Soap Opera in the Script

Four weeks in, I am deep into translation. I am becoming attached to the script – I translate to find out what’s going to happen next. The story has gone in directions that I never would have predicted. Esteban Insausti’s other works that I have seen have had more subtle intentions and mellower moods. Granted, I’ve only seen his documentaries. Club de Jazz has turned out to be in the vein of soap operas – murder, sex, and drugs frequent the plot.

The script kicks off with a drama between feuding families in the jazz world – two grandfathers and their prodigy grandchildren (saxophonists). They are preparing together for a jazz competition in which the winner will be sent to N.Y. The true jazz genius, Amado, ends up sacrificing his dream for his friend who would have been punished terribly by his grandfather had he lost. This movie seems like a typical family drama – that is until a flashback reveals an unexpectedly violent back-story. Depression, death, and undeserved success follow the initial plot. All of the intense drama is accompanied by the constant inclusion of jazz references. The script will list any song being played on the “old record player,” and I’ve loved listening to some phenomenal songs by the likes of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane etc. After playing saxophone for a lot of my life, I had more of a vested interested in this aspect of the script. Insausti also loves to insert short monologues about the history and future of jazz through his characters. He makes jazz seem like a lost, magical art.

The melodrama in the script progressed and I’ve reached a point where an old great musician/drug addict/alcoholic is reaching his demise. A theme of the new generation of musicians repeating (or copying) the old is tucked into the more dramatic main-story. The characters at this point in the story must have some relation to those from the first half of the plot – but I’m still a little unsure of what that connection is.  Perhaps with a few more flashbacks I’ll figure that one out.

My translating has reached a comfortable rhythm – I can get through pages more quickly and my ability to create fluid phrases has improved (I’d like to think). However, I still encounter many holdups and make endless mistakes. For example, Insausti introduces a character named “Amado” that is one of the jazz maestro’s best friends, or, as the translation of “amado” suggests –  his lover.  For the longest time, I assumed that Insausti was titling this character “the lover,” until I finally realized that it was his actual name. The possibility of Amado being the maestro’s lover is unclear, it is more likely that he is a close friend. I also had difficulty with translating a scene in which one of the characters is hallucinating – his drugged-out dream of bass strings turning into a toilet was slightly hard to understand and reword in English…

The most challenging aspect of translation so far has been determining the meaning of phrases that can’t be directly translated because the sentence structure or vocabulary is unique to Cuba/Spanish. I’ll need to elicit either Insausti or Prof. Stock’s help in figuring out those sentences that seem like gibberish when I translate them. I won’t be able to do this completely on my own.