Interview with José Garay Boszeta

Interview with José Garay Boszeta about Symbolics by José María Eguren and The Cardboard House by Martín Adán.

by Paul Guillén

originally published in Spanish at Revista Sol Negro:


Dulzorada is a publishing house created in Dallas, Texas, by José Garay Boszeta. To date they have published English versions of Symbolics by José María Eguren and The Cardboard House by Martín Adán. This interview is about these topics:


1.- How did the idea of forming Dulzorada come about? What were your previous experiences in the field of publishing?

Dulzorada started with the purpose of collaborating in the debate and the reconstruction of Latin American narratives in the United States. Specifically in the field of literary translation, I think there is a relative disconnect between the processes of literature and their historical contexts. Our mission is to fill those gaps in history, to rescue important authors, as well as to show the networks and relationships that have existed between culture and society. Our vision is that all of Dulzorada’s publications will be related to each other, showing more than just the works considered individually. Beyond the fetishistic fixation that exists around the idea of the “author as creator”, which exists in the literary industry, we believe in the proper creativity of historical moments. The case of José María Eguren is significant. Eguren is someone who articulates a poetic transformation that is essential to understand the development of literary movements in Latin America. I decided to start translating Eguren because it seemed incredible to me that, despite its historical importance and the quality of his work, it had never been translated into English. Even though he was someone who attracted the attention of important critics and authors in this country during his life, Eguren is almost a complete stranger in the United States today. When I finished the translation of Symbolics, Eguren’s first poetry book, the first thing I did was try to publish it the traditional way, sending proposals to publishers and magazines, but I quickly realized that the only way to maintain the legitimacy of the project was to start with a new editorial proposal, with complete autonomy from the aesthetic considerations and the market demands of the publishing industry. So, inspired by the punk spirit of “Do-it-yourself”, we decided to create Dulzorada.

Dulzorada is a word used by César Vallejo in his most famous poetry book, Trilce. It’s a play on words between dulce (sweet), luz (light), dorada (golden) “light” (Ed. and rada (cove) too?). It’s a word loaded with many meanings. It means many things and nothing in particular. For us, it represents a creative potential that requires the experimentation and participation of the reader. My brother, Miguel Garay Boszeta, is in charge of the artistic direction and I, of the editorial direction. Our publishing experience was basically nil at this point. But in hindsight, this has been an advantage. We have learned a lot about the process, but above all, we have created our own way of doing things and we have maintained our vision and independence, and that is the most important thing for us.


2.- The first publication of your press was Symbolics by José María Eguren. Also, you are the translator as well. I would like you to tell us a little about the translation process. Since Eguren has a particular use of the language, for example, when he writes “nez” in French for “nose” or as when he writes “celestía”. What was your treatment of these disjunctives?

One of Eguren’s most important innovations is the way in which he uses the musicality and rhythms of language to construct his verses. Eguren’s poems are highly lyrical, full of resonances, suggestions and language games. From the beginning it was completely clear that a literal translation of the poems could never be faithful to Eguren’s playful and experimental spirit, and instead, the challenge was to try to preserve that musical dimension of language in translation. Factors such as the metric of the verses, the structure of the rhymes and the internal resonances were considered paramount in this translation, while at the same time I have tried to maintain fidelity to the content. Translating each poem has actually been like a puzzle, each with its own dilemmas and translation difficulties. An example is what you mention, when Eguren uses words borrowed from French or Italian, like “nez”, or when he uses neologisms like “celestía”, or archaisms like “flava”, etc. All these disjunctives were considered in their own relationship with the text, and decisions were always made on a case-by-case basis. In the case of “la nez purpurada”, I translated it as “the purpled face”, because it seems to me that there is a resonance between “nez” and “faz”, and also, this maintains the rhyme in translation. In the case of “celestía”, which Eguren uses twice in Symbolics, it was necessary to invent analogous words in English: “celestide” and “celesty”. My favorite example is when Eguren creates an internal resonance with the pun between “vagas rosas / vagarosa” (in “Lied I” and “The lady i”, respectively). This was translated as “vague roses / vagarous”, in order to keep that internal reference. And there are many other examples. There are so many subtleties of language in Eguren that they could go unnoticed even in a reading from the original language, so the main thing for me was always to capture in the translation all these underground features that go beyond the semantic, or the purely symbolic. In this sense, I think that more than a translation I have tried to make a “transduction” of Eguren into English, towards a corresponding form that could largely preserve all the mechanics of the original. It was honestly quite a challenge to translate Symbolics and I am very satisfied with the end result.




3.- The second publication of your press is The Cardboard House by Martín Adán. There is another translation of the book into English by Katherine Silver for New Directions in 2012 and an earlier version with Graywolf Press in 1990. What would be the differences of your translation? Or what would be the contributions of your translation?

