In Translation: A European Peace, 5 // Una paz europea, 5

Una Paz Europea is a book-length poem in fifteen sections, by Asturian poet Fruela Fernández. This poem excerpt is translated from the Spanish by Sarah Hartley. The original Spanish follows the English translation, along with a note from the translator.


A little flour
and so much water
(or air)
in this
they call Galician bread
but it’s made here.

An ant scurries off
with the crumbs I drop
cutting it.

I’m spur of the moment,
I go get bread to stretch my bones
and spend
some shrapnel
at the new shop.

From afar I age
better than my town,

because I don’t live here I can remain
and loyal

The grass grows thick over the mound
of the disused mine,
but the earth doesn’t hold
it cascades when climbed
like a troop of lentils.

Although the same sun determines the hydrangeas,
although the lichen, misanthropic, covers the tennis court,
I’m not at home.


Poca harina
y tanta agua
(o aire)
en este
que llaman pan gallegu,
pero está hecho aquí.

Una hormiga se apura
con el resto que dejo
al cortar.

Tengo poca sustancia,
voy por pan para estirar los huesos
y darle
un duru a ganar
al de la tienda nueva.

De lejos envejezco
mejor que mi pueblo,

porque no vivo en él puedo serle
y leal.

La yerba crece en forma por la loma
de la mina cerrada,
pero la tierra no tiene,
se esfarrapla al subirla
como una tropa de lentejas.

Aunque el mismo sol decida las hortensias,
aunque el liquen, misántropo, cubra la pista de tenis,

no estoy en casa.

Translator’s Note

A European Peace is at once a book-length poem and a collection of poems which narrate experiences of migration, politics and belonging across several generations of the poet’s family. While #5 is one of the shorter and, arguably, simpler poems, it is no less profound; threaded through with minutely detailed observations of nature and domesticity, it examines the complex feelings arising from homecoming and the fractured sense of belonging that living between countries engenders.

I worked closely with Fruela Fernández on the translation, whose insights were invaluable, especially regarding the use of Asturian dialect. One notable example is the phrase “tengo poca sustancia” which literally means “to have little substance” yet refers to being impulsive. This use of dialect, which lends the work a beautiful orality, did present a challenge and some of the poem’s regional identity has inevitably been lost in the translation process. I have, however, tried to echo this in the English without fixing the poems too strongly in any geographical location. My aim was to create an intermediary space where the images could exist in their own right; with the Asturian inflected reference to “un duru” (five pesetas), “shrapnel” presented a way of preserving a colloquial sound without referring to any specific currency.

Given that the nature of translation is to straddle cultures, never entirely belonging to one or the other, it felt especially apt to translate a poem that reflects that very feeling. It is also one that anyone who has ever moved away can relate to—once abandoned, neither home, nor the person, is ever quite the same on return.

About the Author

Fruela Fernández (Asturias, 1982) is the author of four poetry books: La familia socialista (La Bella Varsovia, 2018) Una paz europea (Pre-Textos, 2016), Folk (Pre-Textos, 2013), and Círculos (KRK, 2001). From 2007 to 2011, he co-directed the international poetry festival Cosmopoética (Reading Promotion Award of the Spanish Ministry of Culture in 2009). He currently teaches translation at Newcastle University (UK) and Universidad Complutense (Spain).

About the Translator

Sarah Hartley (Hull, England, 1989) is a freelance Spanish translator. She completed her first degree in Modern Languages, followed by a Master’s in Translation Studies where she concentrated on the translation of political Mexican journalism. Her translations of poems by Fruela Fernández have appeared in The Leeds Language Scholar and Barricade: A Journal of Antifascism & Translation.

Appears In

Issue 7

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