I have been working for several months now on translations of selected writings by Picasso (Curated and edited by the esteemed Picasso scholars Marilyn Cully & Michael Raeburn).
The writings range from his childhood ‘newspaper’ La Coruña, to letters spanning half a century to statements both artistic and political, conversations with Brassäi, Jaime Sabartés and Daniel Kahnweiler. It also includes a selection of Picasso’s poetry, much of it written int he mid-1930s when he ‘gave up’ painting, sculpture and ceramics.
The texts, in Spanish and French – with occasional bursts of Catalan – are fascinating. It is strange to discover that some of the most famous Picasso quotes in English are not quite what the maestro said; strange too to read his early letters in French – a language he never formally learned meaning that in early letters he wrote phonetically as though writing Spanish. But most interesting is Picasso’s creative writing, where he deliberately attempts to dissociate words from meaning, to use sounds, shapes, rhythms like dabs of paint on a canvas. As Jaume Sabartés recounts in Picasso, retratos y recuerdos
“Speaking about his writings, he always tells me that what he wants is not to tell stories or to describe sensations, but to produce them with the sound of the words; not to use them as a means of expression but to let them to speak for themselves as he does sometimes with colours…”