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‘The Little Prince’ now speaks Tsotsil

Little Prince, or Ch’in Ajvali in Tsotsil. Image used with permission.

One of the world's most-translated books just added another language to its collection: “The Little Prince” is now out in Tsotsil, an indigenous language spoken by 400,000 people in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas.

“Ch’in Ajvali” was released in November 2018 by the independent Argentinian publisher Los Injunables, which published an Aymara translation of the same book in 2016.

Translated by the poet Xun Betan, the Tsotsil version comes with Maya-inspired illustrations as well as a special typography developed specifically for that language.

Poet Xun Betan, in charge of translating “Ch'in Ajvalil” into Tsotsil, showing one of the books. Image used with permission.

Global Voices spoke briefly with Javier Merás, the brains behind Los Injunables, about this brand-new reimagination of the 75-year-old book by Antoine Saint-Exupéry.

Global Voices (GV): How did the Tsotsil translation of “The Little Prince” came about?

Javier Merás (JM): Xun Betán, el traductor de esta edición, se acercó a la lectura a los nueve años con El Principito. No solamente fue su primer contacto con la lectura, también lo usó para aprender castellano. Más adelante, tuvo la iniciativa de traducir el libro al Tsotsil, iniciativa que emprendió con sus propios medios y fondos. Su intención era que más personas en su comunidad pudieran leer la obra.

Javier Merás (JM): Xun Betán, who was the translator of this edition, first became fond of reading when he was nine years old, and precisely because of “The Little Prince”. It was not only his first contact with reading, he also used it to learn Spanish. Later on, he took the initiative to translate it into Tsotsil, which he's done with his own means. His goal was that more people from his community could read the book.

GV: We can tell it wasn't an easy task.

JM: En realidad, no. La traducción estaba lista para salir a imprenta, pero las editoriales a las que Xun contactó no acababan de asimilar los dibujos de Héctor Morales Urbina, tan diferentes a los de todas las versiones clásicas. En 2016, a través de Los Injunables, tienda de libros virtual que administro, lo contactamos, después de dos años de rechazos. Xun nos hizo llegar un ejemplar del libro, y nosotros lo trabajamos y le dimos forma. Su faceta como editora surge por necesidad.

Los Injunables, la editora a cargo de esta versión, es un proyecto de salvación personal, donde cabe de todo. Tenemos libros en braille salidos de las cárceles, tipógrafos que rescatan fuentes coloniales y hasta traducción de clásicos de la literatura realizadas por hablantes de lenguas mestizas, como ha ocurrido con El Principito en tsotsil.

JM: It wasn't. The translation was ready for printing, but the publishing houses that Xun contacted didn't receive well the drawings by Héctor Morales Urbina, since they were so different from all the classic versions. In 2016, through “Los Injunables”, the virtual bookstore that I manage, we contacted him, after two years of rejections. Xun sent us a copy and we worked on it and shaped it. We became a publisher by necessity.

Los Injunables, the publishing house in charge of this version, is a personal salvation project, where everything fits. We have books in Braille that came from prisons, typographers who rescue colonial fonts and even translations of classics done by speakers of indigenous languages, like The Little Prince in Tsotsil.

GV: It's very interesting that the Tsotsil version has its own drawings, and how they maintain the essence of the traditional ones we are all familiar with.

JM: Efectivamente, las ilustraciones son completamente de inspiración maya. Fue un ofrecimiento del traductor, Xun Betán. Los dibujos son de Héctor Morales Urbina y tienen una evidente influencia maya. La contraportada y otros detalles los aportó Alejandro Fiadone, experto en iconografía indígena argentina, especialmente para Ch’in Ajvalil. También se usaron números mayas para numerar los capítulos.

JM: That's correct, the drawings are completely Maya-inspired. It was a proposal by translator Xun Betán. The drawings are the work of Héctor Morales Urbina and have a clear Mayan influence. The back cover and other detalis were produced by Alejandro Fiadone, who is an expert in Argentinian indigenous iconography, specifically for Ch’in Ajvalil. We also used Mayan digits to number the book chapters.

GV: What have you learned from translating “The Little Prince” into indigenous languages?

JM: Podría decir que aprender a relacionarme con esta historia se ha convertido en lo que podría llamar una especialidad. También es un pretexto por el que tengo que estar agradecido. Me he encontrado con muchísimas personas valiosas que me brindaron su amistad, inspiración y apoyo a lo largo de este hermoso viaje.

JM: I'd say I've become specialized in learning how to connect with this story. It's also something I have to be thankful for. I've come across many invaluable people that have given me their friendship, inspiration, and support along this beautiful journey.

GV: How is the edition of The Little Prince in Aymara doing?

JM: “Pirinsipi Wawa” tuvo mucha demanda entre coleccionistas y la sigue teniendo. Un grupo peruano vinculado a la educación mandó a comprar un lote grande para un trabajo en colegios bilingües. La idea original era donar libros para que se usaran como material escolar. Sin embargo, debo destacar que nuestro rol no es benéfico. Asumimos que nuestro ciclo ya concluyó, y en breve cederemos los derechos de esa edición al traductor, Roger Gonzalo Segura, para que el texto se pueda publicar en el Perú y que siga su camino. ¿Qué más puede soñar un editor?

JM: “Pirinsipi Wawa” was highly demanded by collectors, and still is. A Peruvian group linked to public education bought a big batch for bilingual schools. The original idea was to donate books to be used as school material. However, I must emphasize the fact that our role is not charitable. We acknolwedge that our cycle is over, and soon we will transfer the rights of that edition to its translator, Roger Gonzalo Segura, so that the text can be published in Peru and go its own way. What else can an editor dream of?

You can find more information in the Los Injunables Facebook page — that includes this video which tells the story of the translation and the publishing process:

Traducen libro de “El Principito” al tsotsil

Bajo el título de “Ch´in Ajvalil” el chiapaneco Xun Betán y el argentino Javier Merás realizaron una traducción al tsoltsil, con imágenes originales de inspiración maya, de la obra clásica de Antoine de Saint-Exúpery. Descubre más: http://ow.ly/IFvB30mBHt1 Edición: Joselin Zamora

Geplaatst door Chiapas Paralelo op Dinsdag 13 november 2018

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