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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Rafael Squirru My friend Rafael, portrait of Rafael Squirru, by Juan Carlos Liberti, 2004. Ink and color, 60 x 51 cm.

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Rafael Squirru Born on March 23, 1925. Poet and art critic. Attorney-at-Law, Edinburgh University. Journalist for the La Nación newspaper since 1980. Lecturer in Aesthetics at national and foreign universities. Founder of the Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires in 1956. Director of Cultural Affairs at the Foreign Ministry (1960-61). From this position, he sent the sculptures of Alicia Penalba to the San Pablo Biennial and the engravings of Antonio Berni to the Venice Biennial; both artists won First Prize. OAS Director of Culture (1963-70). Published about 70 books of reviews and poetry, among them: La Noche Iluminada (The Illuminated Night) (1957), Filosofía del Arte Abstracto (Philosophy of Abstract Art) (1961), Miguel Ocampo (1986), Esculturas de Mariano Pagés (Sculptures of Mariano Pagés) (1987), El artista y su tiempo (The Artist and his Time) (1991), Mara Marini (1992) y Arte y humanismo (Art and Humanism) (1995). Gratia Artis Prize, ANBA. Distinguished Citizen of the City of Buenos Aires.

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Note Rafael Squirru translated three of William Shakespeare’s plays: Hamlet, The Tempest, and Romeo and Juliet. His three translations were illustrated by his friend, the Argentine painter Juan Carlos Liberti. Hamlet was published by Ediciones Dead Weight in 1976. The Tempest was published by the Petorutti Foundation, jointly with the National Library in 1997.  Romeo and Juliet is the only one of the three which has not been published to date. His daughter Eloisa Squirru wrote a lovely biography about her father, titled: Tan Rafael Squirru! (So Rafael Squirru!), edited by el Elefante Blanco publishers in 2008. Fundación Shakespeare Argentina is pleased to present the Prologue to his translation of Hamlet and an excerpt of that biography which refers to Shakespeare and his works, as an homage to Rafael Squirru.

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Acknowledgements Fundación Shakespeare Argentina thanks Rafael and Eloisa Squirru for authorizing the publication of this material on our website. We also thank el Elefante Blanco publishers for allowing us to publish an excerpt of the book Tan

Rafael Squirru!

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Cover of Hamlet, Translation by Rafael Squirru, Ediciones Dead Weight, 1976. FUNDACIĂ“N SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Prologue to his translation of Hamlet In the task of translating Hamlet I think I have learned enough about the play so as to renounce to the right of creating extraordinarily speculative theories about the character himself; which is more than what previous translators seem to have done. On the other hand, I consider that even among commentators who have spent years absorbed by the text, the conjectures and hypotheses they record are mostly futile, and the final understanding they have more often than not tends to obscure rather than clarify the tragedy. This should be no surprise because Shakespeare wrote Hamlet to be presented in the theatre and not for pundits to attach themselves like ticks to the corpus of the drama; although, and let this serve as a justification, everyone earns their daily bread as best they can. The reason why the great majority of these essays ultimately result ridiculous is that they all spring from the following false premise: that Hamlet can be analyzed by some analyst locked away in his office, and that this analysis will deepen by dedicating years of study with a scientific spirit. In this way contradictions are discovered in the personality of the central character and in that of the minor ones; contradictions which then are explained recurring to the most varied suppositions. However, the issue is that Hamlet, like the Parthenon, is a work of art and, therefore, does not respond to the laws of dialectic thinking, but rather to those of this alive and palpitating body which is every work of art, contradictory only when translated using Parmenides’ logic. Just as the columns of the Parthenon

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

seem impeccably straight and identical for one who sees them from a distance, they seem to be so because they are curved and dissimilar; in the same way, Hamlet and the rest of the characters who surround him are consistent dramatically speaking, because they are inconsistent from the prosaic point of view. The proof of what I am saying is confirmed when one becomes a spectator of Hamlet, and not an analyst of any kind: not psycho-, not physio- nor logoanalyst. An extensive debate is being resolved regarding the mimed preamble of the play that Hamlet writes to make the King fall into the trap of confessing his crime. Why, these astute critics ask themselves, is the King not alarmed during the mimed presentation of his crime, and instead is alarmed when the actors recite the same episode? This question, which seems so sensible at a dinner table discussion after having read Hamlet many times with its corresponding commentaries doesn’t even pass through a spectator’s head at a performance, to whom this logical, but not dramatic, inconsistency seems the most natural thing in the world. In this, writing a drama is similar to painting a canvas, and those who constantly refer to the level of nature to explain metanatural demands are those who fail. The shadow of an eye may be black, violet or green, depending on the requirements of the coloristic composition, and it is futile to debate the point if a shadow analyzed chemically is green, black or violet. The curious aspect of this process, in which the artist uses natural means (colors, words, phrases, situations), is that by violating the laws of physics, s/he is able to give the impression of reality that is more real that reality itself. Recently a sociologist friend of mine made me read some works by Oscar Lewis, a popular sociologist, and my friend got offended when I said that although I found reading this modern scientific treatise interesting, I felt that Lewis fell quite short when describing his characters by means of speeches taken from magnetophonic tapes, precisely because this system lacked the added dimension one demands of an artist, which is to add the force of imagination to this basic information in order to give the characters specific meanings created by means of imagination, to the degree made possible by the artist's genius.

