Borges, on the differences between English and Spanish
In Spanish it is very difficult to make things flow, because words are over-long. But in English, you have light words. For example, if you saw slowly, quickly, in English, what you hear is the meaningful part of the word: slow-ly, quick-ly. You hear slow and quick. But in Spanish you say lentamente, rapidamente, and what you hear is the -mente. That is gratis, so to say. A friend of mine translated Shakespeare’s sonnets into Spanish. I said that he needed two Spanish sonnets to a single English one, since English words are short and to the point, but Spanish words are over-long. And English also a physical quality to it. Well, in English, you can say: to explain away. In Kipling’s Ballad of East and West, an English officer is pursuing an Afgan horse thief. They’re both on horseback. And Kipling writes: “They have ridden the low moon out of the sky./ Their hooves drum up the dawn.” Now you can’t ride the low moon out of the sky in Spanish, and you can’t drum up the dawn. It can’t be done Even such simple sentences as he fell down or he picked himself up, you can’t do in Spanish. You have to say he got up the best he could or some lame paraphrase. But in English you can do much with verbs and positions. You can write: dream away your life; live up to; something you have to live down. Those things are impossible in Spanish. They cannot be done.
Other impossibilities: Waldeinsamkeit (German), the feeling of being alone in the woods.