Translation of Poetry and Poetic Prose: Proceedings of the Nobel Symposium 110 981023922X, 9789810239220

Translation is a very important tool in our multilingual world. Excellent translation is a sine qua non in the work of t

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Translation of Poetry and Poetic Prose: Proceedings of the Nobel Symposium 110
 981023922X, 9789810239220

Table of contents :
Opening Address • Sture Allén
Session 1. Fundamental Theoretical Issues
No Theory, Please! • Shimon Markish
Theory and Practice • Jean Boase-Beier
A Philosophy of Translating as a Literary Subject • Elke Liebs
Report on Session 1: “Fundamental Theoretical Issues” • Francis R. Jones
Session 2. Normalization — A Constant Threat
Normalization and the Translation of Poetry • Francoise Wuilmart
Is Normalization Inevitable? • Inga-Stina Ewbank
Recognition or Estrangement • Anders Cullhed
Report on Session 2: “Normalization — A Constant Threat” • Francis R. Jones
Session 3. Translation of Metrical and/or Rhymed Poetry
On Formal Translation • Judith Moffett
Forms in Alterity • Lyn Hejinian
The Body and Soul of Poetry • Bengt Jangfeldt
Report on Session 3: "Translation of Metrical and/or Rhymed Poetry • Darnel Weissbort
Section 4. The “Double Tongue”
Different Worlds • Tim Parks
Double Tongue — For Pleasure or Necessity • Gunnel Engwall
Double Tongue: Translating Texts or Contexts? • Mariya Novykova
Report on Session 4: The “Double Tongue” • Daniel Weissbort
Session 5. Translating from Non-Indo-European Languages
Japanese Poetry in European Disguise • Gunilla Lindberg-Wada
Survival, Appropriation, Interaction • Margaret Mitsutani
On Typological and Prosodic Stumbling-Blocks • Goran Malmqvist
Report on Session 5: “Translating from Non-Indo-European Languages” • Daniel Weissbort
Session 6. The Role of the Author
The Role of the Author in Translation • Eliot Weinberger
Listening to the Voice of the Author — Translation as a Work of Love • Ulla Roseen
Last och lust, or... the Fun of it all • Philippe Bouquet
Report on Session 6: “The Role of the Author” • Seamus Heaney
Session 7. Several Translations of the Same Text
Déjà lu: Recurrence, Allusion, and Plagiarism in Translation • Eugene Eoyang
“I Lose Something in the Original”. Translation as “Enhancement” • Eugene Eoyang
What Comes between Us: Translation’s Déjà lu • Emmanuela Tandello
Confessions of a Bootlicker • Knut Faldbakken
Report on Session 7: “Several Translations of the Same Text” • Seamus Heaney
Public Lecture
What is Untranslatable? • Efim Etkind
Notes on the Contributors

Citation preview


RFmiT •» Voetic Vrose Vroceedings of Nobel Symposium no


Sture Allen

WD/Jd S; r Jj^;jiJ/J r j

Translation of Voetry and Voetic Vrose

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Translation of Voctry and Voctic Trosc Proceedings of Nobel Symposium no


Sture Allen Swedish Academy, Stockholm

World Scientific ^

Sinqapore • New Jersey • London • Hong Kong

Published by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. P O Box 128, Farrer Road, Singapore 912805 USA office: Suite IB, 1060 Main Street, River Edge, NJ 07661 UK office: 57 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9HE

TRANSLATION OF POETRY AND POETIC PROSE Proceedings of Nobel Symposium HO © 1999 by The Nobel Foundation All rights reserved.

ISBN 981-02-3922-X

Printed in Singapore by Uto-Print



Translation is a very important thing in our multilingual world. Eminent translation is a sine qua non in the work of the Swedish Academy. responsible for the Nobel Prize in Literature. This book offers the proceedings of the Nobel Symposium on Translation of Poetry and Poetic Prose, held at the IBM Nordic Education Center just outside Stockholm on August 24-28, 1998. Nobel Symposia are arranged in accordance with the intentions of Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prizes, and sponsored by the Nobel Foundation through its Nobel Symposium Fund. This Symposium was realized under the auspices of the Swedish Academy, founded in 1786 by King Gustav III in order to promote the Swedish language and Swedish literature. Some hundred years ago our Academy, which has eighteen members, accepted the wider task of selecting the recipients of the Nobel Prize. This is the fourth Nobel Symposium supported by the Swedish Academy that has been carried out at the Education Center. The three previous meetings were the Nobel Symposium on Text Processing in 1980 (Proceedings available from Almqvist & Wiksell International, Stockholm), the Nobel Symposium on Possible Worlds in Humanities, Arts and Sciences in 1986 (Proceedings available from Walter de Gruyter, Berlin), and the Nobel Symposium on the Relation between Language and Mind (Proceedings available under the heading Of Thoughts and Words from World Scientific Publishing, Singapore).



