Rachel Draut and Faculty Mentor: Marlene Esplin, Comparative Arts and Letters
No hay isla feliz (1954) is a significant part of Sebastián Salazar Bondy’s repertoire and a valuable work of Latin American literature that deserves to be known to the English-speaking world. The play’s author was one of most influential Peruvian authors of his time and a North American audience would benefit from getting to know his brilliance. I was instantly intrigued by No hay isla feliz , with a captivating plot full of social commentary about modern Peruvian life and compellingly tragic characters. However, I found that this play had not gotten much attention: it had neither been translated into English, nor had much analysis or commentary been written about it in English or Spanish. Having been so impacted by the play myself, I decided to undertake the translation of this lesser well-known work and bring it to light. I have found through my study of the play, that while No hay isla feliz illuminates the life of provincial Peru during the mid-1900s, the themes of the play, such as problems of alcoholism, domestic abuse, cultural clashes, and family crises, have universal applications. This translation of the text will be valuable for the English-language audiences because these themes can be easily applied to a North American audience and would be of cultural benefit by introducing one of the great playwrights of the Latin American world.
The relevant social commentary in No hay isla feliz warrant its becoming part of the growing collection of translated foreign literature. This work may focus on this small, seemingly nondescript mountain province region of Peru during the 1900s, but the issues faced in this particular region have universal implications. This work expands the understanding of the poverty of such rural zones in Peru, the almost invasive influence of United States culture, the moral declines, as well as the chauvinism and the domestic violence prevalent in Peru at this time and even in the present day. I hope that this translation will not only promote a better appreciation for provincial Peruvian culture for the English-speaking audience, but that it will then prove more translatable into other languages as well, thus creating opportunities for this piece to reach broader audiences.
Salazar Bondy influenced the artistic repertoire of his country, but he also had an impact on making the Peruvian voice heard. He wrote in many different genres, from theater to criticism in essay form. Through his various writings, he attempted to create a national/cultural identity. Luis Rebaza Soraluz, author of La construcción de un artista peruano contemporáneo , discusses Salazar Bondy’s role in the construction of the the identity of the Peruvian man . The mixed ancestry of 1 the Peruvians between the Europeans and the Incas had often caused some identity crisis in Latin America, but Salazar Bondy was at the forefront of his era in trying to preserve the indigenous culture and make it a proud part of Peruvian identity. As Soraluz asserts, “Salazar Bondy plantea la integración de lo andino al mundo moderno” (82). Salazar Bondy himself described the culture of the andino as a whole other world from that of modern Perú (24, 68). From these accounts from various Peruvian and Latin American writers, Salazar Bondy was one of the powerhouses of the literary movement in Peru at the time, and his play, No hay isla feliz, is a prime example of his influential works.
All translations present their own challenges and I faced several challenges in which I had to decide how to translate cultural references and how to address the style and personality of the work in my translation. I wanted to share the quotidian Peruvian culture with the audience by preserving the cultural references to food and drink and language. However, given that this text is a play, I wanted to make the translation readable, so a potential audience could both understand and enjoy the performance. I attempted to preserve the fluidity of the text and allow the Anglophone reader or audience member to comprehend the author’s meaning without having to stumble through bumps. Fluidity has been the goal of many translators for ages. As Martin Luther said of his German New Testament translation “Now that it’s all translated . . . anyone can skim over three or four pages without stumbling once, and never even realizing what stumps and stones used to lie in [it]”2 (86). However, even Luther conceded that it was important to have a balance: “now, true, I didn’t always let the letters go their merry way,” admitting that in some situations, it’s best to stick closely to the original (88). In the same way, I used the regional dialogue and certain key cultural words in No hay isla feliz to maintain that “sense” of what it means to live in provincial Peru. To me, as an avid fan of the theater, I know that the accessibility of a play can make or break its connection to the audience. I wanted the audience to be able to enjoy it or lose themselves in the action of the play.
It is surprising that even though Salazar Bondy was one of the most influential writers in Peru during his time, few of his works have been translated or are known by English-speaking audiences. Salazar Bondy had such a drive to save the endangered stories of the Andean by translating their works into Spanish, hoping to make their stories more well-known to the non-indigenous Peruvian audience. I merely attempted something similar: to allow his stories to become more well-known to outside cultures. Seeing as he liberally adapted the Quechuan texts (adapting them from oral tales to theatrical productions) in order to make them more understandable and perhaps more appealing for his Lima-based audience, I don’t think he’d mind me taking few of he same liberties in making his text more understandable and accessible for an English-language audience.
1Soraluz, Luis Rebaza, and José María. Arguedas. La Construcción De Un Artista Peruano Contemporáneo: Poética E Identidad Nacional En La Obra De José María Arguedas, Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Javier Sologuren, Jorge
Eduardo Eielson, Sebastián Salaza Bondy, Fernando De Szyszlo Y Blanca Varela . Lima, Perú: Pontificia
Universidad Católica Del Perú, 2000. Print.
2Luther, Martin. “Circular Letter on Translation.” Western Translation Theory: From Herodotus to Nietzsche, edited
by Douglas Robinson, UK: St. Jerome Pub., 2002, pp 83-88. Print.