23 July 2010


JOSE MARTI, como yo lo veo. (3)
-escrito por mi para que
tu lo leas-
Dr. Graciela Martinez Gonzalez

Jose Marti, translator.
I am writing to you what I think, this is not an investigative study nor an historic material and does not pretend to be an art piece it is only a conversation between you and me.
It is usually said that to be a good translator, one should also be a writer. In José Martí’s case, there is no doubt that he was indeed the latter but also according to expert opinions Martí was a real translator. This article will attempt to throw some light on this aspect of Martí’s activities.
José Martí was 42 years old when he died and he became one of the most talented representatives of modernism in literature. He wrote poems, stories for children, articles for newspapers, prologues, reviews, commentaries
on publications and so on and so forth.
His political activities, in which he became involved as a teenager and because of which he suffered prison, torture and exile, led Cuban veterans and rookies, blacks and whites, mestizos and Chinese, even “good-will Spaniards” to unite for the first time in the long struggle against
Spanish colonialism.
He founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party and helped to create the will to fight the last “necessary war” against Spain.
As an inexperienced soldier, Martí the poet, the politician, the symbol of Cuban unity, did not survive his first experience in the battlefield.

He was a professional man. During his forced exile in Spain after being released from prison, when he was 18 years old, he studied in and then graduated from law school. However, due to Spanish colonialists’ arrogance and obstinacy, Martí was never allowed to practice law in Cuba.
He had to some extent studied Latin, Greek, French, English and even some Hebrew. Due to his studies, reading and extensive travels, José Martí maste
red the Spanish language in practically all its variants. His mastery of the English language became more and more profound the longer he lived in the US for many years as he worked as a journalist.
Martí wrote his first play and started trying his hand at translation when he was just a boy. His literary curiosity, from an early age, greatly contributed to lay the foundations for his rich prose, poetry and insightful translations later on.
Notwithstanding all of the above, during Martí’s life there did not exist any official translation school, university career or studies on translation-interpretation as a science or art.

Marti’s first published translation saw the light in 1875 (he was 2
2 years old at that time) and it was Mis hijos, written by Victor Hugo as Mes Fils (My Children). His source language here was, of course, French. His target language was Spanish. Perhaps Martí did this work as a tribute to a great writer he very much admired—and very briefly met in Paris. José Martí went far beyond the
traditional biblical and literary topics of translation of his time. He translated texts in the diplomatic, philosophical, historic, literary –prose and poetry—journalistic, and political fields. His multiple occupations and his constant travels away from his beloved motherland turned Martí into a consul for the longtime established independent republics of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It was due to his quality as a speaker, negotiator and translator-interpreter that the government of Uruguay appointed him as its official representative at the 1891 International American Monetary Conference.
He translated “Ramona” from English into Spanish under the same title as the work by Helen Hunt Jackson.
I am not an expert or any thing near but the real experts says that Martí was not only a translator of very good quality but also—unconsciously perhaps—a translation critic and a true pedagogue and methodologist concerning translation matters, especially when they dealt with the necessary steps to translate, and matters of style and beauty.
He was undoubtedly a man of his time, yet a very respectful student of the past and an outstanding builder of the future. His profound love for liberty and humanity is a virtue that should adorn any intellectual worker who strives to reach a wide audience.
As he said “To read is to grow, to improve one’s lot, to better one’s soul” and “A nation of educated people will always be a nation of free people.”
(La Edad deOro, 1995: 204, 215, 216, my translations). These are but a few brief examples of Martí as a very profound human being.

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"A servir modestamente a los hombres me preparo; a andar, con el libro al hombro, por los caminos de la vida nueva; a auxiliar, como soldado humilde, todo brioso y honrado propósito: y a morir de la mano de la libertad, pobre y fieramente."

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