Thanks are due to the Nobel Foundation and its Nobel Symposium Committee as well as to several others: Elisabeth Ahlberg and Monica Holmgren (secretariat), the staff of the Education Center, Bo Svensen (sub-editing and manuscript co-ordination), Tim Crosfield (English language check), and last but not least the participants for their wholehearted dedication. February 1999

Sture Allen Member and Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Emeritus Professor of Computational Linguistics, Goteborg University





Opening Address Sture Allen


Session I. Fundamental Theoretical Issues No Theory, Please! Shimon Markish


Theory and Practice Jean Boase-Beier


A Philosophy of Translating as a Literary Subject Elke Liebs


Report on Session 1: "Fundamental Theoretical Issues" Francis R. Jones


Session 2. Normalization — A Constant Threat Normalization and the Translation of Poetry Francoise Wuilmart


Is Normalization Inevitable? Inga-Stina Ewbank


Recognition or Estrangement Anders Cullhed




Report on Session 2: "Normalization — A Constant Threat" Francis R. Jones


Session 3. Translation of Metrical and/or Rhymed Poetry On Formal Translation Judith Moffett


Forms in Alterity Lyn Hejinian


The Body and Soul of Poetry Bengt Jangfeldt


Report on Session 3: "Translation of Metrical and/or Rhymed Poetry Darnel Weissbort


Section 4. The "Double Tongue" Different Worlds Tim Parks


Double Tongue — For Pleasure or Necessity Gunnel Engwall


Double Tongue: Translating Texts or Contexts? Mariya Novykova


Report on Session 4: The "Double Tongue" Daniel Weissbort


Session 5. Translating from Non-Indo-European Languages Japanese Poetry in European Disguise Gunilla Lindberg-Wada


Survival, Appropriation, Interaction Margaret Mitsutani


On Typological and Prosodic Stumbling-Blocks Goran Malmqvist


Report on Session 5: "Translating from Non-Indo-European Languages" Daniel Weissbort




Session 6. The Role of the Author The Role of the Author in Translation Eliot Weinberger


Listening to the Voice of the Author — Translation as a Work of Love Ulla Roseen


Last och lust, or... the Fun of it all Philippe Bouquet


Report on Session 6: "The Role of the Author" Seamus Heaney


Session 7. Several Translations of the Same Text Deja lu: Recurrence, Allusion, and Plagiarism in Translation Eugene Eoyang


"1 Lose Something in the Original". Translation as "Enhancement" Eugene Eoyang


What Comes between Us: Translation's Deja lu Emmanuela Tandello


Confessions of a Bootlicker Knut Faldbakken


Report on Session 7: "Several Translations of the Same Text" Seamus Heaney


Public Lecture What is Untranslatable? Efim Etkind


Notes on the Contributors


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Ladies and gentlemen, All of us can confirm. I am sure, that there are marvellous translations of specimens of poetry and poetic prose Still, there is clearly room for another attack on the basics. It is my privilege and pleasure to welcome you to this enterprise on behalf of the Swedish Academy, the responsible institution, and with thanks to the Nobel Foundation, our sponsor in Nobel matters, as well as its Nobel Symposium Committee 1 would also like to express our gratitude to Efim Etkind, Seamus Heaney, and Daniel Weissbort of the International Committee, and to Kjell Espmark. Gunnar Harding, and Bengt Jangfeldt of the Local Committee Nobel Symposia are arranged in the fields indicated by the Nobel Prizes. This symposium is one of a number of meetings organized by the Swedish Academy. Our Academy has eighteen members and was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III in order to promote the Swedish language and Swedish literature. The royal founder gave the Academy a motto, Swedish "Sniile och smak", the translation of which is in itself an interesting question For various reasons I prefer "Talent and Taste" The Academy performs her duties, among other things, by publishing a historical dictionary, a normative glossary, a grammar, a series of Swedish classics, a sequence of memorial monographs, a journal called Artes (in co-operation with the Academies of Arts and Music and the Society of Nine), by developing and supplying lexical databases, by lending support


Opening Address

to a wide range of cultural undertakings, and by awarding about fifty prizes and scholarships annually Some hundred years ago the Academy accepted the wider task of awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, entrusted to the Academy by Alfred Nobel in his will. A prerequisite for it all is the total autonomy of the Academy: no organizational links to any governmental or other institution, financial independence, and internal election of members. If you maintain, as I do, that the hallmark of a poem is its quality of being a multi-faceted, polyphonous entity, then you will have to acknowledge that it cannot be rendered in minute detail in another language. How could an open-ended, undefinable, elusive piece be translated in the strict sense of the word? Thus, even as a matter of principle, translation has its problems. There are other well-known obstacles. Among them are structural differences in terms of lexicon, phonology, graphonomy. morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, text dynamics, style, aesthetic tradition, etc., as well as divergences with respect to nature and culture in both a present-day and a historical perspective. A simple example: what about the everyday and biblical concept of 'shepherd' in a community where there are no sheep to herd? Just one more example in order to illustrate three extremely interesting phenomena: ambiguity, lexical gaps, and situation. In the wartime of the forties, the Swedish authorities launched a slogan to warn against spies: "En svensk tiger" This means 'A Swede keeps silent' and/or 'A Swedish tiger'. The point is that svensk is a noun and an adjective, tiger a noun and a verb This ambiguity cannot be transferred into English. And notice that there is no word in English corresponding to the Swedish verb meaning 'to keep silent'. We have the same expression but this phrase has not got the relentless energy that the single verb conveys. Such lexical gaps are quite often met with in English as well as in other languages Furthermore, the watchword quoted evokes the very special feelings of war-preparedness typical of the situation in Sweden in the early forties. Naturally, translation is of great interest to everybody in the field of language and literature. As a matter-of-course translation is of particular interest to the Swedish Academy in performing her task of selecting Nobel Laureates. In his will of 1895 Alfred Nobel made it clear that the

