Friends don’t let friends talk to earnest mathy dudes who nerd out with you about labor unions and insist on getting a good sense of where Fresno is and have dumb big brown eyes and dumb long eyelashes and give dumb great hugs and are thinking of moving across the dumb big country to study dirt. They just don’t.
Obviously—right?—that translation thing isn’t unique to Latino authors, but that’s where I’ve been most aware of it, probably because I am Latino and I care about writing and I want to write and I like to read and I know Spanish and whatever whatever.
And I know I’m getting probably needlessly preoccupied with the translation thing but guys— when do authors gracefully provide you with a literal definition of the words they choose to use in English? Like anytime I read Nabokov I’ve got to look up words and more often than not that’s because his English vocabulary is fucking intense, not because he’s got drops of Russian and French in there that are literally foreign to me. Plus—and I don’t know if this is more a thing my English teachers instilled in me or more a chip on my shoulder from people who make fucking baseless assumptions about how much English I might know—it irks me when people are unwilling to look up a goddamn word. Again, one way or another I’ve been taught that you’re supposed to humble yourself before massive massive languages and I don’t fully understand people’s reluctance to suck it up and admit that they don’t know a word in their native language*. Like, it’s a big language, and no one speaks it perfectly ever and context clues are great but can’t you at least acknowledge that you might get something from reading a full-on definition of something?
And now part of me is stuck on the way I write when I write in what feels like my voice. Like in high school I was stuck on trying to be lyrical and shit and then I got stuck on trying to be economical and both were kind of efforts to prove that I could get along fine alongside smart people. And that’s gross. But I’m not convinced that the way I write now—which is shittier and more fragmented but still preoccupied in a massive way with using the most precise word—isn’t an effort toward the same thing.
I don’t even know what I’m ranting about anymore. I think I’m just full of feelings.
*Edited to add that I 100% understand why you would be afraid to admit not knowing something in a foreign language because that is scary and judgment and racism are things and whatever whatever. This might be an empathy thing on my part? Because on the other hand I also get how you might put up walls if you’re a white person who also speaks English in a way that is not standard or not the Queen’s English or whatever the fuck it is that people in grammar textbooks want you to speak because those are the white people I grew up with. SO. Oops this is a big rant, too.