anywhere around. As soon as That One's Friend appeared, however, a huge corvina began to break water. They all tried to harpoon it. A vain effort. The corvina made his leaps. He sank into the water. And he only reappeared at the moment when Crisostomo held a two-pronged harpoon in his hands. The fish came so close that it almost ran aground on the sand. The Lucky One raised the two-pronged weapon with both hands. He threw it. And it immediately reappeared, floating.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Many years later as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buenda was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquades' magical irons. "Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent.