More adventures in translation.
Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic, so his first language was Spanish and when he first came to the USA as a child, he could not speak any English. He slowly lost the Spanish, as he grew up in New Jersey and went to school there – a source of great sadness for him – before slowly rebuilding it as an adult. This back-story made it a more unusual read (in the translation sense).
This Is How You Lose Her consists of a series of short stories linked by a main character, Yunior. They were written in English in the original, which I read before then reading the Spanish translation. What was particularly interesting was that the English/original version was interspersed with Spanish, mostly slang, so that at times it was like reading between two languages. To add to this sense of being trans-language, when reading the Spanish, often these parts were translated differently, so that the Spanish in the English version was translated into different Spanish again in the Spanish version.
I found this really interesting and I learnt some fantastic slang along the way, my favourites being:
Caravarga – “Dickhole”
Hanguar – an actual verb for ‘to hang out’
Papí chulo – Daddy cool!
Jevita – Homegirl
The stories themselves are beautiful and the language – in English or Spanish – inventive. I was particularly moved by the last story in the collection, The Cheater’s Guide to Love/Guía de Amor Para Infieles, a kind of diary covering the five years that follow Yunior’s break with his fiancée after she finds he has cheated on her with fifty different people over six years. It was heartbreaking, you felt equally for both parties, as Yunior (after trying his best to make it up), swerves between despair and disaster, which didn’t help me resolve any of my thoughts on the best way to conduct a relationship, started by reading How to Think More About Sex, so thanks for that Junot.