The re-publication of novel reviews from my Greatest European Novels List continues apace over at Underneath the Bunker, with the latest title being Luis Funńel’s (or is it Guillermo Merentés’s?) San Estebon in Winter. This review picks up on a theme explored two posts ago, relating to the sometimes insurmountable challenges of translating an experimental text. If you don’t already know the strange story of Luis Funńel, I advise you read Johannes Möeping’s review as soon as you can. If you do, but would like to read it again, allow me to cover your metaphorical feet with metaphorical kisses. If you’re simply unsure, here is an appetite-whetting taster:
If we compare the ‘penultimate text’ to the ‘ultimate text’ we can see easily enough (with the help of the underlining) that the latter is in fact contained within the former, but interrupted by an influx of new words. In short, the ‘penultimate text’ is merely the ‘ultimate text’ repeated, but with five words added in-between each original word. This pattern repeats itself in the third text, but the interval is now based on the next two digits of the phone numbers: the ‘6’ and the ‘4’. The text expanded upon in this third variation is not the ‘ultimate text’ but the ‘penultimate text’ (within which, as we already know, the ‘ultimate text’ is contained).
In the meantime, for those pondering the correct placing of the accent in Luis Funńel’s name, you may be interested to know that you are not the first (nor, I’m sure, the last). Sources close to the artist (a second cousin, I am told) continue to claim that his name should have no accent at all. For the sake of consistency, if nothing else, I have decided to plough on with a tilde on the second n. Until the author himself informs me that I am a certified nincompoop, I have no interest in changing my ways.
Sources close to Luis Funnel have sent word regarding last week’s tilde-accent controversy, confirming that there is – and has never been – neither a tilde nor an accent on either of the two ‘n’s in his name. There used to be an acute accent on the ‘e’, though it has long been a matter of family debate over whether it should have ever been there. Some say that his grandfather José added in in 1927 in a misguided bid for respectability; others believe it dates from the sixteenth century. The sources sum it up thus: ‘Considering the eternal inability of so many critics to deal with such details, Luis Funnel decided to officially drop all accents in 2004’. I’d like to say that I will be taking immediate care to correct all previous misspellings of his name, but under the circumstances this seems unlikely.
As for my other query (what was Funnel’s reaction to appearing on my list of Greatest European Novels?) the sources put forth the following ambiguous answer: ‘Luis Funnel is a translator, not a novelist. He is, however, happy to recieve any sort of publicity, even the sort that reaches as small an audience as yours’.
Some days ago I threw in your little faces a handful of Luis Funñel-related questions, all of which I hoped to be able to answer within the week. I’m not sure I will manage this, but here are the results thus far:
1. What were the implications of Malcolm Harding’s discoveries? Well, one implication was that we ought to take even more care with translators and translations than we usually do. Who knows what they could have hidden within texts that never, in essence, belonged to them in the first place? Many translators complain that they don’t get enough attention – and yet the very point of a translator is, in many ways, to fade into the background. The problem with the Funñel/Merentés case, however, is that Merentés is the type of author no one will ever want in the foreground, if on any ground at all – all of which makes Funñel’s ascendancy over him a comparative delight.
2. Is Funñel still translating? I can’t be sure of this one, but it appears that the answer hovers in the arena of the positive (which is to say ‘yes’). According to one source, Funñel has spent the last four years working on a translation of another one of Merentés’ mediocre melodramas – namely Maria in the Sea with Me (though another, inferior, source suggests that the work in question is Autumn Lovers Fall). Will he be hiding another secret message in the book? I can’t see why not.
3. Does Funñel really support Felipe Elverde? A difficult question. Moeping, of course, thought that Funñel’s ‘gesture of support’ was always ironic – but I’ve never been sure. All of this provides an interesting link nonetheless to my recent discussions of the hidden codes within Maurice Orbez’s Wall-Scrawlings, which Dr. Mark Phliger thinks to be similarly ironic. In fact, now I consider it it, I seem to remember D H Laven claiming that irony also had a major part to play in the mysterious codes of Khum Tash (correct me if I’d wrong). All this irony hidden deep below the surface – does it, I wonder, tell us more about conspiracies or contemporary reactions to conspiracies?
