Translating the Tijuana Drug War

Strategies for the Translation of Juan Carlos Reyna’s ‘El Extraditado’

Presenter: Alice Whitmore

Juan Carlos Reyna’s second book, El Extraditado (Grijalbo 2014), lies somewhere between the parameters of journalism, fiction and memoir. It recounts the author’s experience alongside criminologist Farrah Fresnedo as the pair interview and eventually befriend ex-Tijuana Cartel leader Benjamín Arellano Félix, two years after the drug lord’s extradition to a Florida prison. The book, in Reyna’s words, ‘takes the form of a literary chronicle, in order to situate it outside the boundaries of journalism’, and its style wavers accordingly between objective reporting and narrative indulgence. What begins and ends as an almost autobiographical account of the author’s involvement is interrupted by swathes of descriptive fiction, expository political analysis, and cold Bolaño-esque journalistic prose, fleshed out with facts and stories gathered from official records, police statements, and Arellano Félix’s own personal letters and testimonies. This crossing of literary borders is mirrored by the literal border crossings – between Mexico and the United States, Tijuana and San Diego, prison and the free world – undertaken by the author, his subject, and the narcotics that feed their violent worlds on both sides of the frontier. The result is a dissonant and deeply unsettling story that refuses to resolve the many disputes it raises, demanding at once compassion and animosity, horror and awe of its readers. The translation of such a book must take into consideration the conflicted context(s) of its authorship and the stories told within it, avoiding both the glamorisation and vilification of Tijuana, its drug wars, and those who wage them.

AliceWhitmore2About the Presenter
Alice Whitmore is a second year PhD (Translation Studies) candidate at Monash University. Previous publications on the writing of Mexico City writers Guillermo Fadanelli and Yaxkin Melchy have been published by New Voices in Translation Studies, The AALITRA Review, and Warwick University journal Reinvention. She recently presented a paper on Mexico City, third space and translation at the American Translators Association’s 55th Annual Conference in Chicago. Her translation of Fadanelli’s 2009 novel ¿Te veré en el desayuno? [See you at Breakfast?] is due for release by Giramondo Publishing in 2015. Other translations and creative writing pieces have been published by Penguin Specials, Ox and Pigeon’s Portable Museum, Egg Poetry, Kodama Cartonera and Voiceworks.