I don’t remember reading the poetry of Borges until after I started visiting Buenos Aires. A few years ago I read one of his earliest poems Las calles, which opens his first book of verse Fervor de Buenos Aires. Published in 1923 the first sentence of this poem captures my feeling for Buenos Aires, a sentiment that I’m sure is shared by many others:

Las calles de Buenos Aires
ya son mi entraña.

My soul is in the streets
of Buenos Aires.

That standard English translation is by Stephen Kessler, which brings up some of the difficulties of translation. Entraña and the English word soul are not quite the same but I think that soul does captures the essence of the poem. Here Borges is clearly using entraña in a dramatic, figurative sense. Also, the use of the word ya in Spanish is left out of the English translation. A variation in English could also be “The Streets of Buenos Aires in my soul.”

In this series I never did really cover the thoughts of Borges on translation and he addressed that topic quite often. Poetry brings up even greater difficulties than prose. Essentially, the objective of translation is not to be literal but to provide the spirit of a work. Ultimately, a translation is a variation on a tale. Borges said something to the effect that you have never really read a book until you have read all of its translations. Now, I need to go and hunt down that exact quotation.