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Every writer then who approaches Hamlet in a different state of being than the one demanded by the innocence of the authentic spectator will be disappointed and unable to receive the richness of the deeper message registered by the dramatic arts of all epochs. Because the character of Hamlet, due to its own depth, resists all efforts of stereotyping to which it has been subjected. Hamlet is contradictory because the spirit of the man can only be glimpsed at this level of aesthetic penetration which results contradictory when applying more modest viewpoints. Hamlet has enough humanity to remain a mystery, and a large part of Shakespeare’s genius consists of this: in giving us the mystery of the man. For this reason, I resist creating capricious theories and I defer exclusively to the intent of translating the master's words as faithfully as possible. There is no small difficulty in having such humble intentions. Shakespeare is a poet, and being a poet means writing in such a way that what we say cannot be translated into any other language. Whoever really wants to fully experience Shakespeare will have to learn English sufficiently well to be able to delight in this jewel of the Anglo-Saxon language. All we can do is create an approximation, something which resembles Hamlet, and this is the most to which a translator can aspire. (On the other hand, the task of translating a work like Hamlet never ends. It is interrupted only when the translator decides that for the time being his energies are sapped.) Fortunately, the Hamlet problem is permanently up-to-date. Clueless youth, as any honest youth must be (there is nothing more odious and pompous than a young man sure of himself) presents the characteristics of a time of crisis, a time for Renaissance, just like the youth of Shakespeare’s time, where one era ended and another began. In this sense, Hamlet is a new man, as was Shakespeare; that is to say, a man who sees with new eyes the reality that most of his elders see with old eyes. For this reason, Hamlet is in large part a misfit in his environment, and for this

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

reason he lives his youthful condition with critical acuity. Without intending to impart theory, it is important that the actor cast as Hamlet realize that he is playing the part of a young man, still not fully formed. A young student who has interrupted his studies in Wittenberg in order to return to court due to his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage. It is this young man who feels that the world is collapsing around his head, even before finding out about the hateful and fatal circumstances of the old king’s murder. Hamlet is highly gifted in every sense, and because of this, what would have been quickly and simply resolved by Laertes (when finding out about his own father’s murder) is transformed into the most complex of ruminations and meditations which have been represented to date, as soon as the responsibility of action falls upon Hamlet. And the one who must execute this revenge is also the most complicated of men, no less than William Shakespeare, who in this opportunity uses the mask of the young prince. The aspects of the dilemma with relation to our own times cannot be greater. The youth of today want to throw themselves into action, but they lack the philosophical foundations that sustain this action, and, for this reason, feel crazed and anguished. Hamlet, in spite of his youth, must try not only to act, but also to provide the philosophical basis that validates his action. Shakespeare, like Cervantes, man of action and thought, resolves the dilemma after much introspective suffering. All this makes Hamlet become unsuspectedly up-to-date, because, if nothing else, it makes young people aware that in order to have the basis for new actions it is not possible to recur to simplistic and worn-out solutions (i.e., any kind of creaky dogmatism). Man must create his own philosophy, his own thought, in order to be; if not, he lives a borrowed life and his existence is illusory (which is Hamlet’s greatest preoccupation). Hamlet complies with the mandate to action from the moment he is able to recreate the values which are dictated to him by his renewed conscience, and not before.

