Manuel Talens died on Tuesday, July 21st in Valencia following a long illness. With him we lose a brother, a friend, a comrade. That he was irreplaceable, we had already known for a long time, since the disease started to take him away from us. His disappearance leaves a black hole.
Manuel had hung up the doctor's coat to don the garb of the writer and translator. He had
retained from his training and his medical experience an enormous capacity to care for others and their suffering. He was one of three founders of the Tlaxcala network and the main editor of the Manifesto
at the launch of our network and our site Tlaxcala in February 2006.
Manuel was a communist without a party, a revolutionary without the dogmas, an "elementary Socratic", since he could have created the motto of Athens sage: " I only know one thing that i know nothing." We spent hours talking about what was happening in the world and, from the outbreak of the Arab revolutions, he did everything he could to understand them, despite his ignorance of the Arab world.
We became aware of each other in 2005 through Palestine, on the occasion of the translation of a long conversation he had had with an ex-Israeli saxophonist, essayist and novelist Gilad Atzmon. The title of this text, Beauty as a political weapon
, could be the phrase summarising the credo of Manuel, for whom nothing was more anger inducing than the pig work done by some militant websites translating texts just anyhow - or as he said "with their ass"-, showing a total lack of respect for authors, readers and ultimately, themselves.
Manuel was determined to establish an ethic in our network of translators, helping to set some simple rules. First rule: in order to translate a text, it must be understood. Second rule: you have to make it understandable. These self-evidences are not yet universally shared, unfortunately. We had found a phrase of Jose Marti summarising the common philosophy we were cobbling together "To translate is to transcribe from one language to another.I think it is more, I believe that to translate is to transthink.
In all his translations, whether into Spanish, French or English, Manuel was a real transthinker. His hometown of Granada should raise a statue of him beside that of Yehuda Ibn Tibon, the Father of translators. Manuel was one of his most worthy sons.
In Santa Clara, Cuba, in 2005, in the mausoleum of Che: from left to right, Carlos Tena, Manuel Talens, Quintín Cabrera and Gennaro Carotenuto.