Samantha’s translation of Sonia Hernandez’s story “The Survivor” appears in Granta’s “Best of the Young Spanish Language Novelists” and her translation of the first chapter of Carmen Boullosa’s The Perfect Novel will appear in Translation Review later this year.
Samantha: Carmen Boullosa.
Women in Translation: Why should we know about this writer?
Samantha: Carmen is from Mexico but now lives part time in New York City, where she teaches at CUNY. She has written fifteen novels in the last twenty years and her penultimate novel, El complot de los Románticos, won the Café Gijon Prize in 2009. She has received a variety of awards and her works have been translated into English, German, French, Italian, and Dutch.
Women in Translation: Of all of her published work, which title should She Writers read?
Samantha: Unfortunately much of Carmen’s work remains unpublished in English. Three novels have been translated to date, including Leaving Tabasco, the story of Delmira Ulloa, a young girl growing up in the 60’s in Agustini, a pueblo in Mexico where “people could fly, birds could plummet from the skies, but the social structure stayed intact.” The book features ten miracles on ten consecutive Sundays, and perhaps conscious of parallels that readers might draw between her work and that of Garcia Marquez, Boullosa cleverly interjects a reference to him. When Delmira leaves Agustini for the first and final time, a woman on the plane offers her a book: “ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE—it’s fantastic, you gotta read it, Del, everybody’s reading it!” This is 1967 (the year the book was first published in Spanish), and Delmira is nonplussed. “Imagine my disappointment on flipping through its pages, telling myself that I didn’t leave Agustini just to find other towns that resembled it!”
Women in Translation: What's your favorite line, moment, or scene from this title?
Samantha: My favorite line is from the last chapter in the book, when Delmira, a grown woman, is an author living in Germany. She writes, “I’ll try not to think about anything while I sunbathe, pretending I’m German. Then I’ll invent another character for myself and, if I’m lucky, I’ll decide to be a writer, with stories to tell on the written page, but stories unlike this one, stories that aren’t autobiographical and actually happened, but stories where the fantasy makes a certain kind of sense, where metaphor and meaning underwrite each other’s mechanisms, and where imagination marries a sense of reality in a radiant ceremony.” The book ends, “Delmira, you’ve returned to the only place you can: to memory.” It’s a beautiful moment, because whether or not we can return to physical places from our past, we are all exiles from childhood.
Women in Translation: Is there anything else we should know about this writer?
Samantha: Carmen is an incredibly versatile writer. Her most recent project was a screenplay called The Walls Speak which is a sort of personal history of Mexico narrated by a house, jumping from 1810, the War of Independence from Spain, to 1910, the Mexican Revolution, to 2010, dominated by the Drug Wars. After filming was completed (the movie was directed by Antonio Zavala), Carmen turned the screenplay into a novel that was just published a few months ago in Mexico.