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I spoke of approximations and similarities. This translation has used as a permanent reference the version by Luis Astrana Marín, edited by Aguilar, Madrid, 1949, in its ninth edition. Although it is true that this translation is a bit anachronistic and of a kind of Spanish which is not well adapted to the LatinAmerican ear which I have tried to serve, it is also true that in its literality it becomes a valuable reference document. When Astrana comes up with a precise word, I have not looked for another one in order to be different; rather I have accepted his word and expression. And in this sense it is important to confess that his translation reveals a great deal of study. Taking a different approach to his translation, which is completely in prose, I have tried to maintain an approximation of Shakespearean verse, rhythm and even sound, and in Ophelia’s songs I have approximated, whenever possible, some sort of rhyme. For the English edition, I used A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare, edited by Horace Howard Furness, in two volumes of five hundred pages each, which according to my information is the most complete commentated edition that exists. I also used the edition prepared by the Folger Shakespeare Library of Washington, edited by Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. La Mar. Although it is a students’ edition, the way it is laid out and designed in small volumes makes it very manageable and charming. With these references and a few dictionaries I have had all the instruments necessary in order to hopefully complete the work with some measure of success. Although I could create lengthy explanatory notes in order to make a more voluminous text than the translation itself, I have tried to avoid this, because the purpose of my translation is not an erudite reading, but rather the presentation of this play on Spanish-speaking stages. In almost every opportunity I have followed the orthodox interpretations of words and passages, but in some I have deviated, and those few cases perhaps justify the brief notes at the end of the text. I take this opportunity to thank my secretary María Cristina Thomson for her care and enthusiasm in retyping these notes, as well as my friend Sacha

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Stoianovici, who provided me with the editions of Hamlet in English; without forgetting the numerous actors who throughout the years have been giving me the marvelous experience of seeing Hamlet. Curiously, among the most unforgettable I remember seeing Jean-Louis Barrault, who used a translation by AndrĂŠ Gide, and this encourages me to think that perhaps the greatness of the character overcomes the difficulties of translation, and that in the hands of a good actor and a good director the human richness that is Shakespeare can be transmitted in other languages. Rafael Squirru

Hamlet by Juan Carlos Liberti, 1976. Oil 27.5 x 19.7 in.

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Excerpts from the book Tan Rafael Squirru!

by Eloisa Squirru

Cover of the book Tan Rafael Squirru!, published by el Elefante Blanco publishers.

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

In the following paragraphs, we reproduce some excerpts from the book "Tan Rafael Squirru!" (So Rafael Squirru!) by Eloisa Squirru, where the author talks with her father about Shakespeare and his work: “And the editions of Shakespeare? They occupied ten complete shelves! I was glancing through your translations of The Tempest and Hamlet: rather than translating them into Spanish from Spain, you translated the latter into Argentine Spanish.” “That is what I wanted: to translate it into a Spanish that is truly ours, Argentine, using “vos” instead of “tú” as the informal form of address, using everyday language. Perhaps it is for this reason that they do not dare staging it even Kive Staiff confessed that it was too avant-garde...” “Liberti’s illustrations are original. They have their own strength. They almost seem to transcend the purpose of illustrating...” “This topic of illustration is definitely an interesting one. To be inspired by Hamlet or by any of the great classics without falling into mere illustration is truly an extraordinary feat, and Liberti is able to do it. He maintains his artistic autonomy above and beyond all other references to the topic of inspiration. It is also curious that without knowing it, Liberti created images that coincide almost literally to the same passages of Hamlet that had inspired Delacroix.” “¿Guess what I found inside a copy of the book?” I read him the letter from Professor Shaw of the School of Hispanic Studies of Edinburgh University which I found in one of the few remaining copies of Hamlet:

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September 30, 1976 Dear Mr. Squirru, On behalf of the School of Hispanic Studies I want you to receive our warmest gratitude for the generous gift of your superlative translation of Hamlet, with Liberti’s stunning and memorable illustrations. In my own regards, I congratulate you without reservations for the publication of what, I am sure, indicates a milestone in Shakespearean studies in Latin America. Reading your work has been a gratifying experience. I will not hide the fact that for an Englishman the use of “vos” instead of “tú” for the informal form of address is a bit shocking at first, but I perfectly understand your commentary in the introduction when you say that the somewhat mannered Spanish of Astrana Marín is equally strident to the Latin-American ear. In my opinion, everything that presents Shakespeare as a true classic (i.e. universally alive and current in all eras) is not only justifiable but also recommendable. I sincerely share your hope that in the hands of good actors and directors your translation will help transmit the work of Shakespeare to Latin-American audiences. The truth is that after reading the first few pages, the rhythms of your translation impose themselves with force and undoubtedly transmit the impact of the Shakespearean language. I can only imagine what efforts must have been necessary for the phrasing to retain the balance between the natural and the poetic which you obtain at all times. As an Englishman I thank you and as a friend I admire you for this splendid and lively version. In the important scenes - Hamlet’s reproaches to his mother, for example, or the cemetery scene - Shakespeare’s original lines ran parallel in my mind to yours, a true echo of the poet’s words, and I marveled at your capacity to transpose them to Spanish without rigidity or pomp, and without falling, on the other hand, into banality. At least with regards to Latin America, this translation must certainly be the definitive one... FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

