Six Minutes

Six Minutes

One night, walking along the sidewalk that coasts a little park that is not enclosed, a park with wooden benches covered in sentences written in permanent marker, a swing on the edge of a very protective silence, in an almost residential area, enveloped (I) in the damp of an autumn that had just begun, ten seconds after a car passes me on the road (inside, I can hear the echoes of Wish you were here), the pavement almost wet, twenty minutes after I say good-bye to a friend with a kiss on both cheeks (the smell of peppermint chewing gum, tired eyes, and a bye, see you tomorrow) and to my boyfriend too, with a light kiss on the lips (not a word, just a conspiring glance), one Saturday in September, in my grey coat, light, too light, beneath a black sky, twelve minutes after observingamazedthat there are no clouds in the sky, thirsty, a book by Roth in my bag, a red bookmark, Feltrinelli, stuck in page 122 (at the point where the Swede is thinking that his daughter is probably a terrorist, but still isn’t sure), at five past one, six minutes after noticing there is someone behind me, one hundred heartbeats a minutefifty diastolic, sixty systolic pressurean almost empty packet of crackers next to the book in my bag, my cell-phone in the right-hand pocket of my coat next to a white handkerchief with pink geometric lines, hair in a pony-tail, and a hand pulling it, my head snapping back, all at once, at six minutes past one, in Italy, my right leg lifted off the ground one kilometer from my house, on the dark edge of a little public park, as I try to run (a surgeuselessof epinephrine in the adrenal medulla, and the sudden synthesis of glucose and glycogen), my right arm crushed at the humerus, pressure from his fingers on the muscles, exactly three minutes after quickening my step, dragged one meter into the park, twenty seconds after opening my cell phone to call my boyfriend, fifteen seconds after noticingdesperatethere is no coverage, three hundred meters from the kindergarten I attended when I was little, lying on the ground, at exactly seven minutes past one, under the weight of his body, the word “anthropometry” that pops into my head for no apparent reason, the tastecigarettes, urine, something that reminds me of motor oilof the fingers of his right hand on my mouth, my face pushed to the right, the unbearable pressure on my jawbone, dilated pupils staring into nothing, the weight of our bodies on my right arm pressed behind my back but still the certainty that all this will be over soon, stockings torn, panties almost torn, the sound of a text message (my cell phone or his?), the scratches burning on my legs, the smell of the damp earth near my nose, a light that goes on in a window in the building that looks onto the park, the cold on my left cheek as the saliva evaporates, the sensationdevastatingthat all this will not be over soon, at eight past one, on the edges of the park, my legs open, crooked hearts drawn on a wooden bench I think I see now, my watch unbuckled, his penis in my vagina (an even stronger burning sensation), beer on his breath, a light that goes off in the window in the building that looks onto the park, more and more difficulty breathing, the fingers of his left hand behind me, inside me, and the fear my perineum is ripping apart, hair in the mud, my right cheek in the dirt, blades of rotted grass between my lips, two hours and a half after having dinner with my boyfriend and a friendpear stuffed ravioli, fillet steak marinated in Barolo, one bottle of wine between the three of us, a shot of Amaro (on the label, simply: Nocino 40°home-made), panna cottapraying he will hurry up, his rhythm convulsive, my anxiety out of control, the beginning of asphyxiation just when the clock strikes nine past one, and his smell, and the absolute silence in a park that is not enclosed, at ten past one, one hundred and twenty diastolic and one hundred and twenty systolic pressure, my right wrist which feels broken, the fingers on my right hand that I can no longer feel, while all the world is stillthe only sound, a scooter fading into the distanceSeptember 26, at eleven past one, the moment I give up trying to learn his main anthropometric features for future identification, nose pressed to the ground, the taste of blood in my mouth, one night, in 2009, I just keep thinking one thing: if I die, will it be enough for him then?