Opening Address


prize was to be global, "that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not", as he put it. 1 think you agree that this was a decision as audacious as it was far-sighted There are at least five thousand languages on earth. How do the statutes of the Nobel Foundation want us to cope with these? In fact. we are freed from taking them all into consideration. The wording in § 8 is as follows: "Where a nomination is couched in a language whose translation must entail particular trouble or considerable expense, or where, for the appraisement of a proposed work, the prize-awarding body must chiefly make itself acquainted with the contents of writings couched in such a language, the prize-awarding body shall not be under obligation to take up the nomination for further consideration." However, our line of action is to pay attention to the will in the first place This means that we commission translations when necessary. We also make it a rule to read translations into more than one language if possible. A pointed observation headlined in a Swedish paper comes to mind in this connection. "Who should have the Nobel Prize? The translator or the poet?" Against the background of what I just said, these questions do not suggest a real problem for the Academy, but they pinpoint what is at stake here and enhance the importance of the translator. It is an experience common to most of us that a piece of writing is a baby whose fate is an open question in environments unfamiliar to us with regard to language. This brings me to another observation made sometimes: bad translations are more dangerous than no translations. As a consequence, it is necessary to support the training of translators, to give them a chance to cultivate their talents, and to recognize their significance After all, their contribution to the national literature of our countries is remarkable. One of the most informative experiences I have had in contrastive style is my translation into my own native tongue, Swedish, of essays 1 originally wrote in English. Although English and Swedish are dialects of the same language, substantial adaptations were required. I could, of course, benefit from my close relation to the originator, never landing in the predicament of a colleague who received the following answer from a writer: "What I meant I have forgotten."


Opening Address

Our key-word translation takes all sorts of attributive modifiers I have studied the instances of adjectives modifying the corresponding Swedish noun (dversdttmng) in the corpora of the Language Bank of Gdteborg University I think they reflect the general picture reasonably well. It is evident that commentators have a large register. There are obvious linguistic cases: Danish, English, Swedish, Turkish, dialectal, multi-lingual, etc. Time and speed are also referred to: new, modern, latest, old, mediaeval, quick, computerized, etc. Most examples, however, characterize the quality of the translations; on the one hand: good (Swedish god, bra), fine (fin), beautiful (vacker), fresh (frisk, frasch), buoyant (spanstig), enjoyable (njutbar), delightful (charmant), meritorious (fortjanstfull), vigorous (karnfull), ingenious (fyndig), original (originell), classical (klassisk), successful (lyckad), excellent (utmarkt, fdrtrafflig. suveran), eminent (eminent, fornamlig), brilliant (lysande), as clear as a bell (klockren), matchless (makalos), of genius (genial), in perfect harmony with the spirit of the original (kongenial); on the other hand: bad (dalig), defective (bristfallig), unimaginative (fantasilos), complaisant in a silly way (fanigt vanlig), stupid (dum), careless (slarvig), debatable (diskutabel), so-called (sa kallad) — the ultimate failure Many cases bear upon the relation between the original and the translation; firstly: faithful (trogen), exact (exakt, precis), reliable (palitlig), literal (ordagrann), accurate (noggrann), correct (korrekt, ran, riktig), scrupulous (skrupulos), faultless (klanderfri), real (verklig), true (sann), straight (direkt), mere (ren), sturdy (handfast), ambitious (ambitids), serious (serids), conceivable (tankbar), reasonable (vettig); secondly: free (fri), unconstrained (obesvarad), metaphysical (metafysisk); thirdly: adapted (anpassad), revised (reviderad), censored (censurerad), abridged (fdrkortad), complete (komplett, fullstandig) Some judgments of translations make reference to demand, designating them as wished-for (eftertraktad), popular (popular), difficult to find (svaratkomlig), or private (privat). On the other hand, a reviewer argues that a certain translation is unnecessary (onodig), and a critic asks: "Why are such books translated?" On the whole, I think it is fair to say that these attributive expressions. although representing a wide variety of aspects, are used in fairly vague senses. In particular, this seems to apply to a pertinent adjective I have

Opening Address


not mentioned so far, linguistic. To a certain extent the exceptional vagueness of so-called linguistic translation may be related to another lexical gap in English, a word for the concept of 'science of language', a hyperonym of linguistics and philology corresponding to German Sprachwissenschqft and Swedish sprdkvetenskap. In English, both linguistics and philology are used as the genus proximum of both. My point is that the two components of the science of language — the study of the structure and function of natural languages and the interpretation and investigation of earlier texts, respectively — have a very wide scope indeed and are indispensable allies in the field of translation. Our programme focuses on aspects of theory, normalization, metre and rhyme, bilingual writing, unrelated languages, the role of the author, and competing translations. You will notice that no session is devoted to machine translation. I think it is beyond doubt that this facility is inapplicable in our case. On the basis, among other things, of my evaluation of the huge Eurotra project of the European Union, 1 can affirm that many interesting ends can be achieved in machine translation — but not this. In sum, there are all sorts of viewpoints and attitudes. The very existence of originals has been questioned, and one Nobel Laureate is even reported to prefer a certain translation of one of his novels to his own text. In other words, our symposium has embarked on a vessel rich in experiences, ideas, and subjects for discussion. Our necessaries take the form of preprint contributions, food for a week of transmogrification. You're welcome!

Session 1


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Shimon Markish NO THEORY, PLEASE!

