Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lost in Translation (Annotation G3-5/Goddard)

Julio Cortazar’s Cronopios and Famas is a compilation of four smaller works: “The Instructional Manual,” “Unusual Occupations,” “Unstable Stuff,” and lastly “Cronopios and Famas.” A description of the first three parts are chapterbooks of something between prose and poetry. In the last part, Cortazar strings together an introduction to three classes of people: the Cronopios, the Famas, and the Esperanzas. Although the anecdotes appear innocent enough, something is defineately lost in translation.
A smaller chapter: “Story” in its entirety sums up the nature of a Cronopio:
A small cronopio was looking for the key to the street door on the night table, the night table in the bedroom, the bedroom in the house, the house in the street. Here the cronopio paused, for to go into the street, he needed the key to the door, (Cortazar 135).

Cronopios are easily confused and somewhat childlike. A small lesson in Spanish may illuminate the true nature of a Cronopios. Although not directly translated as a complete word, “cronico,” means chronic, and “piojo,’ is louse. Not dissimilar to the English term dimwit.
Famas are different entirely. A Fama tends to be of a higher class. A Fama has a maid, a Fama operates a garden hose factory, “Famas are capable of gestures of great generosity,” (Cortazar, 131). Famas translates literally into English as Famous. Cortazar uses the adjective Famas as a noun for his group of people. They live up to their names.
Lastly, the Esperanzas are third population in the book. The Esperanzas are the curmudgeon class.
Esperanzas are sedentary. They let things and people slide by them. They’re like statues one has to go visit. They never take the trouble, (Cortazar 122).
Although the Esperanzas behave like the old man next door who seems to be the killjoy of youthful spirits in the neighborhood, they serve a purpose in this world. Esparanza has the direct translation of Hope.
Perhaps it is erroneous to claim something lost in translation. Reading the entire book as a reader of English and this particular translation, the dream-like imagery and curtness of Cortazar’s vignettes are easily understandable. Each page is enjoyable. A more privy reader, one with a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish has the privilege of so much.


Cortazar, Julio. Cronopios and Famas. Trans. Paul Blackburn. New York: New Direction Classics, 1999.

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