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Sei minuti

Una notte, camminando lungo il marciapiede che costeggia un piccolo parco senza recinzione, con le panchine in legno ricoperte da frasi scritte con l’uniposca, l’altalena verso il bordo di un silenzio molto protettivo, in un quartiere quasi residenziale, avvolta (io) dall’umidità dell’autunno appena iniziato, dieci secondi dopo che una macchina è passata sulla strada (dentro ascoltavano I wish you were here), il terreno quasi bagnato, venti minuti dopo aver salutato un’amica con due bacisulla guancia (un profumo da chewing-gum alla menta, gli occhi stanchi, un ciao ci sentiamo domani mattina) ed aver salutato anche il mio ragazzo con un bacino molto dolce sulle labbra (nessuna parola ma solo uno sguardo pieno di complicità), un sabato di settembre, con un cappottino grigio troppo sottile, sotto un cielo molto scuro, dodici minuti dopo aver constatato – stupita – che non ci sono nuvole, sete, un libro di Roth in borsetta, il segnalibro rosso della Feltrinelli a pagina 122 (proprio quando lo Svedese sta scoprendo che la figlia probabilmente è una terrorista, ma non ne ha ancora la certezza),all’una e cinque, sei minuti dopo che ho notato qualcuno dietro di me, cento pulsazioni al minuto – cinquanta diastole,cinquanta sistole – un pacchetto di cracker quasi finito vicino al libro in borsetta, il cellulare nella tasca destra del cappottino assieme ad un fazzoletto bianco con una geometria dirighe rosa, i capelli raccolti, e una mano che me li tira, la testa che si torce all’indietro, di scatto, all’una e sei, in Italia, la gamba destra sollevata da terra a un chilometro da casa, nel bordo buio di un piccolo parco pubblico, mentre tento la fuga (l’aumento – inutile – di produzione di epinefrina nel midollo surrenale, e la sintesi improvvisa del glucosio dal glicogeno), il braccio sinistro stretto all’altezza dell’omero, la pressione delle sue dita sul muscolo, esattamente tre minuti dopo aver accelerato il passo, trascinata un metro dentro al parco, venti secondi dopo che ho iniziato ad aprire il cellulare per chiamare il mio ragazzo, quindici secondi dopo aver constatato – disperata – l’assenza di campo, a trecento metri dall’asilo dove andavo da piccola, distesa per terra, all’una e sette in punto, sotto il peso del suo corpo, la parola “antropometria” che mi viene in mente senza sapere perché, il sapore – sigaretta, urina, qualcosa che mi ricorda l’odore del motore di una macchina – delle dita della sua mano destra che tengono chiusa la mia bocca, il mio viso costretto a guardare verso destra, la pressione insostenibile sull’osso della mandibola, le pupille dilatate sul nulla, il peso dei nostri corpi sul mio braccio destro schiacciato dietro alla schiena e intanto la certezza che tutto finirà presto, i collant strappati, le mutande quasi strappate, il suono di un sms (il mio cellulare o il suo?), il bruciore delle gambe graffiate, l’odore della terra umida vicina al naso, la luce di una finestra della casa davanti che si accende, il freddo sulla guancia sinistra per la sua saliva che evapora, la sensazione – devastante – che invece tutto questo non finirà, all’una e otto, ai bordi del parco, le mie gambe aperte, i cuori storti disegnati sul legno di una panchina che ora mi pare di intravedere, il mio orologio che si è staccato, il suo pene nella mia vagina (un bruciore ancora più forte), l’alito di birra, la luce della finestra della casa davanti che si spegne, la fatica sempre maggiore a respirare, le dita della sua mano sinistra dietro, dentro di me, con il terrore che il perineo si stia lacerando, i capelli nel fango, la guancia destra nella terra, alcuni fili d’erba marcia tra le labbra, due ore e mezza dopo aver cenato con il mio ragazzo e la nostra amica – tortelli ripieni alla pera, un filetto al barolo, una bottiglia di vino in tre, l’amaro (l’etichetta scriveva solo Nocino, 40° – fatto in casa), la panna cotta – pregando che lui faccia veloce, il suo ritmo convulso, il panico che non gestisco più, un principio di asfissia quando scatta l’una e nove, e il suo odore, e il silenzio assoluto del parco privo di recinzione, all’una e dieci, centoventi diastole e centoventi sistole al minuto, il polso della mano sinistra che sembra spezzato, le dita della mano sinistra che non sento più, mentre tutto il mondo tace – si sente solo il suono di un motorino morire in lontananza – il 26 settembre, all’una e undici, proprio mentre ho rinunciato ad individuare le sue principali caratteristiche antropometriche per un futuro riconoscimento, il naso schiacciato per terra, il sapore di sangue in bocca, una notte, nel 2009, pensavo solamente una cosa: ma se muoio, gli basterà?