In his book published as long ago as 1963, Professor Efim Etkind enumerates what he calls "theoretical problems" of poetic, or maybe better to say, literary translation: — does the translator participate in his national literary creativity, or does he not? — what is the strong creative individuality of the translator: is it a blessing, or rather a curse? — how do philology and poetry, science and art merge in the work of the translator? Is this merge possible? — is the metre of an original to be kept at any cost, under any circumstances? — etc. No doubt, these are real problems, and we professionals have had to meet them and deal with them. But ! do not agree that they are theoretical. To my mind there is only one really and authentically general, i.e. theoretical, problem as far as literary translation is concerned, namely: is this translation possible or is it not possible? Osip Mandelshtam, one of the great poets of the twentieth century, formulated very sharply: He HCKyiuaft nyatHX HapeHH, HO nocTapaftca HX 3a6biTb: Beflb Bee paBHO He cyMeenib creKJio 3y6aMH yicycHTb. (1933)


Shimon Markish

(Do not tempt foreign languages, but try to forget them/ No matter what your efforts are, you are incapable of biting a window-pane.) And still he himself translated, from different national poetries, and not only because he was in desperate need of money, but taking pleasure in his work, at least sometimes. This main problem seems insoluble. Reason says: we lose so much in the process of translating that, as they say in French, he jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle. Take just one example, the most famous two lines by Catullus: Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior... (1 hope we have not forgotten our Latin completely, — so let us remember corresponding translations into our corresponding mothertongues, and let us compare....) But on the other hand, every national literature is full of translations and they are a highly important, absolutely indispensable part of any national culture. 1 am sure you recognize the situation: one man of wisdom declares: "Movement is logically impossible, hence it does not exist", and the other, silently, stands up and begins to walk in front of the first. I have to confess that all my life long as a translator I have been rather sceptical of theories, especially new and fashionable ones. Neither could I dare present myself as an expert and connoisseur of such theories. Still there are two or three very good books I recommend warmly to anybody interested in and concerned with the art of literary translation. The first is the work by Efim Etkind mentioned above, published in Leningrad in 1963 (35 years ago!) and entitled 'TIo33Hfl H nepeBOji" ("Poetry and Translation"). His general ideas in the book were developed during his Paris emigration almost 20 years later: "Un art en crise — Essai de poetique de la traduction poetique" Equally important for me personally and much better known to scholars all the world over was "After Babel — Aspects of Language and Translation" by George Steiner, first published in 1975.

No Theory, Please!


Both authors were mentioned among the participants in this Nobel Symposium and I am happy and proud to express my gratitude publicly: they expanded my horizon as a practical worker in the realm of literary translation. And at the same time they convinced me definitively that any general theory of translation has very little to do with the translation of poetry or poetic prose, or of literary translation at all. Theorizing on translation could explain and/or systematize interesting phenomena in such fields as linguistics (first of all), psychology, sociology or ethnology, but is impotent in front of masterpieces of poetic creativity, because a really great achievement of translation is unique, as any original chefd'oeuvre is; so to say, a specific lucky chance which calls for a specific theory. 1 have always admired Itamar Even-Zohar for example, but 1 could never understand what his polysystem theory has to do with distinguishing between Good and Evil in translation. And I shall permit myself to add that sheer descriptiveness is not commendable, maybe even dangerous, in the humanities in general, and in literary studies in particular. On the other hand, both Professor Etkind and Professor Steiner taught me that almost any detail of an individual translator's work, especially the difficulties and obstacles, may become a basis or at least a starting point for theoretical reflections. Consider the question of adequacy. It is mainly a practical question; but what exactly does it mean: a translation is adequate to its original? Copying faithfully all the traits of the original — its metre, rhythm, rhyme scheme, onomatopoeia etc.? But each of us knows perfectly that this faithfulness could easily become a crying infidelity (traduttore, traditore!) — I do not feel there is any need to elaborate here. When I was a beginner, a greenhorn in the field, I tried to formulate for myself: a translation has to produce on the mind and senses of readers the same effect the original produces on native speakers of the original language. Thus for example, the Russian translation of Balzac's Eugenie Grandet (1833) made by Dostoevski and published in 1844 had to be received by Russian readers grosso modo in the same manner the novel was received by French contemporaries of both the author and the translator. But now, one and a half centuries later? Have the French original and the Russian translation aged equally or is there a gap between them due to uneven development of the two languages? It is quite possible


