Saturday, March 29, 2008



Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, Trans. By Ursula K. Le Guin
(University of New Mexico Press, 2003)

The translation goes directly to its source on facing pages and does not linger to form an impression or take stock, the result being that the reader with some Spanish is miraculously endowed with an ability to read the great South American poetess in her own words, and that is a point that cannot be argued too strongly.

The apparatus is not significant, notes are not plentiful, the presentation seems skewed to the standard marketing policy of a press that can no longer afford to hire professionals capable of assessing a book. Consequently the introductory materials are largely useless, though there is a chronology.

Le Guin does her utmost to get out of Mistral’s way, and only paraphrases occasionally for top running speed. Diction is the significant loss, rhyme is present at times, Church poems are untranslated.

So there is little if any point in reviewing this effort, it will be bought and used by everyone with an interest in the subject, irrespective of any critical remarks whatsoever.

The system is easily demonstrable.


               I have a faithful fortune
and a fortune lost.
One’s like a rose,
the other a thorn.
What was taken from me
I still possess:
the faithful fortune
and the fortune lost,
and I’m rich in purple
and unhappiness.
               O how I love the rose
and how the thorn loves me!
Like round twin apples
after the frost:
the faithful fortune,
the fortune lost.


               Tengo la dicha fiel
y la dicha perdida:
la una como rosa,
la otra como espina.
De lo que me robaron
no fui desposeída:
tengo la dicha fiel
y la dicha perdida,
y estoy rica de púrpura
y de melancolía.
               ¡Ay, qué amada es la rosa
y qué amante la espina!
Como el doble contorno
de dos frutas mellizas,
tengo la dicha fiel
y la dicha perdida…


               I have a fortune true
and a long-gone fortune;
the one like rose,
the other like thorn.
Of that from me was stolen,
I wasn’t dispossessed:
I have a fortune true
and a long-gone fortune,
and I am rich in purple
and in melancholy.
               Ah, how well loved is the rose
and what a lover the thorn!
Like the double contour
of fruits born twin,
I have a fortune true
and a long-gone fortune...


Christopher Mulrooney has written criticism in Small Press Review, Elimae, The Film Journal, Tadeeb and Parameter, poems and translations in Beeswax, Vanitas, Guernica and New Translations.

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