2666 Translation Question

Reader Jenny writes in with this question about the translation of a particular passage:

I have this one quotation marked and I wonder if the original is any clearer?  I don’t have access to the Spanish language version.

“…He gazed at his wife and had the vague impression he didn’t know her. But he knew her, there could be no doubt about that. … He knew her, of course he did, it was just that sometimes reality, the same little reality that served to anchor reality, seemed to fade around the edges, as if the passage of time had a porous effect on things, and blurred and made more insubstantial what was itself already, by its very nature, insubstantial and satisfactory and real.” -Robert Bolano, 2666, pg. 582

I’m most curious if all the “reality” instances are the same word in the Spanish.

Can anyone help her out? I’m curious, too.

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4 Responses to “2666 Translation Question”

  • Comment from Maria Bustillos

    I think the trouble here may be with the word ‘insubstantial’ which is ‘leve’ in the Spanish version, and which I would say is something more like light, as in, not heavy, weightless and also, easy to bear, of little importance. Same root as our “levity.” So more like, “blurred and made lighter what was itself already, by its very nature, light and satisfactory and real.”

  • Comment from Maria Bustillos

    Oh yes and p.s. yes, it’s ‘realidad’ and ‘real’ throughout in the original passage.

  • Comment from Oregon Michael

    <<…contemplaba a su mujer y tenía la vaga impresión de que no la conocía. Pero la conocía, sobre eso no tenía la menor duda… La conocía, claro que sí, sólo que a veces la realidad, la misma realidad pequeñita que servía de anclaje a la realidad, parecía perder los contornos, como si el paso del tiempo ejerciera un efecto de porosidad en las cosas, y desdibujara e hiciera más leve lo que ya de por sí, por su propia naturaleza, era leve y satisfactorio y real.>>

    So yes, reality is always la realidad en Español and real is real. The translation from the Spanish appears to be pretty straightforward. I can’t make much sense of the passage myself, but it seems like Kessler is unsure if the reality he’s grown accustomed to is really reality, like he’s hitting a wall of some sorts. He is good at traversing the supermarket aisles with his wife of many years and finding his own book for sale, but solving the crimes in Santa Teresa is another matter entirely. In Santa Teresa reality is not quite reality, not black and white, there is no single serial killer to be tracked down. Maybe his criminology skills and marital skills are lacking all at once.

  • Comment from Jenny

    Thanks for checking! I wanted to make sure all the realities swirling around were accurate. I collect quotations about reality for a completely different reason, and this is a great one.

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