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Translation Tuesday: Lake Føtex / Lago Føtex (Lone Aburas) – arkbooks
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Translation Tuesday: Lake Føtex / Lago Føtex (Lone Aburas)

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Translation Tuesday is an ongoing series of translations focused on contemporary Scandinavian literature. In this edition of Translation Tuesday, Sheri and Neus have translated an excerpt from Lone Aburas’ Lake Føtex (Føtexsøen) into English and Spanish.

Lake Føtex (2009) tells the story of a young woman living in Copenhagen, who is trying to write a novel between her shifts as a cashier in a Danish supermarket called Føtex. She doesn’t yet know what her novel will be about, but knows for sure that it won’t have anything to do with herself or with her upbringing on the outskirts of the city with a Danish mother and an Egyptian father. And it certainly won’t mention the fact that she’s been rejected from the famed Danish Academy of Creative Writing (Forfatterskolen) five years in a row. Full of humor and warmth, Aburas’ debut offers both a compelling insight into the latent (and not-so-latent) prejudices of contemporary Danish society and an earnest portrayal of the self-consciousness that all of us who write (or dream of writing) know all too well.

Lone Aburas (1979–) has published four novels, including Føtexsøen, Den svære toer (2011), Politisk roman (2013), and Det kommer til at ske (2016), as well her most recent “agitprop,” Det er et jeg der taler (Regnskabets time) (2017). Føtexsøen was nominated for the prestigious Montana Prize in 2010, which Aburas won last year for Det er et jeg der taler (Regnskabets time). Aburas has also been awarded the Danish Arts Foundation’s prize for new publications, the Munch-Christensen’s Arts Fellowship, and the Danish Arts Foundation’s three-year writing fellowship.


Lake Føtex

I’m probably supposed to start with myself, but I’d rather write about my sister. It’s easier. She’s not like me. Sometimes I’m surprised that we even belong to the same family. That she and I have the same parents. We don’t even look alike. She’s shorter than me, better-read, has a much easier time keeping guys around than I do. I have a lot of respect for her. It’s also not like I would want to be without her. Everyone knows how egotistical and spoiled only children can be. They’re surrounded by adults their whole lives. They wind up pompous and precocious. Stalin and Saddam were only children, so I wouldn’t want to be without my sister. I just wish sometimes that we had more in common. That you could pick us out in any crowd of people and say:

“You can just tell those two are sisters. They’re two peas in a pod.”

Most people start out two-by-two. Emil had his Ida. Hansel his Gretel. Cain and Abel had each other. Flesh and blood. But why are we always talking about siblings?

The truth is that obviously there’s no sister. It’s just me. I’m an only child. I never write about myself or Johan or my job at Føtex. I only write about weird, imaginary people. Men in long coats. Sideburns. Men with tape recorders nestled under their arms, men in wing chairs, men who refuse to walk. It doesn’t have anything to do with reality, with me. But I’ve also written about women; hallucinating women, delusional women, about boxer dogs wearing clothes and orphans. That’s who I write about. I can hardly imagine being able to write anything else, anything more personal. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I once wrote poetry. I really wanted to write a long, dark poem about Høje Taastrup. That was personal anyway. That’s where I grew up. That’s where I spent most of my time being jealous. Mostly of my best friend, because of their kitchen. Their tip-top modern kitchen. That kitchen with its two ovens: a microwave oven and a regular one. I was jealous of the soda machine, the ceramic burners, the marble countertops, the hunting rifles, the dinners, of not talking about the L-couch, of the summer house, the Volvo, and her parents, and of her. I never finished the poem. Or rather, it ended up being about something else. About asphalt and viaducts and birds that fly away in flocks away from Føtex one early May or September morning or whatever, it wasn’t really personal.

But I want to put all my cards on the table, including the color one. I want to write that I’m brown because my dad is from Egypt. Just so it’s out there in the open. I want to try to write about myself. It just shouldn’t get too private. Preferably just personal. Just like Mr. Bo Hansen wants to write exceptionally normal literature, I want to write personal literature. Not privately personal, because that would just be garbage.

But would that even be interesting?

The confessions Mr. Hansen wrote are interesting. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he had already made his name when he wrote them. Not that they’re not interesting in themselves. People probably just feel like it’s more relevant when an established writer puts his color card on the table. It’s easier to write about your failures when you’ve made it. I, for example, don’t want to write about how I applied to the Danish Academy of Creative Writing five years in a row and didn’t get in, but just kept receiving the same form letter. You can only say that kind of thing once you’ve really made it. Then I can tell Hans Pilgaard on Go’ Aften Danmark that I DIDN’T get into the Danish Academy of Creative Writing and then I can add with a careful or ironic grin (depending on how pretentious I’ve become) that it’s all gone pretty well in any case.

But like I said, I want to put it all on the table and write about that time when you were crazy about someone and first got together with someone. Unfortunately, I was apparently what you would have called “behind the times” if I had grown up in the 50s like my mom going to the soda shop and the drive-in. She’s from Aalborg, where I don’t think they had that kind of person. I don’t think they had too many things to offer my mom there in Aalborg. But I couldn’t say. I just know that I was a kid of the eighties, which turned into the nineties, and we still didn’t have the soda machine or the marble countertops that one could have hoped for. But I’ve already said that. But apparently, I didn’t get a chance to mention that we had a dining table with ceramic tiles, which my dad found in the shed next to the dumpster. So it wasn’t just a tile table. It was a dumpster table, an embarrassing table. In fact, everything was embarrassing back then. My dad owned both a kebab shop and a hot dog truck. So, he was probably the first Muslim who ever owned a hot dog truck. And now I don’t mean to step on Dan Turèll’s toes here. I just want to repeat that my dad was probably the first guy who both owned a hot dog truck and was Muslim too. And I’m not talking about halal meat, but hot dogs made out of pork, and it was weird and haram. But not embarrassing.