Interestingly, the idea of publishing a new translation of The Cardboard House came after reading Katherine Silver’s translation, which, even though it has many salvageable aspects, also has many errors and problems of  interpretation. The main problem is the lack of consideration about the experimental avant-garde style of Martín Adán. Adán’s relationship with language, as in the case of Eguren, who was one of his greatest influences, is marked by a playful and rebellious spirit that disorganizes syntax, invents words, proliferates double readings and plays with all kinds of dislocations. In Silver’s translation we see that there is a constant exercise of reorganizing the syntax towards a “correct” grammaticality in English. The same goes for the way Adán uses punctuation marks to create effects and intensities in the text. In Silver’s translation there is a constant reorganization of the idiosyncrasies of the original text towards more standardized forms of language. This seems to us a serious conceptual error. The result is an unfortunate reduction of the rebellious style of The Cardboard House towards the grammatical normativities of the English language. On the other hand, Silver’s translation has a series of misinterpretations, some of them related to a lack of knowledge about the historical context of The Cardboard House. For example, when Adán writes: “¿Por qué había de fusilarte la Cheka?” (Ed. this is a verse from Underwood Poems), it is obvious that it refers to the Cheka (the Soviet secret police), which is directly related to Adán’s distrust of political systems of control. Silver translates it as “Czech girl”, which doesn’t make any sense. Or also, when Adán writes: “Only they remain from the colonial shippon that Castilla disbanded”, Silver translates Castilla as “Castille” (the city of Castilla in Spain), when in reality it’s a reference to Ramón Castilla, the president who abolished colonial slavery in Peru. Curiously, the most serious error, from our point of view, is an omission. In a crucial verse of the Underwood Poems: “O, tal vez, ser un hombre como los toros o como los otros“, which is certainly one of the most brilliant verses in The Cardboard House, since Adán uses a play on words, rearranging the same five letters to create an opposition between otros  (others) and toros (bulls), expressing with this the dichotomy between “humanity” and “inhumanity”, which is one of the central themes of the book; Silver inexplicably translates this verse as “Or, perhaps, to be a man like other men”, completely ignoring the original. My solution has been: “Or, maybe, to be a man like the otters or like the others”, which tries to partially maintain the pun through the homophony between “otters / others”. In Katherine Silver’s translation there are many more errors of all kinds.

In this new translation by Dulzorada, we have tried to maintain all the inflections and idiosyncrasies of the original, and have included an extensive introduction and detailed notes explaining the conceptual apparatus that has guided our translation, as well as our criticism of previous translations. We have also made extensive use of footnotes to clarify these historical references, especially those that refer to the context of Peru in the 1920s.


4.- Your first editions have been a collection of poems published in 1911 and a nouvelle published in 1928. Do you have a main interest for that period of time or does the publishing house plan to investigate other times and other authors?

We are very interested in the processes of  Latin American avant-garde movements in the 20th century. A few months algo, in February 2020, we organized a conference about a retrospective of José Carlos Mariátegui and Amauta magazine in Dallas, Texas; in which we had the honor of having José-Carlos Mariátegui and Ana Torres Terrones as guests, from of the José Carlos Mariátegui archive in Lima. This was very important to us, because Amauta and Mariátegui were central actors in the cultural vectors that were drawn during the 1920’s in Latin America. For this occasion we published a flyer with an English translation of the “Presentation of Amauta”, the first editor’s note of Amauta magazine, originally published in 1926. This conference was very well received by the public and we were able to show a little more about the historical context in which authors such as Eguren and Martín Adán participated. We plan to publish more authors from this period, such as Magda Portal, Gamaliel Churata, Blanca Luz Brum, César Moro, etc. All authors who have never been translated into English (Ed. there is a translation of César Moro by Francis LeFevre: Amourt à Mort / Love Till Death. Vanishing Rotating Triangle Press, 1973. 139 pp.). What we have in mind is to create a catalog of publications that support and enrich each other, always in relation to the historical context of this period. In this series we are about to publish the second volume of Eguren’s work, The Song of the Figures, which is planned for the month of July 2020.

As for other periods, we are planning to translate works from the Peruvian Generation of the 1960s. The first publication in this series will be Art of Navigation by Juan Ojeda. We would also be interested in reissuing some publications from El Corno Emplumado / The Plumed Horn, a bilingual magazine of poetry published in Mexico City during the period 1962-1969. We are also very interested in translating works from the Hora Zero movement, which is undoubtedly one of the most important moments of Latin American poetry in the 20th century. We also have plans to publish contemporary Latin American authors, especially those who are outside the official circuits and who have developed a committed and interesting work. The first publication in this series will be a retrospective of the work of the Bolivian poet, Iris Kiya. 


5.- You publish from Dallas, Texas. There are several presses that publish translations of Latin American literature. There’s even Cardboard House Press, which was founded as a Peruvian-Chilean effort, that is entirely dedicated to translating Latin Americans. How do you visualize the book market in the United States, and what would be the differences with the Peruvian and / or Latin American market?

In Dallas we have had a very positive reception from the public. Above all, for the Latino community in the United States, I think there is a great interest in discovering important authors of Latin American history that for one reason or another are not part of the commercial circuit of big publishers (Ed. it is a paradox of publishing that English translations that are intended for the American public are better received by the Latino community.) What exists in the United States is, from my point of view, a representation of Latin America that is still influenced by a vision that privileges the traditionalist and picturesque aspects of culture. We want to go against that cultural perception, we want to demonstrate how some of the most important developments in World Literature have occured within Latin American experiences.

In that sense, the experiences of Cardboard House Press have been a great inspiration for us. Like them, we have decided to focus on Latin American works because that’s who we are and what we know best. In fact, I think one of the problems in the translation publishing market in the United States is its lack of specificity. The result is that there is only a superficial representation of the literature of many regions, or at best, a general treatment of authors without too much reference to their specific contexts. On the contrary, we want to delve into the history of the movements, and show not only the value of the works in themselves, but also the social and political networks that connect and relate them to each other. We are specifically interested in South American publications and movements from the Andean region and the Caribbean: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay; because we believe that it’s a region that still remains very little studied within Latin American narratives in the United States, which tend to focus on the history of the cultural poles of the continent, that is, Mexico and Argentina.


6.- Final comments.

Thanks to Paul Guillén and the blog Sol Negro for the interview and interest in our project. We invite you to visit our website and follow us on Instagram at @dulzorada to learn more about our future projects and publications. You can also send us your comments and suggestions. Greetings and best wishes to all your readers.