But when I wanted to teach little known writers, or newer writers whose work had not been translated yet, or obscure poems that would never end up in an anthology, that's when I had to get to work and do my own translations. Before this, I had translated for technical or non literary publications over the years, and on occasion for the Conditions: Feminist Literary Journal. Translation of poetry in particular is very difficult, and I'm not sure one really ever succeeds (nor should one hope to, since that is the sad beauty of language). Teaching literature was my gateway to the necessity of translation for the sheer love of the thing I wanted to share with other people.
This is how I came to translate this short story by Marta Brunet, a marvelous Chilean writer whose first novel, Montaña adentro (1923) surprised critics who did not expect such sophisticated and strong prose from a woman writer. The short story I've translated here, "Piedra callada," is from a short story collection: Soledad de la sangre, published in 1967, the year of Brunet's death. I received these two books from my mother, who knew I loved to read and that I would someday write as well, and I'll always be grateful for this. Brunet became my favorite Chilean narrative writer as I grew older-- my first love was Marcela Paz, author of the young adult series, Papelucho. Later I read the work of María Luisa Bombal, and I would have another favorite.
What I love about this story is the way it seems to stay with the reader as a perfect composition: smooth, swift, accurate, just like the silent stone of the title... which be read as a metaphor for many things. The strong characterization, the masterful exposition, the unforgettable descriptions of the southern Chilean valleys, hidden in the mountains under the majestic peaks of the Andes: I think you'll like this story.
Here is part I of "Silent Stone," by Marta Brunet.