13 November 2022

Translation: The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni (Part 1)

This is Bora Mici's original translation from Italian into English of the short story Il marziano innamorato or The Martian in Love, in English, by the contemporary Italian author Stefano Benni. The story tells of an unlikely encounter between the Martian and the author and is told from the quirky point of view of the Martian. It includes delightful plays on words, descriptions of a desolate planet of origin and its contrast with all of the unusual colorful and variegated good stuff that can be had on Earth, and many comical situations arising from a miscomprehension of what is valuable to humans and what is not. Kraputnyk Armadillynk is on a quest to make his beloved girlfriend Lukzettina stop crying -- otherwise she will rust -- and find her an original gift that cannot be had on Becoda. 

The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni, Part 1

This is the true story of Kraputnyk Armadillynk as it was told to me in his own voice.

One early morning I was fishing in the Sompazzo river when I heard an amazing raucous behind me. I saw the trees trembling and the birds flying away. Then a burst and then nothing else. I crossed the dam and a weird creature appeared before me, a squat metal barrel, with a long mole’s snout, and two tiny removable reflective arms. He was kicking a flying disc and yelling at it irately, more or less like this:

— Zukunnuk dastrunavi baghazzaz minkemullu mekkanikuz!

Catching sight of me he bowed and said:

— Sir, I’m very sorry to have disturbed you, but if you would be so kind as to hear me out, I think you will understand and be able to help me.

— My name is Kraputnyk Armadillynk, and I come from the planet Becoda. My planet is located 700 light years from yours, and the average temperature there is 50 degrees Celsius in the shade. It’s a scorching and desolate planet. Only two things can grow there: trond and quazz. Trond is a tasteless round tuber. Quazz is a square tuber that tastes the same as trond. One could easily say they were the same thing, but for the sake of the morale of the Becodians, it is best to set them apart. In such a way, we can ask: “What’s for dinner tonight, trond or quazz?” and create a little bit of suspense.


— There are three ways of eating Trond: that is, while seated, while standing, or while laying down. Similarly, there are three ways of cooking quazz: in trond sauce, in quazz sauce, or with trond filling.

— So you must have understood by now that life on our planet is very hard. We have nothing but scorched land and fields of trond and quazz, black rocks, mountains of lava, and a few Nerperos (volcanoes) that spit out boiling lapilli into the air. There are no animals, with the exception of a worm we call Krokuplas, which is not edible, but makes for great fish bait. Unfortunately on Becoda there are neither water nor fish. However, we drink wonderful freshly squeezed trondquazz blends.

— The only fun pastime on our planet is dating. Becoda’s inhabitants are in fact really beautiful. At least, that’s what’s written in the first article of our Constitution. We males, as you can see, are composed of two trond feet, a quazz body, and a somewhat trondoid head, from which protrudes a tube (which is not the nose!) The females have small quazz feet, a deliciously small tronding body and a rather bitrondic head. My girlfriend is called Lukzenerper Graetzenerper Bikzunkenerper. Which means Luckz, born near the volcano, daughter of Graetz, who lives on the volcano, and of Bikz, who fell into the volcano. Lukzetcetera is very young; she is eighteen in Becodian years, which are nearly as long as two earthly sitcoms. I love her, and taking walks with her grunka in grunka on the pathways of the planet is my only joy.


— But it just so happened that one night, while we were alone in my quazzmobile and were looking at the thousand stars of the Universe, she got up close to me and started dripping. Which is the worst thing that can happen on Becoda. Dripping is like your crying, but we cry oil, precious, lubricating oil. For if one drips too much, then one ends up rusting, freezing up and dying. So, I consoled her and tried to put back into her tank all the oil that I could, but she continued her dripping, and I did not know what to do.

“Lukzettina—I said—please speak. Don’t drip anymore, it’s painful. What can I do for you?

— Oh Kraputnyk—she responded— you are good like a trond (it was not such a big compliment. We also say: scumbag like a trond too, because we have so few things to compare ourselves to)… but I want something impossible … I would like … I would like…

Seeing her in such despair made a large drop appear on my lashes.

—Speak dear, don’t hesitate—I said—I will do anything for you—

—Oh Kraputnyk—she said—I have never received a gift during my whole life. And I will die without anyone ever having given me a gift!

— But how is that possible, I thought, had I not just given her a trond necklace? Yeah, but what kind of gift was a trond on that accursed planet where there was nothing but trond and quazz and stones shaped like trond and pieces of quazz always at our feet. A gift is something you do not expect. What was there on Becoda that could surprise a young woman? It was at that moment that I gazed at the starry sky and I lit up. (I mean it: when we have a great idea, a red light comes on.)


Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here .

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