Shimon Markish

that Balzac sounds more archaic to a twenty-year old French reader than Dostoevski's Russian text sounds to a Russian born in 1978. In this case the principle of adequacy has been broken, and if we consider this principle as a conditio sine qua non, a new translation has to be ordered, irrespective of our reverence for the great Russian writer. (Should I add that the great Russian writer in question could, for so many reasons, be rather a poor translator according to modern standards?) If an original is linguistically and stylistically old-fashioned or evidently obsolete, the translator archaizes his text; I believe, this is a general rule. But where are the limits of such archaizing? If the original is partly (or completely) incomprehensible to the modern reader (as may be chansons de geste, or Chaucer, or even Rabelais), how to make the translation understandable while keeping a distinct chronological distance? And more: is it possible and is it necessary to make the Russian reader feel that these chronological distances between him(her-)self and, let us say, Dante and Torquato Tasso are not the same? In each of these cases native speakers, direct heirs to Old French, or Middle English, or Old Tuscan etc. do exist and are capable of evaluating the level of up-to-dateness (or out-of-dateness) of a text directly. But what about so-called dead languages, in the first place Greek and Latin, two bases of modern European civilization? No legal heirs either to Homer, or to Plato, or to Horace! Maybe there are no reasons to archaize these authors at all? Or must Homer's epics, being at least eight centuries older than Horace's odes, make an impression of something more ancient, no matter what the language of the translation is — Russian, English, Swedish etc.? All these questions and tens of similar ones, although not theoretical sensu stricto. could start a fruitful discussion of general importance and interest. A few words on one more facet of the same problem of "adequacy/ inadequacy" — ! would like to call it "anatopism" by analogy with "anachronism" Among many and various traps menacing the translator there is one connected to folk poetry — folk tales, folk songs, proverbs etc.... You find a proverb meaning approximately that honesty does not bring wealth. Your original is in Spanish, you translate into Russian. Both languages are extraordinarily rich in proverbs, and almost immediately you have the idea: OT TpyflOB npaBeflHbix He Ha>KHBeiiib najiaT

No Theory, Pleasel


KaMeHHbix — you shall not acquire a house built of stone by honest and assiduous work. It seems all right at the first glance, but, alas, this glance is wrong. A house built of stone is a sign of exceptional prosperity in Russia, the country of wood and wooden houses, but not in Spain. in Castile!... Hungarian fairy tales are full of permanent, stereotyped formulas (type "Once upon a time...") as well as Russian tales, but if we try simply to replace Hungarian phrases with corresponding Russian ones, we risk ending up with a Russian fairy tale with Hungarian proper names and toponomy. Could all these rather simple reflections enter into a comprehensive theory? I think not. But I do believe that all points of our agenda, being of practical nature, have a definite theoretical value. And comprehensive theories — well, comprehensive theories of poetic translation — remind me of an old Jewish joke. One summer morning in a small town somewhere in the Pale of Jewish settlement, a drover (this occupation in Jewish Eastern Europe symbolised a naive and simple mind and also lack of education) brings his horses to a river to water them, and whom does he see on the shore, if not the old rabbi surrounded by children! The rabbi makes strange movements with his arms and legs and the children look at him in complete silence. The driver, astonished, asks: "What are you doing, Rabbi?" — "Don't you see? — retorts the rabbi. — I am teaching the children to swim" — The driver, even more astounded: "How do you mean. Rabbi?! You can swim?" The rabbi's answer I prefer to leave untranslated, but 1 have no doubt, it will be quite understandable in the original Yiddish: "Ikh kennit shvimen, ober ikh veis shvimen" "Ibersezn ken ikh nit, ober ikh veis ibersezn" — this is the message 1 hear in any theory, and specifically in comprehensive ones


Jean Boase-Beier -3D THEORY AND PRACTICE Discussion of Shimon Markish's Paper "No Theory, Please!

I agree with you that the questions formulated by Efim Etkind in 1963 are not really theoretical ones. Your own question "Is literary translation possible?" is certainly much more in the nature of a theoretical question. But, if we were to ask questions which might lead us in the direction of a comprehensive theory of literary translation, I think they would have to be something like "What is literary translation?" or "What aspects of human cognition make translation possible?" I shall, if I may, return to the question of theory later. In asking whether literary translation is possible, you speak about that familiar issue of translation loss, which we all know is supposed to be inevitable in the translation of poetry. But does not the whole question of loss in translation depend upon what translation is thought to be? If translation is seen as creating something as nearly identical to the original as possible, then every deviation is a loss. But then, if this were the aim of translation, would this not mean that the only ideal translation is the original itself? Surely the whole point about translation is that it creates a different text. I suppose this seems a very obvious thing to say, but let me use the figure of rhyme as a metaphor for what I mean. The words mind and mind are identical; they do not constitute rhyme. Mind and find, on the other hand, do rhyme. Mind and bend also form a type of rhyme (consonance or half-rhyme) and mind and mend another type (slant rhyme) and so on. The figure of rhyme only

Theory and Practice


works by a combination of preservation and change. Similarly with translation. Both preservation and change are essential for it to qualify as translation. Change is therefore not loss but one of the defining characteristics of translation. So those who say it is impossible are not being logical. They are merely failing to understand the nature of translation. I would maintain that there is nothing in the world that cannot be translated. You share with many translators throughout the world an understandable scepticism towards theory. You praise Etkind and Steiner but you say — and I imagine this is the reason for your scepticism — that all they have convinced you of is that a general theory of translation cannot tell us much about the actual translation of poetry or poetic prose. This is absolutely true, but then was it ever meant to? Does not scepticism sometimes arise because we expect too much, and then feel our expectations have not been met? Allow me to use an analogy again. One of the subjects I teach at the University of East Anglia is First Language Acquisition. Language acquisition theory looks at how children acquire their native tongue so quickly and so fully. What must the input be like? What must the child's mind be like? What variable factors will make a difference? All these are interesting and useful questions. Yet of course children learn to speak knowing nothing of all this, because the theory is not a prerequisite for the practice. It may have a practical application — for example, it may tell us where to look if things go wrong — but that is not its primary purpose. And it certainly does not aim to interfere in the process it is observing. In translation I think it is similar. Some people like to speculate about what really happens when we translate. Yet other people can and do translate without knowing what anyone else says about it. I am afraid I do not know Etkind's book but I know Steiner's (1975) well, and it does not seem to me that Steiner intended to tell us in practical terms how to translate poetry. Nevertheless, if we are looking for practical uses, I would say that what Steiner's book — and others by Venuti (1995), or Bassnett (1988), or Barnstone (1993) —did for me was this: they taught me that there are more issues involved in translating poetry than 1 ever would at first have imagined. Steiner in particular made me aware of the difference between appropriating a text and attempting to give the reader a clear view of it as it is in the


