Breaking Bad + Homesick = Another Neruda Translation

Last week, while binge watching the last season of Breaking Bad, I heard a song I’d never heard that made my heart skip a beat and then pick up again more insistently.

The music choices in Breaking Bad don’t disappoint. First of all, rather than using music to cue the viewer’s next emotion like many (most?) shows do, Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, seems to trust his viewers to feel, on their very own thankyouverymuch, what it is the scene is about. The music, then, reflects and highlights, rather than suggesting and manipulating. Also, he just plain old picks good music. His choices, spot-on, are not your everyday popular music, and he often plays, if not in full, then at least most of a song. Ah, respect not just for his viewers’ emotional intelligence but also for the artist. Refreshing, that!

But, back to hearing the song: the beat was of native drums (even though it is a remix, it has nothing even remotely resembling the sound of a drum kit). I could practically feel the pull of gravity on my body —down my center line, through my feet, and into the earth— as I listened. The language was Spanish and, um, could it be?! Mapuche? Yes. After a few verses it was unmistakeable. The beat was reminiscent of a Mapuche ritual dance called the “Lonkomeo.” A number of the words brought to mind the names of cities and towns and rivers and lakes of the Araucana region of Southern Chile, where I grew up, and Northwestern Argentina. It made me terribly homesick.

After downloading the song and listening to it at least as many times as the number of barrels of money that Walt White was burying in the desert in the scene that touched off my bout of homesick, I pulled out Neruda, who was from Southern Chile, of course, and tried my hand at another translation.

Here you go!

Know Ye Know Ye Know

(translation by Heidi Fischbach of
Sepan Lo Sepan Lo Sepan” by Pablo Neruda)

Oh but the lie we lived
was our daily bread.
People of the twenty first century,
it is necessary that you know,
what we did not know,
that the cons and the what fors be seen,
because we ourselves did not see,
so that no one else eat
the false food
that nourished us in our time.

It was the century of communication
held incommunicado:
the cables beneath the sea
were at times true
when the lie took on
more latitude
and longitudes than the ocean:
languages became accustomed
to straightening the devious,
to suggesting threats,
and the long tongues of wire
would coil around gossip central
like serpents
until we all shared in
the battle of the lie
and after lying we’d run away
lying to kill,
and we’d arrive lying to death.

We lied among friends
in sadness or in silence
and the enemy lied to us
with a mouth-full of hate.

It was the cold era of war.

The quiet era of hate.

A bomb from time to time
burned the soul of Vietnam.

And God tucked away in his hiding place
spied like a spider
upon remote provincials
who with drowsy passion
were falling in adultery.

[Pablo Neruda's original, in Spanish, HERE]

Afterthought: Sadly, if Neruda saw us —the very twenty first century people to whom he wrote this poem— today, I imagine he’d shake his head and sigh. Apparently, we still haven’t gotten what he wanted us to know.

Now, go have a listen to Chancha Via Circuito’s remix of José Larralde singing “Quimey Neuquén,” as played in episode 10 of season 6 of Breaking Bad. The original song was written, as best I can tell, by Milton Aguilar y Marcelo Berbel.

Copyright © 2014, Heidi Fischbach. Don’t steal! But do feel free to share, with proper attribution and link.

Another take on taking for granted

It’s easy to notice things when they’ve gone kaflooey, when they’re, somehow, off. Like public transportation, for example, when it’s so crowded you can barely move and it’s hard to breathe. Or when there is a disabled car on the line up ahead and you are stopped, indefinitely, in a tunnel underground somewhere in the middle of who-knows-exactly-where. StoopidRedLine, you may mutter under your breath.

But on the days that the subway or the bus gets you places without a hitch? You get to take it for granted. La la la, oh yeah, the Red Line? The 77? Yep, I take it to work and home every day. I don’t have to park a car. I get to read. I get to eavesdrop on interesting conversations. I get to find out what that lady who can’t stop laughing is reading.

It’s easy to notice a relationship when you’re having a disagreement. You notice how she didn’t look at you. Or, maybe, how she did. You notice how he’s not calling you by that sweetly irreverent name like he used to. Or maybe he’s not calling at all. You miss him, and you feel something snag in the vicinity of your heart. Ow.

But all those other days when you roll over and there he is in all his adorable flesh-n-bones-ness? Those times he calls your name like a line from his favorite song, the one he hums when he’s content? Or when the sight of her makes you grin like a happy fool? Ahh. You get to take this person for granted. Mmm…

It’s easy to notice your body when something hurts. Like when that pain in your neck made you stop short just now when you tried to turn, apparently too quickly, to the right. Or maybe you were bending to pull on your shoes, only to feel your low back seize up and, oh noes! Now it’s hard to stand up straight and you wonder, “is this what they call putting out your back?” Whatever it’s called, it hurts.

But on all those other days when you get out of bed and brush your teeth and lace up your shoes without a second thought? Body? Oh, body! It bends and straightens, turns and returns, stops short and starts up again without a second thought. Not to mention your breathing, which, most of the time keeps happening without any thought or effort on your part. You get to take it for granted.

Right now I’m getting to take for granted this chair, that string of lights, toes, bendy hips, arms, how comfortable it is to have my feet up on the yellow and white looks-handmade-but-turns-out-to-be-from-”just IKEA” bedspread, the empty frame, the sprigs of lavender, the support of the ground, the pull of gravity toward that same solid ground when my thoughts start twirling away a bit anxiously, this here breath, that sigh, and one thing that is so very new that I have not yet had much of a chance to take it for granted: my new office! I love it.

You? Is there something you get to take for granted? How sweet of for you to notice.