Jul 5, 2007

Travesuras de la niña mala. A bunch of my colleagues here in Brazil are raving about this book, so I picked a copy in Libreria El Ateneo during a recent trip to Buenos Aires. Having read it from cover to cover, without skipping any pages as I am prone to do when better things await me on my nightstand, I can now make the announcement that I sincerely dislike this book.

The main character is a translator and conference interpreter, Ricardo Somurcio. That's the attraction. That's why all of my colleagues are ordering their copies. Unfortunately, Vargas Lhosa manages to make the profession sound as ho-hum as a mandatory yearly visit to your great-aunt.

I shouldn't blame him for that, as a matter of fact, translating and interpreting IS boring. But I don't like people rubbing it on my face. And hush, we don't want the newcomers to know.

As for the plot, this niña mala breaks my balls with her hysterics. The first chapter is a great read, mostly because of the description of being young and under the spell of the chilenitas in Miraflores. But once you finish it you know exactly the kind of femme fatale nonsense that lies in store in the next 350 pages, with the bonus of two little words that get repeated with such a fervor that you're suddenly under the impression that all synonyms of the RAE have sunk in the bottomless ocean. They are huachaferia and pichiruchi, two peruanismos I won't be able to forget for the rest of my life, just like I will never be able to forget Archimede's principle (it's especially painful because I love a bathtub!).

The only character I liked is El Trujimán, the multilingual maverick who has more B languages than I have shoes, hires Russian whores after strenuous gigs and says that knowing something about what you're interpreting can actually be bad for your delivery. But Vargas Lhosa did me the favor of first sending him to Japan to work for Mitsubishi and then killing him off around page 350.

I told my friend Tomás of my more-than-mild disappointment with Las travesuras de la niña mala. "After much perforation and drilling on a continental shelf of cliches, I conclude that the most profound lesson was that translators are all ghosts". To which Tomás replied: "Fala pro Vargas Lhosa que fantasma é a avó dele".

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