13 June 2010

Second epilogue for variations: “The Lost Detectives” (Roberto Bolaño)

As with "Godzilla in Mexico," wording and phrase substitutions ("Teen Theater" vs. "Theater of Youth") and punctuation in a poem can hint at a subtle change of meaning, a subtle creation of feeling ...

The Lost Detectives
-Translation by Laura Healy

Detectives lost in the dark city.
I heard their moans.
I heard their footsteps in the Teen Theater.
A voice coming on like an arrow.
Shadows of cafes and parks,
Adolescent hangouts.
Detectives who stare at
Their open palms,
Destiny stained by their own blood.
And you can’t even recall
Where the wound was,
The faces you once loved,
The woman who saved your life.

The Lost Detectives
 -Translation by Guillermo Parra

The lost detectives in the dark city
I heard their moans
I heard their steps in the Theater of Youth
A voice advancing like an arrow
Shadow of cafés and parks
Frequented during adolescence
The detectives who observe
Their open hands
Destiny stained with its own blood
And you can’t even remember
Where you were injured
The faces you once loved
The woman who saved your life


  1. Well as it has been said, reading a translation is a bit like eating chips (french fries) with gloves on! You never quite savour the essence totally, just place your faith in the translator's integrity. Good to see two texts juxtaposed, its all part of the glory of the tower of Babel!

  2. I like that metaphor of the chips! The nutritional value of the translated product notwithstanding, so long as the eater (reader) has had his fill, then who cares for the language barrier? Hail, Babel!