More From Rosario Ferré’s Essay, The Writer’s Kitchen

  • Any writer or artist, women or man, has a sixth sense which indicates when the goal has been reached, when what she or he has been molding has acquired the definitive form it must have. Once that point has been reached, one extra word (a single note, a single line) will irreversibly extinguish that spark or state of grace brought about by the loving struggle between the writer and his or her work. That moment is always one of awe and reverence: Marguerite Yourcenar compares it to the mysterious moment when the baker knows it is time to stop kneading the dough; Virginia Woolf defines it as the instant in which she feeks the blood flow from end to end through the body of the text.

Rosario Ferré: Her Island

Self is reading the last piece in Ferré’s book, On Destiny, Language, and Translation. As self has explained elsewhere, she decided to start this re-read with the last piece and work her way front. Nothing can match the genius of the title story, The Youngest Doll, which begins the collection, and self would rather work her way up to the good stuff.

She must have forgotten (honestly, it’s been at least two decades since she’s read Rosario Ferré) or mebbe it didn’t strike her as significant at the time, but Ferré is from Puerto Rico, and her primary subject is the class divisions between landowners and share workers, on an island where the main crop is sugar.

Self knows quite a bit about sugar, because that is her family’s crop, too. Maybe that is why she found Ferré. Yes, she found her.

It’s not as if Ferré is the easiest Latin American writer to read. Before getting to Ferré, self read Clarice Lispector, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Rosario Castellanos, Octavio Paz, Jorge Amado. But when she found Ferré, there was instant engagement.

To read is to engage, but when self found Ferré, she didn’t just engage, she engaged fiercely.

On to Ferré’s essay. She unpacks the process of translating her own novel, Maldito Amor, from Spanish to English.

The title of the novel “is also the title of a very famous danza written by Juan Morelli Campos, Puerto Rico’s most gifted composer in the nineteenth century, which describes in its verses the paradisiacal existence of the island’s bourgeoisie of the time . . . I decided to change the title altogether in my translation of the novel, substituting the much more specific Sweet Diamond Dust. The new title refers to the sugar produced by the De Lavalle family, but it also touches on the dangers of a sugar which, like diamond dust, poisons those who sweeten their lives with it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Poetry Thursday: Luis Palés Matos

Antille, steaming pasture
of freshly crushed cane syrup.
Constant activity of the sugar mill
Molasses Turkish bath.
White-linened aristocracy
skimming over life’s waves
on milk-curdled phrases
and mellifluous metaphors.
Stylized coast drafted
by languid palm trees.

— translated by Rosario Ferré

Luis Palés Matos was born on March 20, 1898, in Guayama, Puerto Rico, a small village with a predominantly black population.

Stay tuned.

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