“It seems like one of my friend Brodsky’s predictions,” Daddy comments with a bitter smile. “I haven’t even had the satisfaction of seeing my version staged. People approach Shakespeare with a kind of solemnity, with an excessively reverential attitude. They forget that Shakespeare wrote not only for the stalls but also for the galleries. He captivated his audience with his wit, and with his skill at capturing their attention. My translation offers the spectator what Hamlet truly is: a work of suspense.” “Is it your favorite Shakespeare play?” “When I was a child, my favorite was A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the sprites, the fairies. Later it was Hamlet... that duality which runs so deep. Shakespeare paints virtuous characters with defects, like Hamlet, and great villains with extraordinary virtues, like Richard III. I have always been fascinated by this apparently contradictory aspect of reality.” (pages 103-105). On page 223, Eloisa Squirru expresses the following: “Perhaps one of his autobiographical writings which best expresses what he felt while living through the dark years of Videla's dictatorship was a poem dedicated to whom he considers one of the great masters and comrades of his life: William Shakespeare. While, in those times of total darkness, some friends chose the road to arms or to exile, and others chose to continue heroically with their creative endeavors, Rafael, struck by horrors ever so frequent, found consolation and renewed hope relying on the English bard. Some lines of the poem reveal his state of mind and his relationship with that other, older brother, separated in time, but so alive and real as any of his flesh-and-blood friends:”

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Para mí Pasan los años Y en cada estación Te veo crecer Con mi propio esfuerzo Por no quedarme.

For me The years go by And every season I see you grow With my own effort Of trying not to stay behind.

Aprender a tu lado Es una segunda revelación Después del Nazareno.

Learning by your side Is a second revelation After Nazarene’s.

Pese a tus tragedias Sos menos trágico En tu prédica ejemplar, Recordándonos con Demaría Que para escribir la tragedia Mejor es no vivirla.

In spite of your tragedies You are less tragic In your exemplary preaching, Reminding us with Demaría That in order to write tragedy It is best not to live it.

Allí el fundamento De tu belleza deslumbrante: No destruirse [...]

Therein lies the basis Of your stunning beauty: Avoid destroying oneself [...]

Mantener siempre El sentido del humor.

Always keeping One’s sense of humor.

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Vernos, Desempeñando nuestro papel Cualquiera sea Sin olvidar nunca Que no es más ni menos que eso, Ya que "todo el mundo Es un escenario, Y hombres y mujeres Meros actores..."

Seeing ourselves, Playing our part Whatever it may be Without ever forgetting That it is no more or less than that, Since “All the world’s A stage, And all the men and women Merely players..."

Hacer el rol lo mejor posible, Sabiendo Que los distribuyen al azar, Recordando Que llegará la hora De quitarse la máscara Y hacer la reverencia magnánima Cuando caiga El telón final [...]

Playing our parts as best we can, Knowing That they are distributed at random, Remembering That the time will come To take one’s mask off And take a magnanimous bow Whenever The final curtain falls [...]

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Y la pasión, Shakespeare, La pasión de amar Y de vivir Y de elevar un canto Lo más perfecto posible Para recordar y recordarnos Que allí, sí, Está Lo que no muere.

And the passion, Shakespeare, The passion of loving And living And raising our voices in song As perfectly as possible Remembering and reminding us That there, yes, What does not die Remains.

Y que la máxima contribución Es asumir el propio ser Distinto y único, Derecho supremo Que ninguna fuerza Podrá abatir ...

And that the greatest contribution Is to assume one’s own self So different so unique, Our supreme right That no force Can demolish ... Rafael Squirru

(Poem published in La Corona, Buenos Aires, Dead Weight, 1977) English Version by Eugenio Polisky

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Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare

Cover of the book La Corona, Buenos Aires, Dead Weight, 1977

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Profile for Shakespeare Argentina

Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare (English Version)  

Rafael Squirru translated three of William Shakespeare’s plays: Hamlet, The Tempest, and Romeo and Juliet. His translations were illustrated...

Rafael Squirru & Shakespeare (English Version)  

Rafael Squirru translated three of William Shakespeare’s plays: Hamlet, The Tempest, and Romeo and Juliet. His translations were illustrated...

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