Lago Føtex

Seguramente debería empezar hablando sobre mí misma, pero prefiero escribir sobre mi hermana. Es lo más fácil. Ella no es como yo. A veces me sorprende que seamos familia, que tengamos los mismos padres. No nos parecemos para nada. Ella es más pequeña que yo, más culta, se le da mejor estar con alguien y por eso le tengo respeto, pero tampoco me gustaría no tenerla cerca. Todo el mundo sabe que los hijos únicos son egoístas y mimados, están siempre rodeados de adultos y se vuelven presumidos y sabihondos. Stalin y Saddam eran hijos únicos, así que no me gustaría no tener a mi hermana. Sólo me gustaría que tuviésemos más cosas en común, que nos señalaran al vernos juntas y dijeran:

“Se nota que estas dos son hermanas. Son como dos gotas de agua.”

La mayoría empiezan la vida de dos en dos. Emil tenía a su Ida. Hans a su Gretel. Kain y Abel se tenían el uno al otro. Carne y sangre. ¿Pero por que siempre hablamos de hermanas?

Evidentemente no existe ninguna hermana, sólo yo. Soy hija única. Nunca escribo sobre mí misma, sobre Johan o sobre mi trabajo en Føtex. Escribo sobre personas extrañas e imaginarias. Hombres con abrigos largos. Patillas. Hombres con grabadoras bajo el brazo, hombres en sillones, hombres que se niegan a andar. No tiene nada que ver con la realidad, conmigo, pero también he escrito sobre mujeres: mujeres alucinantes, mujeres con ideas equivocadas, sobre perros bóxer con ropa, caras lisas y órfanos. Escribo sobre ellos. Me es difícil pensar que podría escribir algo diferente, más personal, y no es que nunca lo haya intentado. Una vez escribí poesía. Quería escribir un poema largo y oscuro sobre Høje Taastrup. Por lo menos era personal, es donde crecí, donde sentía envidia a menudo. Mayoritariamente de mi amiga, por la cocina que tenían, moderna e impecable. Esa cocina con dos hornos, uno microondas y otro normal. Sentía envidia de su máquina de hacer refrescos, los platos de cerámica, la encimera de mármol, los rifles de caza, la cena, por no hablar del sofá en forma de ele, la casa de verano, el Volvo y sus padres, ella misma. Nunca acabé el poema, o más bien dicho, acabó tratándose sobre otra cosa. Sobre asfalto y viaductos y pájaros que se echan a volar desde Føtex una mañana de mayo o septiembre o lo que sea, no era muy personal.

Pero me gustaría poner las cartas sobre la mesa, incluídas la de color. Me gustaría escribir que soy morena porque mi padre es de Egipto, así nos lo sacamos de encima. Me gustaría intentar escribir sobre mi misma. Lo único es que no debe volverse demasiado privado, sólo personal. Del mismo modo que Bo hr. Hansen quiere escriber extrañamente normal, yo quiero escribir algo personal, no privadamente personal, eso sería un disparate.

¿Pero sería interesante?

Las confesiones de Hr. Hansen son interesantes. Igual tiene algo que ver con el hecho que ya se había hecho un nombre cuando las escribió. No es que sus confesiones no sean interesantes de por sí. Igual la gente piensa que es más importante si un escritor famoso habla sobre el color de piel. Es más fácil escribir sobre las derrotas propias cuando ya han pasado. Por ejemplo, no me apetece escribir sobre el hecho que he intentado entrar en la Escuela de Escritores durante cinco años seguidos y nunca lo he conseguido, sólo he seguido recibidiendo la misma carta año tras año. Eso es algo de lo que una habla cuando ya ha pasado, así le puedo explicar a Hans Pilgaard de Go’ aften Danmark que NO entré en la Escuela de Escritores y decirle, con una sonrisa cuidadosa o irónica (depende de lo pretenciosa que me haya vuelto) que las cosas han salido bien igualmente.

Pero tal y como he dicho, me gustaría poner las cartas sobre la mesa y escribir sobre cuando estaba loca por alguien y estaba con alguien. Desgraciadamente, era lo que se le puede llamar desfasada si hubiese crecido en los 50 como mi madre o hubiese ido a los puestos de batidos y autorrestaurantes. Ella es de Aalborg, donde no creo que tuviesen ese tipo de persona. No creo que hubiese mucha cosa que hacer en Aalborg, pero no debería decir eso. Lo único que sé es que yo fui hija de los 80, que se convirtieron en los 90 y todavía no teníamos esa máquina de refrescos ni encimeras de mármol como cualquiera desearía. Y ya lo he dicho. Pero no he dicho que teníamos una mesa de azulejos que mi padre había encontrado en el cobertizo que hay al lado de los contenedores, así que no era sólo una mesa de azulejos, era un mesa basura, una mesa ridícula. En realidad, por aquellos tiempos era todo bastante bochornoso. Mi padre tuvo un kebab y un puesto de perritos calientes, así que seguramente fue el primer musulmán con un negocio de perritos calientes. Y no es mi intención ponerme en plan Dan Turèll, sólo quiero dejar claro que quizás mi padre fue la primera persona en tener un puesto de perritos calientes y ser musulmán al mismo tiempo. Y no me refiero a carne halal, sino a salchichas de cerdo, y era raro y haram. Pero no ridículo.


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