4. How did Funnel react to finding himself on my list of Greatest European Novels? This question still requires an answer. Are you out there Luis?
5. Where do the accents lie? Again, I await confirmation – despite going ahead with my own theories in this very post. Another one for Luis, I fancy.
She may be eschewing her duties to me as a critic, but Heidi Kohlenberg keeps going as a letter writer, elegantly butting her way into whatever topic I happen to be discussing. And for this I thank her. Or do I? Here, in any case, is her latest missive:
Georgy, my dear little innocent doughball – has it never occured to you that the Luis Funnel/Malcolm Harding/Johannes Moeping affair might have been a set-up from the start? Put it this way – who had heard of the work before it appeared on your list? I certainly hadn’t – and neither, I fancy, had you. Moeping claims in this review that he didn’t make the suggestion. But if he didn’t, who the heck did? Hidden codes or no hidden codes, I still don’t see how Funnel’s translation ever got through the net. Why would Malcolm Harding devote his time to writing a book about it unless there was something in it for him? Remember that both Harding and Funnel are frustrated translators. As for Moeping – well, what can I say?
I don’t know, Heidi, what can you say? Not that I’m altogether keen on turning this whole Luis Funnel [sic?] thing into yet another is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-conspiracy debate. There comes a time when one has to accept that things aren’t necessarily more complex than they seem. And as much as I like to poke holes in the soft clay of our perceived realities, too much poking doth a sore finger make.
It has been brought to my attention, with some spirit, that this blog and its associated website have, at moments, treated accents with what amounts to a ‘cavalier attitude’.
I’m not sure this is an entirely fair complaint. Every effort is made to check through details and, though I am aware that small errors are sadly commonplace, it is not for want of trying, especially when accents are concerned.
I will confess, however, that a clutch of conspicuous mistakes have been made in the case of my subject-in-hand, Mr Luis Funnel.
There: I’ve done it again. Truth be told, I’m not altogether sure where I stand on this one. Is it Funńel, Fuńnel, Funňel, Funñel or just plain Funnel? And as for his friend, is it Merentés, Mérentes or simply Merentes?
I stand in a pool of uncertainly, in poorly insulated footwear. If anyone should be interested in passing me a fresh pair of socks, I would be much obliged.
For those of you who haven’t read Johannes Möeping’s review of Luis Fuñnel’s San Estebon in Winter, here’s the synopsis you don’t really deserve.
The book to which the review refers is, in fact, the 1997 translation of a book originally written in 1956; the similarly titled San Estebon in Winter – a mediocre melodrama by Guillermo Merentes. Möeping ponders: how did Fuñnel, a mere translator, come to be more famous than Merentes, the actual author? Could it be through the supreme poetic delicacy of his English adaptation?
No – it was instead by the means of a code he had concealed, with strange skill, within his text, discovered in due course by another translator, the famous Scottish fruitloop Malcolm Harding (most famous for his translations of Fabio Muzakaki’s work) who went on to write his own book about Fuñnel’s work, published in 2000. This revealed, amongst other things, that Funnel’s translation contained a secret message regarding the facist leader Felipe Elverde (aka ‘The Great Green’). It also revealed, in my opinion, that the majority of translators are, quite frankly, mad.
As noted, you can and should read more about this here.
What I hope to do sometime over the next week, meanwhile, is to take a look at what Luis Fuñnel has been up to in the last decade. What were the implications of Harding’s discoveries? Is he still translating? Does he really support Felipe Elverde? How did he react to seeing his name on my list of Greatest European Novels by Contemporary Writers?
All of this – and more – to come.
A week or so ago I hadn’t even heard of Maurice Orbez: now I find myself exploring the revelation of the possibility that there could be a code hidden somewhere in one or all of his/her works. Such is the life of a critic of obscure European literature.
Speaking (or writing, as the case may be) of concealed codes, where better to turn than to the equally strange case of Guillermo Merentes, Luis Funnel and the ‘ultimate text’ of San Estebon in Winter?
More on this, in due time.