Jean Boase-Beier

original. If it has not changed my actual technique in translating poetry, it has made me see that there are different ways of doing it, it has given me the confidence that I know what some, at least, of the important questions are, and with confidence comes, I think, tolerance, the ability to be open to different ways of translating. This is the sort of confidence that I hope, by a mixture of practice and the reading of such books as Steiner's, to give my students, so they may be similarly open to different ways of doing things. I would say that there is, to date, no theory of translation in the sense I mentioned at the beginning of this response. There are descriptions of the process (Steiner 1975), models of the place of translated literature in literary systems (Even-Zohar 1978) and explanations of the functionality of translation (Nord 1997), but not a comprehensive theory of translation itself. This does not, however, mean that such a theory is in principle impossible. At the same time, it must be said that a theory of translation alone would not be able to explain those "masterpieces of poetic creativity" you speak of but would only go some of the way towards explaining them. For a fuller explanation, we would need many other things: a theory of poetry and a theory of creativity, and so on It seems to me that it is rather unfair to blame polysystem theory for not "distinguishing between Good and Evil in translation" Unless it makes any claims to do this, then we can assume its interests are quite different. So what I am saying is, firstly, that we must evaluate theories on their own terms, and, secondly, that we should not take the absence of a particular type of theory as evidence for its impossibility. For my own part, I find both linguistic theory and literary theory more helpful than translation theory when it comes to the practical aspects of translating poetry, and so 1 explore with my students how figures such as rhyme or assonance, metaphor or syntactic gapping work in a text. If we know what happens, linguistically speaking, in lines such as Gerard Manley Hopkins' And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can frost feel.... (Hopkins 1953:27)

Theory and Practice


or in compounds such as "dapple-dawn-drawn" or "silk-sack clouds" (p. 31), how the interplay of the grammatical principles of morphology and syntax with the stylistic principles of metaphor and repetition actually works, and, above all, if we can understand how form and meaning are linked, then we shall be closer to the essence of the poetry We shall begin to have a chance, at least, of transferring that essence into another language On the question of adequacy in translation, I agree with you that we must question what it means I would add that adequacy can mean different things in different circumstances. If the aim is to "produce on the mind and sense of readers the same effect the original produces on native speakers of the language of the original" then a translation will only be adequate if it reproduces this effect, though heaven knows how we find out. But is this the only possible aim of translation? Let us consider, for a moment, another original work, Thomas Hardy's The Ruined Maid, written in 1866 (Hardy 1977: 193). It is a dialogue between a country girl who has been "ruined" and now lives in the town in luxury, and a friend from her earlier life, who comments on the change in her dress, manners and speech. In 1866, the idea of being "ruined" would have had a specific meaning for and effect on the reader. As we know, many were shocked that Hardy should see fit to write about such things. Today we cannot possibly experience that shock. We may also fail to understand the dialect words. But we appreciate what the poem is about. We do not object that we don't talk of maids nowadays and anyway, living with a man you're not married to is of no interest to anyone. What we do is to put ourselves into the world that Hardy creates and describes. It is all part of the suspension of disbelief, scepticism and distance which every reader of literature needs Why, then, can we not demand the same of a translated text? Surely trying to reproduce the original effect is only one possible aim of translation. But trying to show the original poem, to recreate the original world, making the reader understand rather than actually experience the feelings of the original audience — this is another possibility, it seems to me. We just accept that an original poem creates its own world and we must enter it. With a translated poem it is a little harder, that's all. But any reader of poetry, and especially of poetry in translation, is surely going to be willing to do the necessary work.


Jean Boase-Beier

If Dostoevsky's translation of Balzac sounds less archaic to a Russian than Balzac himself does to a French reader, why should anyone mind? If Dostoevsky was, in 1844, trying to show us Balzac, and if he succeeded, then today's Russian readers will still see Balzac as surely as if they read the original. Some translations do date. But they are much more likely to be those that try to mimic for the target language audience the supposed effects on the source language audience. Those that concentrate on making the original as visible as possible are no more likely to date than the original itself. So how do we make Chaucer understandable in, say, Swedish translation? Again, it depends what the translation aims to do. If it aims to show Chaucer's original it will try to find a Swedish equivalent for Chaucer's English. If it wants to adapt to a modern audience, it will do exactly as modern English versions of Chaucer do, and use modern idiom and possibly change events to something more familiar to the modern reader. Both are possible. There is no right or wrong. The translator's only duty is to know what he or she is doing and to stick to it, and also to be open about it. The example of the Spanish proverb is one I find especially interesting. If the proverb is translated into Russian, and works in Russian, it might seem that all is well but it is not if there is now a conflict with the Spanish context of the story. Similarly with the Hungarian fairytale translated into Russian. We all know those odd hybrids: Norwegian teenagers speaking broad Yorkshire in Oslo, German fairies singing familiar English rhymes in the Bavarian forest, or, to adapt one of Jakobson's (1959: 237) examples, a female figure of Death in a German text translated from the Russian, who has to be referred to as "he" because death in German is masculine. One way of solving these difficulties is for the translator to enter into the translated text quite openly. Just as Tolkien in Lord of the Rings (1966) gives us his poems in Elvish, and then tells us what they mean in English, so we cannot make the mistake of thinking the elves are actually speaking English, so a translation of Die Stemtaler (1986), a German fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, might begin in English translation: "There was once (for this is how every German fairytale begins) a little girl, whose mother and father had died..." Fairytales thrive on exoticism. If the translator announces his or her presence as