Translator’s Note

Once, as a kid, I replied to my drama teacher’s proposal to perform The Doll’s House at school with: Ibsen? How can we perform Ibsen if he didn’t write in English. Someone made Ibsen possible for me to understand then; I am eternally grateful.

Translation opens doors, opens minds, makes communication possible: it unbabels the babel, so to speak. Translators embrace two or more languages, enjoying books, ideas, and friendships in each. They work to make this possible for others. This is what I thought when I first read “Six Minutes:” I just wanted to share it.

I met Paolo Zardi’s work through a friend, fell in love with his characters immediately, and when I expressed my desire to share them in English, he was kind enough to let me. It was not an easy task.

“Six Minutes” is brutally realistic. The events echo the seconds on the clock, deafening. The story unravels with every heartbeat, and that made translating it trying, both emotionally and professionally. A wonderful short story can envelop the reader in its folds; translating a wonderful story can lose the translator to friends and family for days, weeks, months.

So many things have been written about translation. So many studies have been done. Each translator has his own personal method. Every method is a valid one, I think. For me, the actual words come first, I suppose. Individual words, nouns, verbs that mean the same thing (Paolo Zardi is an engineer, and has his own world of words, which is not necessarily my world). I take the text apart, translate the words and set them on the table to pick from, like a puzzle. I lay them in front of me and then start putting the sentences back together.

Sound is next, because it’s a crazy kind of puzzle I’m putting together: it’s both visual and musical.

Because “one Saturday in September” slips off your tongue just like “un sabato di settembre”, easy, but what if the author had opted for “un lunedì di luglio” in the original? What then? “Monday in July?” Fine. But where’s the alliteration? Is it really important to the author? It depends on the text. “Six Minutes” is very rhythmic. So I move the pieces of the puzzle around again. Find synonyms when I can, add new pieces to the puzzle. I mix and match as best I can again.

So finally the sound of the words is good and the translation seems right too. I let it sit. I forget about it for a day or two. When I go back to the text, I find all kinds of mistakes, funny sounding things. Not-so-English sounding things, because being inside another language changes yours sometimes. Therefore distance is important. You must pretend the original does not exist.

It is true that you really can’t see the forest for the trees sometimeswhere the trees, in this case, are the words, the syntax, the punctuation. So I step back and read the translation again. I read it out loud. I clap the beats of every line. Often. Like in music class as a kid.

When it finally sings the emotions it originally provoked in me, then I’m finished.

Paolo ZardiPaolo Zardi is an engineer, a writer, and a traveller. His short stories have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. In 2010 he published his book of short stories Antropometria (Neo Edizioni), then La felicità esiste (2012, Alet Edizioni), and Il giorno che diventammo umani (2013, Neo Edizioni). His work has appeared in: Giovani cosmetici, (2008, Sartorio), Storie di martiri, ruffiani e giocatori (2012, CaratteriMobili), Il futuro che non c’era (Psiconline, 2013), Cronache vere (Piano B, 2013), ESC – Quando tutto finisce (2013, Hacca). His latest work is the novella, “Il signor bovary” (Intermezzi, 2014). He blogs at http://www.grafemi.wordpress.com

 

Matilda ColarossiMatilda Colarossi is a freelance translator and teacher, and a lover of good books. Every now and then she is lucky enough to run into a writer she would love to share with the English world. And she does. Born in Italy, raised in Canada, adopted, as an adult, by the city of Florence, she reads, writes, translates, teaches, and scouts for new Italian voices. She blogs at http://www.paralleltexts.wordpress.com