Edgar Allan Poe wasn’t so tormented after all. The downcast and melancholic expression of the American writer hides an almost unknown side among his readers. It turns out that Poe laughed, mocked, and even satirized the young nation that saw him born and began to form. Behind that squall, then, there was a sunny day. At least that’s the face shown in the anthology titled Edgar Allan Poe’s Dreams; a selection and translation of texts by Mexican writers Alberto Chimal and Raquel Castro. It is a volume that seeks to demystify the “possessed” —as it was called by Philip Lindsay— to bring him closer to the realms of the human.
Under the seal of the budding publishing house Los Libros de Caronte, this curatorship of eight stories plus a play – the only known of Poe – does not pretend to unseat translations that are known in Spanish. Think, for example, of Julio Cortázar’s, perhaps the most popular and accepted. “This book wants to present another image of Poe, to shine a light on those facets that are lackluster in the complete work, overlooked. We believe that translations should not be eternal, they accompany the work over time; they have to talk to people who are alive at the time they show up. Our intention was to show a more diverse Poe, more fun, more alive. And expressly point it out to the people who are reading it in Spanish at this time ”, Castro and Chimal refer in an interview with EL PAÍS.
With keen eyes, both identified a recurring problem in the collections in Spanish of the author’s work. The Raven. “It seemed to us that many of the previous anthologies were not well achieved because the stories are scrambled and the selection is arbitrary. Worse still: these texts are often left out [los que se enlistan en Los sueños de Edgar Allan Poe] because they don’t know how to accommodate them with respect to the image of the author, as a horror writer. A huge advantage was that we were able to propose to the publisher the texts that we wanted to translate. We already knew where we were going, ”says Raquel Castro, another journalist. “I would say that it is an anthology with a thematic orientation; We wanted it not to be the obvious, the commonly read of Poe, ”adds Chimal.
The Angel of Strange is perhaps one of the most prominent stories in the index of Edgar Allan Poe’s dreams. An entity made up of objects that look like alcohol bottles torments the narrator when he expresses that he does not want to suffer the common credulity of his time. Although it is not properly terror, that halo — surreal? —Of daydreams, disturbs the spirit of whoever enters the text. On Mellonta tauta, another narrative compiled in the selection of Castro and Chimal, reveals what would later become known as science fiction. “Mellonta tauta” comes from the Greek and means: “These things are from the future.” Its narrator – the translators point out in the volume’s prologue – “describes some wonders that now seem like little, but suggests that the evolution of human morals, religion and politics may not follow the routes that we have continued imagining for them since the last century. XVIII “.
Poe was born on January 19, 1809. Almost 30 years after the declaration of independence of the United States. The country was then very immature, inexperienced and with the vices of something that has no past. The Bostonian prefers English references, he assumes himself heir to the European tradition to hold on to something. “Few and, moreover, pejorative allusions in his writings he made to the country that is proud to have had him as a citizen,” says the novelist María Elvira Bermúdez in her famous prologue to the Extraordinary stories, by Poe, from the collection “Know how many …”, by editorial Porrúa. “He was a writer who with great efforts tried to renew, practically alone, the literature of his country. A country at that time extremely backward. He was a very advanced thinker in a very retrograde environment ”, emphasize Castro and Chimal.
Suddenly the writer of The Tell-Tale Heart O The well and the pendulum he is shown as a mocking period sociologist with the gift of foreshadowing. He sneers at high society and points out the supremacists, even without starting the Civil War. Probably the most emblematic and relevant text in this regard is The system of Dr. Burea and Professor Puluma. “It basically tells what is happening in the United States at the moment. The democratic regime is collapsing; the madmen have taken over the madhouse. The most radical, most closed people are those who have control of the media, of public culture; and they are the ones that are causing all kinds of disasters without the rest of the people noticing, ”says Chimal.
Raquel Castro was surprised by the humor in Poe. “There is more than one could imagine when it comes to him.” On Chat with a mummy, in most Spanish versions, including Cortázar’s, does not translate the protagonist’s name, Allamistakeo (from the English pun All a mistake). “We changed it to” Equivocamón. ” It is a joke that seems silly in Spanish. But it was an attempt to get closer to the author’s intention as far as possible, “says Castro.
For Alberto Chimal, just as the Poe of the horror genre has infinite echoes, the underground also finds its successors in both English and Spanish languages. “If Edgar Allan Poe’s work had circulated with translations of these other aspects, that is, outside of his language, it could be the precursor of very humorous writers; I am thinking of the Mexican Francisco Hinojosa but also of H. Bustos Domecq, the pseudonymous author created by Borges and Bioy Cásares with whom they wrote detective stories. Little-remembered storytellers such as Jorge Mejía Prieto or well known as Ibargüengoitia would have a precursor in this Poe. In their own language, authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Barthelme or even the very early Philip Roth. They make humor and sometimes very intricate satire from their context ”, adds Chimal.
What is it like to be a translator for Edgar Allan Poe? For Raquel Castro, there were times when it could be intimidating because not only was it getting into the mind of a classic, “I also had to fight Cortázar and other translators. It’s strange: it’s like when you have a friend and suddenly you discover him a secret blog where he writes about other things, or like when you find out that someone you’ve known for years plays the beautiful piano ”.
Saving the idea that the classic is what remains, not what smells old, was one of the objectives of this compilation. And although there is a warning that this book does not continue along the fright line, it is inevitable not to expect a scare, something that makes your hair stand on end, that makes you uncomfortable and lingers for a long time in night thoughts after turning off the light. It does not mean that these texts do not challenge thought, on the contrary: allegories, grotesque fantasies and, perhaps inadvertently, incredible predictions are revealed here.
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