Theory and Practice


the re-teller of the story, there is no harm, and it allows the story to remain firmly in the cultural and linguistic context of the original, with the translator to explain whenever there might be a difficulty for the reader. But can we do this in poetry? Nabokov (1964) thought we could. The problem with Nabokov, though, was that he was just too uncompromising. There is no point applying your view willy-nilly if no one can bear to look at the result. There must always be compromise. We must render the original visible, and this means making it visibly a translation, but a text is meant to be read and so it has to be readable. I do not have a theory of translation myself; 1 wish I did. But my aim in the translation of poetry is this: to make the original as visible as is consistent with readability Of course, this means it is less easy for me to hide. 1 cannot pretend to be the original author, rewriting things in English. I cannot pretend to be an English poet, using the original as what Michael Hamburger (in Honig 1985:177) calls a "springboard" for my own work. I must come out in the open and say I am the translator. And finally, as regards the old rabbi who knew all about swimming but couldn't do it himself, I must confess 1 have a soft spot for him. The poet Andrew Motion, who is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, recently said on the radio that he could not write novels very well but that there was no reason why he could not teach people to write novels. Presumably this is because he knows how to. There will always be those who talk about translation, and those who do it (not to mention the many foolish people like me who try to do both). The important thing is that they listen to one another. Bibliography Bamstone, W. 1993. The Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, Practice. London: Yale University Press Bassnett, S. 1988. Translation Studies. London: Methuen Brower, R, ed. 1959. On Translation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press Even-Zohar, I. 1978. "The Position of Translated Literature within the Literary Polysystem", in Holmes, Lambert and van den Broeck, eds. Bruder Grimm 1986. Die Sterntaler. Ravensburg: Otto Maier Verlag


Jean Boase-Beier

Hardy, T. 1977. Poems of Thomas Hardy. A New Selection, with an Introduction and Notes by T. Creighton. London: Macmillan Holmes, J., J. Lambert & R. van den Broeck, eds. 1978. Literature and Translation: New Perspectives in Literary Studies. Leuven: Acco Honig, E. 1985. The Poet's Other Voice. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press Hopkins, G. M. 1953. Poems and Prose. Selected and edited by W. H. Gardner. Harmondsworth: Penguin Jakobson, R. 1959. "On Linguistic Aspects of Translation", in Brower, R., ed. Nabokov, V, ed. and trans. 1964. Aleksandr Pushkin: Eugene Onegin. A Novel in Verse. Translated from the Russian with a Commentary. New York: Pantheon Nord, C. 1997. Translating as a Purposeful Activity. Manchester: St. Jerome Press Steiner, G. 1975. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. London: Oxford University Press Tolkien, J. 1966. The Lord of the Rings London: G Allen & Unwin Venuti, L. 1995. The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation. London: Routledge


Elke Liebs So A PHILOSOPHY OF TRANSLATING AS A LITERARY SUBJECT Discussion of Shimon Markish's Paper "No Theory, Please!"

Let me start with something that everyone knows: Not long ago, 1 was sitting at my computer, trying to find the last page of my article about female servants in literature at the turn of the century. Outside it was grey and dreary. The page had gone. As 1 set out to rewrite it 1 was aware that the weather matched with my subject: the situation of servants was grey and dreary as well around 1900 and there was little to be seen of the 'new woman' proclaimed by philologist Julius Wolf as the symbolic figure of 'Modernism'. Just fragments of what 1 had written the day before were swimming through my mind. 1 could feel the rain drop into my lines as 1 tried to re-translate my own thoughts into my own language. Reading the new passages I realized that they stressed different points and came to different conclusions. Even when 1 tried to adjust the two texts to each other after, surprisingly, the first one had shown up again, the greyish atmosphere was still present The following day, almost the same thing happened. This time the page was gone for ever. But meanwhile it was getting brighter, though; for a minute there was even sunshine. While I was still staring at my screen as if paralyzed, a few lines of Holderlin came to my mind: A shadow of a dream that's man but when there comes just one ray from God at once it is bright and life appears friendly.


