A rather literal and only slightly tidied-up translation of a Pablo Neruda poem. I can't properly do it justice, but it is just too damn awesome not to share an attempt.


Cortez has no people, he's a cold lightning bolt,
his heart dead inside his armor.
"Fertile lands, my lord and king,
temples in which studded gold
lies in the Indian's hands."

Now arrive destroying daggers, knocking over
the low lands; the stampeding hordes--
the mountain ranges of the perfumes
stopping their troop between orchids
and coronations of pines--
running over the jasmines,
until the gates of Tlaxcala.

(Terrified brother, do not take
as a friend the pink vulture--
from the moss I tell you, from
the roots of our kingdom.
It will rain blood tomorrow,
the tears will be liable to
form clouds, vapor, rivers,
until our eyes melt.)

Cortez receives a dove,
receives a pheasant, a zither
from the musicians of the monarch,
but he wants the room of gold,
he wants another passage, and it all falls
into the chests of the voracious men.

The king leans out from the balcony:
"He is my brother," he says. The stones
of the people fly in response,
and Cortez sharpens daggers
across the betrayed kisses.

Return to Tlaxcala; the wind has brought
a deaf rumor of sufferings.
What the heck does "cerbatana" mean anyway?

Darn insufficiently populated Spanish-English dictionary. I really ought to pick up a decent Spanish dictionary at this point; it'd probably do a more thorough job of explaining connotations for various words, and it'd also probably have more entries.
Prepositions are troubling me.

The thing about Spanish prepositions is that as soon as you get away from the very literal/physical ones describing the position and movement of two physical objects in actual space, they stop meshing with English prepositions quite so well. It's a little subtle thing, and it's usually clear from context, but--it's one of those places where my ability to express myself in a language starts sliding behind my reading/listening comprehension.

All those little places where there's an "a" and I would have expected a "con", or a "de" when I thought it would be a "por"... Spanish is not just English with different words. Spanish is not just English with different words and a different way of handling verbs. Spanish is not just English with different words and a different way of handling verbs and adjectives on the other side of nouns and some quirky idioms and gendered nouns and...

I am also troubled by the words that I just can't find in my dictionary, and can't find a close-enough word to guess at. But vocab is one of those things I just have to pick up over time; I'm still slowly getting used to the words for shoulder, to tie up, wild beast, tangle, bug, shoreline, motorboat, to be in the habit of doing, compass--all those words that show up over and over again until I reach for the dictionary to look them up for the sixth time and realize I remember what it means.

But vocab I have the dictionary for. It's those prepositions that are gonna get me.
Or more specifically, my own copies of La Ciudad de las Bestias, El Reino del Dragón de Oro, and El Bosque de los Pigmeos, which apparently constitute a set trilogy. I'm already a bit sad that there are only three books, but "trilogy" rather than "series" suggests an actual three-book story arc and not just episodic adventures, and that makes me happy.

The library book has been (graciously) relegated to the pile of books to return; someone else can now appreciate this quite good book, courtesy of the Austin library system. (Though they had at least two copies in when I checked this one out, so I probably haven't deprived anyone of the chance.) Now I can underline words I don't know, and make little notes in the margin, and take as long as I need, and--oh. Damn. Pencils. I need pencils. I cannot possibly write in a book in pen.

Quick! To the mechanical-pencil-mobile!
pómulos: cheekbones
pantano: swamp
voraz: voracious
sanguijuela: leech
descalza: barefoot
a raudales: in abundance
amparo: shelter
cal: quicklime
ron: rum

Words not in the dictionary:

callejuelas (alleys?)

End of chapter four! I have now ordered this book to have my own copy, since there's no way in hell I'm going to be finishing it before it's due back at the library, and I'd like to be able to underline words and make notes in the margins for convenience.
gesto: gesture, or facial expression
desprecio: disdain
descompuesta: broken down
choza: shack
tripulación: crew
botín: booty
I did not exactly breeze through chapter three, but "El Abominable Hombre de la Selva" was a relatively brisk read compared to some that came before. This was equal parts that Kate Cold is a delight to read about and that I've stopped looking up every vocabulary word I'm not sure about; if I'm pretty sure of what it means from context, onward I go.

I was absurdly proud to recall what 'albóndigas' were.

The liberal use of similes in this book are a mixed blessing; they're nicely evocative, but they're a lot harder to work out from context than the straightforward descriptions. But I like the rivers in the jungle sliding around like luminous serpents, so I think overall I am for them.

Onward through chapter four, "El Río Amazonas". Which is making me somewhat nostalgic for my time in the jungle.
In which our protagonist goes to meet the grandmother he does not approve of, after whining about not wanting to go to the Amazon on an adventure, dammit. Once again, I needed to stop and look up words before finishing the first sentence. ("muchedumbre" means "crowd." Good to know!)

You would think that with two entire chapters in the book just on taking trips and general travel, I would be able to translate a few paragraphs about meeting someone in an airport with ease. But nooooo. I'm getting more out of cognates than vocabulary from my textbook, unless you count things like articles and prepositions.

Anyway, time to keep reading and meet the eccentric grandmother. Given that Alex has been muttering about how she'd happily push him into a piranha-filled river, I think I like her already. Alex is, after all, a whiny, sullen, occasionally violent brat. But then, he has good reason for it, being both a fifteen-year-old boy and under a huge amount of stress at home. I kinda hope she schools his ass anyway.
Fun vocab:

llanto: crying
descalza: barefoot
escasa: scarce
hueso: bone
moler: crush
añicos: smithereens
aniquilar: to overwhelm
desangrarse: to bleed to death
puñetazo: a punch
farfullar: to jabber
mascullar: to mutter

Words my dictionary didn't have:

ablanzó (a verb, and an action one, but the nearest I can find is "ablandar" which makes no sense in context: pushed? charged?)
destripó (another action verb: shredded? tore?)
solía (seems to mean 'alone' or 'only' in context)

Chapter one finished!
Interesting words )

Words my dictionary didn't have:

bruces (as in "se cayó de bruces")
tarado (though from context it's clearly an insult)
cornisa (dictionary says "cornice" but that doesn't seem to make sense in context: waves crashing on the cornice in a park?)
pajarraco (a baby bird?)
canturreando ('cantando' would be singing, but this...is something else?)
Alexander Cold despertó al amanecer sobresaltado por una pesadilla. (Alexander Cold woke at dawn frightened by a nightmare.)

I've just started the first chapter of one of the very few YA fantasy (I think? It might just be general adventure) novels that I was able to find at the Austin City Library branch that boasted the most Spanish books. As I suspected, the main problem appears to be that 90% of the books available, at least in elementary and YA categories of fiction, are translated from English. (Two were translated from German, which was at least nice for the novelty.)

This is apparently the first YA book by the author, Isabel Allende. I confess that I am slightly bemused to find that the protagonist is named Alexander Cold--his parents are Lisa and John--but if I'm running around slapping Czech names on my fantasy protagonists, why shouldn't an author from Chile put English names on hers?

Attempting to decipher unfamiliar vocabulary from context has been rough going so far, as the first paragraph starts by recounting a dream the protagonist had. And it's not encouraging that I had to look up three words in the first sentence alone... But, hey, if it were easy, it wouldn't be instructive.