Heartbeat in Translation

When I read that the psychoanalyst of Budapest celebrated his fortieth birthday on the day he wrote the letter I was reading, I wished I could forget how old I was when Spanish became my second, or maybe first, language. Sándor Ferenczi sounded sad in his letter to Freud. I was sad before I’d finished reading the opening paragraph. Translation has seemed to become part of this writing experience of mine. What kind of translation is at work here? Emotional translation comes to mind first. Ferenczi’s letter, written in July 1913, has affected me in a way that remains unclear. I was sad. I am sad. I was thirty-five when I moved to Madrid and immersed myself in learning a second language, which I’d failed at in high school. This last clause appeared on its own. I seem to be doubting myself. Ferenczi wrote of inner struggles in his letter to Freud. When he mentioned his psychoanalytic work with patients, I was uncertain how he felt about the work. Uncertainty can lead to creativity. This last sentence helps me remember that my heart beat faster when I read that Ferenczi had turned forty on the day he wrote the letter to Freud. Freud has become part of the uncertainty I’m experiencing as I write this sentence. For years I struggled to read Freud. I still do. His correspondences discovered me one day in a Madrid bookstore a decade ago, and I’ve been reading them ever since, both in Spanish and in English translations. I also have several volumes of Ferenczi’s correspondences. It’s as if these books on my shelves have something to teach me that I’ve done my best to avoid. I’ve been avoiding Freud’s major works, such as The Interpretation of Dreams, less this year than in the past. Another of his works, Psychopathology of Everyday Life, has been my evening reading for a few days. Changes seem to be happening inside of me. I hope the translator in me can keep up with them.

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