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YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY DECEPTION OR CREATION? TRANSLATIONS IN GUILLERMO CABRERA INFANTE’S TRES TRISTES TIGRES GABRIEL IGNACIO BARRENECHE IN 1965, Cuban wordsmith Guillermo Cabrera Infante wove a tale of diversion, deception, and disintegration entitled Tres tristes tigres. Cabrera Infante’s novel detailing the nocturnal sojourns of four young men in pre-Revolutionary Havana questions the veracity and accuracy of translation in order to demonstrate its deconstructive nature and call into question the very integrity of the written word.1 Keenly aware of translation ’s semiotic shortcomings, throughout TTT 2 Cabrera Infante exploits the rich communicative gaps found between a text and its reproduction in another language. Cabrera Infante understood the fundamental limitations of translation, namely that translation is almost always, by its nature, a reinterpretation of the original, and as such is subject to scrutiny . Like any semiotic representation, translations can never fully reflect what is translated, and as a result, can never be trusted as a faithful representation of the original. However, in spite of the imperfections inherent in the translation process, Cabrera Infante uses the space between the translated text and the translation as a place for creativity and originality . Furthermore, as a work infused with moments of linguistic and cultural translations, TTT is a product of a particularly Cuban sensitivity to the issues brought about by translation as well as the new creations 1 This article is an abbreviated version of a more in depth analysis of the function of translation found in the second chapter of author’s unpublished dissertation “Blurring Borders, Subverting Orders: Translation, Hybridity, Popular Culture and Orality in Tres Tristes Tigres,” 2003. 2 From this point on I will refer to Tres tristes tigres using the abbreviation “TTT ”. YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 301 that result from these processes, in the spirit of Fernando Ortiz and Gustavo Pérez Firmat. Through an exploration of three key moments of deconstructive translation in TTT one will be able to see how Cabrera Infante consciously questions the authority of the written word itself, casting a shadow of doubt on the veracity of his text. In doing so, he allows for new “Cuban” creation through the process of translation. Throughout TTT, translation functions as a process of exclusion, explanation, transformation and creation that complicates the reading process while simultaneously creating new and original expressions. Three key moments of translation best demonstrate the difficulties that the deceptive yet creative process of translation presents. They include: 1) a spontaneous oral translation, as seen in the introduction to the show at the Tropicana night club at the start of the novel, 2) a literary translation , witnessed by the critique of Lino Novás Calvo’s translation of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and 3) a proliferation of literal /literary translations in the section entitled “Los visitantes.” The limitations of translation are evident from the very first page of TTT. Cabrera Infante begins his exploration of the complications that arise in the translation process with a memorable scene of spontaneous oral translation. The text’s prologue begins with the emcee of the world famous Tropicana nightclub show welcoming the audience: “Showtime! Señoras y señores. Ladies and gentlemen. Muy buenas noches, damas y caballeros, tengan todos ustedes” (15). Throughout the introduction to the show, the emcee switches between Spanish and English, providing the audience, including TTT ’s reader, with a simultaneous, although not entirely accurate, translation of his opening remarks. The unsuspecting Spanish-speaking audience might assume that what the emcee translates for them into Spanish is exactly what he has said to the tourists in English . After all, he informs them: “Estimable, muy estimado, estimadísimo público, ahora para ustedes una traducción literaria” (16). However, the emcee, through the pen of the author, only selectively translates this speech. At the moment of translation, the original utterance is betrayed, and the audience is given a “literary,” but not a faithful translation of his remarks in English. Suzanne Jill Levine, translator of TTT into English, explains that, “Language is already always a betrayal, a translation of the object it intends, pretends to re-create” (The Subversive Scribe 14). The emcee’s discourse embodies this immediate and inherent betrayal to which Levine refers...


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pp. 301-311
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