Lunatics, lovers and poets in translation

LunaticsLoversPoets&othersstoriesIn honour of Shakespeare’s and Cervantes’ 400th anniversaries, twelve authors have written a new story inspired by their work – six each in English and Spanish – with an introduction by Salman Rushdie. As Rushdie points out, since England was still using the Julian calendar when William died, he and Miguel actually died 11 days apart. 23 April 1616 wasn’t the same for both of them, but both would probably have enjoyed this irony.
The Shakespeare stories are translated into English in this new volume from And Other Stories, and in a sister volume, the Cervantes stories are translated into Spanish. With British Council and Acción Cultural Española funding this, the project could be in danger of drowning in worthiness before it takes off – but thank goodness, these people can really spin a good yarn.
I was whirled around the world – and gripped.
You can hear the writers talk about their stories at an event in the British Library next week. The most interesting were the five written by women.
The European ones are love stories most strange. Plays by Deborah Levy and Nell Leyshon have been performed by the RSC and the Globe, respectively. That’s how their takes on Cervantes’ The Glass Graduate differ. Levy’s is brilliant and aesthetically pleasing, but Leyshon’s is direct, visceral, and told by the woman herself, as she comes to feel she is made of glass. These two made me go straight out and order Cervantes’ Exemplary Tales there and then.
Soledad Puértolas, translated by Rosalind Harvey, tells a mysterious tale-within-a-tale of love restored between a dramatic woman and a Shakespearean professor in Madrid.
The worldwide adventures bridge continents and shatter colonial assumptions. Kamila Shamsie’s Quixotic poet narrator refuses to conform to government religious policies and Shengen visa requirements so he can keep his dreams: ‘How can you go to al-Andalus if you kill the al-Andalus inside you to do it?’
Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney, turns a play-within-a-play back inside out, when an immigrant woman finally takes the lead in a reenactment drama in the small town of Shakespeare, New Mexico. ‘When I auditioned for Macbeth’s role, my drama teacher had congratulated me on my good memory and fine diction, but suggested I take the role of a tree… advancing from Burnham Wood to Dunsinane.’ Her later career took a violent turn: ‘I’d never raped a man before… I didn’t know where to begin.’
What happened next?
Go and buy the book to find out…

Translator, editor, writer, reader

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