Sunday, January 22, 2006

Jonathan is letting loose on translators: "It's important, when you translate, that you suppress the rhetorical structure of the original."

If you can say "on the contrary" to an apothegm, even a sarcastic one: I would much rather a translation be a good poem than a faithful one. Perhaps if we started calling non-literal translations "versions" there would be less room for indignation -- "Shakespeare's Plutarch is unacceptable" etc.

It would be thrilling to find a cache of poems in translation that read as though the second language were the original, and on looking across the en face, the dual citizenship of the tropes comes across perfectly. In the absence of this, I'm grateful for readable versions.

(Showing the wounds: I'm pretty sure I'm not distorting when I say a teacher made competitively hostile remarks to me about a line of Eluard's I mistranslated. I rendered "la derniere cendre de couchant" or something as "the last ash of sleeping." I was pretty thin-skinned then, though. Now I know he was just play-acting at being French. At the time I felt like I was waving bon voyage to canadien forebears.)

Jordan - #




I'm Jordan Davis.
I write a lot.
I mention it here.

Say hi: jordan [at] jordandavis [dot] com.

The Million Poems Show.