As promised in my last post, I’ve just finished a translation of the title story from Horacio Quiroga’s 1904 collection, El crimen del otro.

464px Ligeia Clarke
Harry Clarke, Illustration for “Ligeia” from Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1919). Source: Wikimedia

Many of the stories in El crimen del otro are direct homages to Poe, and this one in particular is practically a love letter. It was a challenge for me to translate, partly because it’s appreciably longer than previous stories that I’ve attempted, and partially because neither of the characters in this tale are mentally stable. Much of what they say to each other straddles the border of nonsense, and it was not easy to, first, decipher what they were saying, and then to try to render it into “sensible nonsense” in English. Hopefully I’ve not botched it too much.

The fun thing about this story is picking out all the references to various Poe tales. Most of the titles transliterated into Spanish, so it wasn’t too hard to match them. Apparently the version of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” that Quiroga read was titled “El double crimen” (The double crime)–this cleared up the title of another Quiroga story for me: “El triple robo del Bellamore” (The triple theft of Bellamore), which is a riff on Poe’s Dupin stories. I plan to translate that story, too, as time allows.

To make sure I caught all the more subtle references and allusions in the text, I reread several of the Poe tales mentioned–and a couple of them for the first time. I’d forgotten how baroque Poe’s language can be sometimes. Reading his stories, I wondered if Poe’s style was an influence on Quiroga’s, which feels fairly convoluted to me, especially in his earlier work. I have a fancy that the best way to render Quiroga into English stylistically might be to try to make him sound like Poe. But that’s just a fancy, and I’m not quite up to it, anyway.

A note on the title: I’ve previously translated the title El crimen del otro as “The Crime of Another,” which I think sounds better, but after having worked on the translation, and absorbed Quiroga’s reference to El Otro (The Other), I decided that “The Other’s Crime” was more suitable, even if it doesn’t have as nice a ring.

As I said in my last post, Quiroga’s earlier stories aren’t as strong as his later ones; this one sags in the middle, and would have been more effective at a shorter length. But it’s still an interesting view into how Quiroga possibly viewed Poe: was he as obsessed as the protagonist of this story? And the cat and mouse game the protagonist and his friend play is intriguing. Who is baiting whom?

Worth reading if you like Quiroga, or Poe–or preferably, both. Enjoy.

All the Quiroga stories I’ve translated so far, in the order I did them.

Featured image: Reproduction of Edgar Allan Poe’s signature, from Edgar Allan Poe by George E. Woodberry (1885). Source: Wikimedia.

2 thoughts on “The Other’s Crime

  1. Hello dear friend – for some reason I had trouble posting on your page, but before I turn in, wanted to share my thoughts- This is what I was attempting to post: Wow! I am swept away with the layer upon layer of growing madness, the cunning of deceit- the author masters the Poe-esque horror which can inhabit the human mind, the propensity of unspeakable evil for its own sake, hiding just beneath the surface. So many allusions, and especially a non-Poe deviation to the fair Ophelia, who was once the subject of one of my old poems. Thank you for this wonderful and bone chilling story. and on the subject of madness, have you read two of the classics which rest in the shadowy depths of the mind corrupted by madness- August Heat, and The Yellow Wallpaper? Wishing you all the best – j

    1. I have indeed read both those stories — both classics in their own ways, and I like them both quite a bit. W.F. Harvey is a writer I enjoy a lot, and is quite underappreciated in my opinion. And I should read more Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

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