This dissertation engages with the fields of translation studies and 20th-Century Latin American literature in order to explore sites of encounter and hybridization both represented and enacted by literary texts. I argue for a theory of reading, which is also a theory of translation, that situates subjects and texts as spaces of contact and intermingling between languages and cultures. By investigating the travels and travails of readers, authors, and texts, this dissertation develops a multilingual, transnational approach to the study of literature; by using literature to make the case for a more nuanced, non-homogenizing understanding of language and culture, it also argues for the potential of difficult, “thick” translations. Such translations provide the specificity necessary for such nuance, and, through their estrangement of readers from their domestic habitat, activate the transformative capacity of poetic language.
This project centers on the texts of four Chilean authors whose work has been significantly transnational. The first chapter takes an intertextual approach in reading the literary relationship between Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) and Pablo Neruda (1904-1973). In doing so, this chapter begins to formulate my project’s theory of reading and translation by drawing a connection between reading and travel, substantiated by an exploration of the central tropes of detective fiction, a genre with which Bolaño enters into an extended dialogue. The second chapter continues to build upon this theory by proposing that reading be understood as language learning, supported by further reading of Neruda (specifically, his Canto General) as well as his predecessor, Gabriel Mistral (1889-1957), examining source texts as well as various translations into English. Translations of poetry are further examined, and further complicated, in the third and final chapter, which examines the treatment of historical and political context(s) in and around Purgatorio (1979) and Anteparaíso (1982) by Raúl Zurita, works written under conditions of military dictatorship in Chile.