Translating Recipes 6: Fluid Translation 2

By Carla Nappi

[This is the second post in a two-part series on Fluid Translation. Read the first post in the series here.]

One way of thinking about how to convey a sense of fluidity, flow, and movement to a text is to think about it in terms of musical form. Considering a text in terms of the components of a song invites thinking in terms of the structural elements used by songwriters: verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Their relations help words collectively mediate bodily movements and transformations. When we sing a text we’re making it part of our body in a way that’s beyond mere reading. Thinking about the ways that a text engenders physical transformations seems resonant, for me, with the ways that we’re thinking in this series about the kind of work that medical recipes do.

Informed by the ideas of fluidity and flow, this translation begins with the same Manchu recipe used in “Translating Recipes 2,” but renders it here into a form inspired by and modeled on Ed Sheeran’s “Bloodstream.” (also here). There are a lot of ways that I find that song inspiring for this purpose: it’s really thoughtful about making the sonic elements embody and reflect what’s happening in the story, it’s about fluids inside and outside of the body, it’s related (in a way) to drug history. Before reading the translation below, I recommend listening to “Bloodstream.”  Then, come back to the translation and you’ll hear the way that the recipe is modeled on that structure (and how it explicitly evokes some of the phrasing of “Bloodstream” as a kind of homage): imagine the “ehe horon” as a kind of humming to open the recipe. Then we move to the first verse (which is also the first part of the Manchu recipe: “To avoid a lot of poisons…”). Then a kind of pre-chorus (“Wait and rest…”). Then the chorus (“This is medicine…”). Then the second verse, which corresponds to the second part of the Manchu recipe. Then another pre-chorus, Then the chorus again. The recipe-song ends with a kind of outro (“When the poisoning inside…”).

The music and text of the original song work together to embody the story, and the recipe attempts to at least begin to do similar work. The intro sets the pacing and rhythm. The first verse introduces the context and scene, the narrator and main tropes. (This is also true of the recipe translation below.) Ideally, the language here should act like a fluid: long sentences that are melodic and flow, a careful alliteration and rhyme in the sentences. (The recipe translation only begins to get at this. The “poison/reason/season/conclusion” rhyme was chosen in part because the action that sound asks of your mouth, when pronounced, is a kind of opening up and then swallowing motion appropriate to the later action of the recipe.) The pre-chorus of the song takes the tone higher and moves to the refrain, asking the main question and explaining the problem, introducing more tropes and objects that will continue to be important to the song in later verses: the idea of red, of mind. (In the recipe translation, the “time/wine” sounds also move the register higher than it had been, and introduce the themes of waiting, time, and consumption that will recur later.) The refrain of the song brings together the argument: here, the listener realizes how the pacing and form of the song evoke the topic, with resonances between the sonic and semantic fading, bloodstream, chemicals. (The recipe translation doesn’t really do this, yet – but in a later edit that would be the goal.)

With all of this in mind, approach the following translation as a playful first draft. (Because deadlines are important, and draftiness is ok.) There are all kinds of ways that this can be refined and made much more fluid, but I offer it here as a way to open up and convey the spirit of this experiment. Thanks for journeying with me!

Ehe horon, ehe horon, ehe horon, ehe horon…
To avoid a lot of poisons,
For a myriad of reasons,
Doesn’t matter what’s the season,
You’ll come to the same conclusion.
Get a drop or two of oil ready,
It’ll help you when you’re unsteady
Spread it on your body,
On your chest and tummy.

Wait and rest ‘til some time has passed
Don’t rush it – you should never rush it.
Once you’ve given it some time
Have some food, have some wine…

This is medicine,
It’s soaking on through your skin.
When you’ve been poisoned,
Soak this oil into your skin.
Now wait until it kicks in.
Just wait until it kicks in.

When a person’s just been poisoned
Take a drug that’s made of flour
(You’ll find it elsewhere in this book)
You may throw up within an hour
After vomiting the drug you took,
Oil your belly and then take a look,
But if things are bad because you’re very poisoned,

Go and take 15, 20 drops
Mix with meat broth, or milk with butter.
Once you’ve given it some time,
Drink with water or with wine…

This is medicine,
Soak it through your belly skin.
After you’re poisoned,
Go and smear it on again.
Now wait until it kicks in.
Just wait until it kicks in.

When the poisoning inside
Doesn’t much seem to subside
(Repeat)
Take another drop or two
If it doesn’t work then
Take another drop or two
You’ll get better


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