Spanish Translation of “Think Like a Commoner” is Now Published

Some of you may recall the “Think Global, Print Local” crowdfunding campaign that a consortium of Spanish and Latin American commoners organized to finance the translation of my book, Think Like a Commoner, into Spanish. I’m pleased to report that the book, Pensar desde los comunes: una breve introducción, has now been published. It is the fifth of seven planned translations of my book.

Ten days ago, Medialab-Prado, the pioneering civic and tech research lab in Madrid, hosted a public event for me and the people instrumental in funding and actually doing the Spanish translation. It was a lovely event that showed the depth of interest in the commons in Spain. Marcos García, the head of Medialab, had graciously arranged for a simultaneous translation of my talk, which focused on the origins of the book and current challenges to the commons. Then audience members asked a range of questions that took us into deeper territory.   

We discussed, for example, the role of the commons in piercing the veil of modernity -- the tissue of ideas we have adopted, presuming our own individual agency, rationality and dichotomies separating the world into mind and matter, and into human beings and nature.

We discussed, also, the importance of arts and culture in speaking to our raw humanity in pre-political, pre-cognitive terms. And we addressed some of the difficulties that language poses in speaking about the commons -- because language tends to render invisible many ideas and meanings embedded into words centuries ago.

I loved how a woman from Paraguay explained that in Guaraní, her native language, there are separate words for “we” as in a group of specific people, and “we” as in all living things, human and nonhuman.  As translated into English for me, she also explained that the word “word" and “God” in Guaraní are related; the point seems to be that that one must try to use language to “build on the house of the soul.” A beautiful idea!

At the Madrid event, I had the pleasure of meeting the book’s translator, Susa Oñate, who described some of the difficult challenges in rendering my book into Spanish. Terms like “commoner” and “commoning” have no obvious equivalents in Spanish, so Susa and her collaborators – Lara San Mamés, Georgina Reparado and others – spent many hours trying to figure out the most culturally appropriate ways of expressing these ideas. The Spanish equivalent of the word “commoner” has historical resonances that are misleading to circumstances today, so the Spanish title of the book had to be re-cast. The translators’ solution, pensar desde los comunes -- the Spanish equivalent of “think within the commons” – is an ingenious coinage absolutely true to my intent.

Pensar desde los comunes is now available in Spanish through four publishers simultaneously: Traficantes de Sueños in Spain; Sursiendo in México; La Libre de Barranco in Perú; and Tinta Limón in Argentina. I encourage you to buy a copy!

I owe a special thanks to Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel of Guerrilla Translation and P2P Foundation, who came up with the idea of a crowdfunded, international publishing scheme and who orchestrated the crowdfunding campaign. 

They worked closely with Goteo, the Spanish crowdfunding site for commons-based projects (thanks to Carmen Lozano Bright!), and Traficantes de Sueños (thanks to Beatriz García!), a Madrid-based publisher of free software books. Both showed great commitment to the project. I also want to thank the 285 contributors to the crowdfunding campaign – commoners, all! -- who gave 112 percent of the goal.

I do hope that other authors and editors entertain the idea of using a Creative Commons or Peer Production license to bypass conventional publishers and print and distribute their books more cheaply and accessibly on a global scale.  It’s a model well worth emulating and improving upon.