November 2020 saw the online launch of a new Spanish-English parallel text translation of the science fiction story Juana y la cibernética (1963) by Elena Aldunate at Desperate Literature, Madrid, for La noche de los libros.
Elena Aldunate (1925-2005) was born María Elena Aldunate Bezanilla in Santiago de Chile, the daughter of the mathematician and engineer Arturo Aldunate Phillips, who was also a published author. She worked as a writer of stories, articles and radio scripts, from the 1950s onwards. An early pioneer of science fiction writing in Chile, Aldunate was one of the first women authors to become associated with the genre through her story anthologies, including El señor de las mariposas (1967) and Angélica y el delfín (1977). With Ilda Cádiz, Hugo Correa, Antonio Montero, Roberto Pliscoff and Andrés Rojas, Aldunate was also involved in the founding of the Club Chileno de Ciencia Ficción, which began in the 1970s.
As critics have noted, Aldunate’s stories consistently explore psychological themes, such as loneliness, repressed desire and existential crisis, from the perspective of women protagonists. In a biographical essay on Aldunate by Barbara Loach, she quotes the author as saying that ‘one is constantly being filled with experiences and one has to know how to take advantage of what one sees, hears, lives [...] Only with this basis can the imagination be given wings: that is, make fantasy with a foot in reality, and with elements that will be difficult to refute’. Aldunate’s literary influences include Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Chilean authors Hugo Correa, María Luisa Bombal, Marta Brunet and María Elena Gertner.
Reflecting on the emerging legacy of Aldunate, Andrea Bell observes that, although she was ‘occasionally profiled and her books reviewed in the Chilean press, her work has only recently come to the attention of literary historians’. During the last decade, the re-publication of Aldunate’s stories in collections such as Cuentos de Elena Aldunate: La dama de la ciencia ficción has helped to remedy this situation, and introduced the author to a new generation of readers. However, little of Aldunate’s writing has been translated into English, an oversight we sought address through the production of this new bilingual edition of Juana y la cibernética. Among the most remarkable and disturbing of Aldunate’s stories, it narrates an ambiguously erotic encounter between the character Juana and her factory work station.
The seeds of this idea for a translation were planted a while ago at the start of 2018, but the planning became more concrete because of my involvement in an event series at the University of Leeds: The Transcultural Fantastic (co-organised with colleagues Ingo Cornils and Sarah Dodd). The joint aims of the series were to open up the traditions of the Fantastic from a transcultural and interdisciplinary perspective, investigating utopian and dystopian thought in art, fiction and film, as well as science fiction, folktales and fantasy literature. A workshop on ‘Publishing the Transcultural Fantastic’, which took place on 15 March 2019, featured insights from Terry Craven, co-owner of Desperate Literature; researcher Ruth Kelly (University of Oxford), who has worked on publishing projects in Bangladesh and Uganda; and Sarah Dodd, who, in addition to her role at the University of Leeds, is co-editor of the online magazine of speculative fiction in translation Samovar. The workshop discussed methods for contributing to a body of scholarship that has concerned itself with recuperating the Fantastic from contexts beyond the Anglo-American tradition, as well as alternative approaches to publishing, through small presses, short editions and print on demand, which offer more responsive and dynamic publishing routes. The series also contributed funding for the print edition of Juana.
You can find out more about the translation here: https://desperateliterature.com/product/juana/