Elke Liebs

Much faster than the day before, I finished a new version, again different from the first one, but with some traces of Holderlin and sunshine within. The hard lot of maids I now seemed to view more optimistically. I think it is obvious from this simple example what I want to say: if even one's own thoughts and feelings are so difficult to translate into language and if the complexity of all that influences one — openly or not — changes all the time, how can one succeed in finding generalizable principles for translating texts from foreign languages and cultures and even build a theory? Anyone who has ever taught at school or university knows how burdensome it is — especially for young people (but for older ones as well) — to find adequate words for their feelings or for poetry; indeed for everything that is not clearly defined by society. In each generation the notion of what is sayable or not changes. Just as in music the intervals are actually the most important parts, so the unspoken — which lies behind the spoken (or written) word or perhaps is hidden in its opposite despite perhaps a desire to be revealed — is the true arena for translators. This also means that language, if separated from the body or person to whom it pertains, remains somewhat amputated, a torso we have learned to consider as an abstraction. If we think about it, how many literary texts are there which survive only because we do not succeed in bringing together language and body, text and context, otherness and selfhood in translation? So in translating there can never be just one definitive (authoritative) version because the words take on a different taste and smell and sound for different people — not only in each language but also in each generation, at each social and educational level, for both sexes and for different ages. Anyone who has never read Proust will see in linden flowers tea only a medication against fever, and anyone who doesn't know that Rilke mostly worked with a rhyming dictionary will go crazy trying to translate his poems since it seems impossible to recreate the depth of his images. However, what really needs to be recreated is not the meaning to the world of linden flowers tea but rather the dimension of individual remembering of sensory perception or association, that is to say, the phenomenon triggered by memory. And in Rilke's case what needs to be recreated is not the literal meaning of his images but rather his obsession with depth and signification which is not always as deep as

Philosophy of Translating as a Literary Subject


it seems — but nobody dares to say this because it is 'Rilke' and the magic of his words is so bewitching. This is why the translator ought to conjure up the same desire to bewitch, the same desire for highflown language, the same tendency to feudalism He or she ought to find words which sound different in rooms with silken tapestry from what they do in the marketplace, lofty inner words from lofty inward spaces, even when he speaks unforgettably of the panther in the Jardin de Luxembourg. In Saint-Exupery's 'Little Prince' which we have all read in one language or another, one finds the following sentence: 'The essential is invisible'. One could also say: The essential remains unspoken. It lies behind the spoken word. And what did I find among the papers of this Symposium? I could simply say 'iva' — but that would only be understood by those who read Tim Parks's second contribution. But listen to the last words of Mariya Novykova's article: 'It is the untranslatable that is actually worth translating.' And Ulla Roseen ends her comment on Mr. Weinberger's essay with the beautiful though enigmatic sentence: 'Translation is a work of love.' Whatever she might mean by that (she will certainly elaborate on it), 1 think we can find further correspondences in other contributions. Let me illustrate by one particular book what dimensions of appropriation, estrangement and transgression may open up when an author applies the above thesis to the production of a literary text: the idea that the unspoken is the essential which is more rewarding to translate than anything else. 1 refer to a novel in which 'translating' takes the leading role: 'My Heart so White' by Javier Marias, published in Spanish in 1992 and in German in 1996. The protagonist of this novel is — like his future wife — an official interpreter. Let's ignore for a moment that this kind of translating is obviously different from translating poetical texts. It is the process of translating in general which is central here, translating as a phenomenon, as an obsession, as a passion, as an addiction — translating from one language into another, from one's own language into one's own, from body language into spoken language, from perception into words etc. Language and translation also involve the art of understanding in all its facets — is regarded as a sensual process which absorbs the whole person and dissolves the standard


Elke Liebs

dichotomy between body and mind. Everything participates in this process: eyes, ears, nose, brain, intellect, knowledge, association, the past, curiosity and — eros. One of the first memorable scenarios of so many which unfortunately I cannot re-narrate is the dialogue of the first-person narrator with a mulatto woman in a Havanna street, whom he observes from the balcony of his hotel. At first sight she arouses his curiosity. Even before she talks to him he translates the choreography of her body language in such detail that he already knows most of what there is to know about her. The ensuing verbal dialogue, however, produces nothing but misunderstanding. A strange dialectics of closeness and distance emerges: the closer contact there is, the greater the actual distance between them. The same experience will later be mirrored in the narrator's young marriage. Spoken language without body language has no orientation. It always runs the risk of falling prey to the first available interpretation. Anyway — in the translator's effort to produce continuity and sense because we cannot bear a world which makes no sense, all of a sudden contexts appear which hardly exist. Everyone translates a good deal of himself into an alien text — even the spoken one, just as every reader of the same poem reads a different, i.e. his own, text. This dramaturgy of understanding and silence upon which the narrator reflects slightly later can easily find expression in the following scene: a couple listening to another couple's quarrel without saying a single word themselves, end up involuntarily at odds just by listening and silently participating in different ways. In his essay 'The Task of the Translator' Walter Benjamin insists that the essential quality of a translation is not statement or the imparting of information — this is the hallmark of bad translation. According to him, the translator can reproduce the unspeakable, the enigmatic only by composing himself. Neither original nor translation should aim at the reader. In other words: a dialectics of proximity and distance is once again at work — as in the dialogue with the mulatto woman in Havanna: the more the original aims at the reader, and the translation at the original, the more it will miss its point. In this sense, the most remarkable scene of Marias' novel is the dialogue between two Heads of State with the narrator as the official

Philosophy of Translating as a Literary Subject


interpreter. He is not alone with them but is supervised — as is standard for safety reasons — by a second interpreter, a woman whom he doesn't know but who will soon become his wife. There is a threefold tension at work: between the political partners (also a man and a woman), between the two interpreters and between politicians and interpreters. Not to mention the considerable inner tension that all of them carry with them. The discourse of silence begins with the dadaistic babbling of the two dignitaries during the photo session. Lips and gestures appear to be engaged in a vivid exchange but nothing is said that makes sense. Nonetheless 'something' must be 'translated' for the public since everyone knows that the Heads of State do not understand each other's language — a completely incongruous scenario. There follows the confidential part of the exchange — during which the interpreters are treated as if they did not exist. Both politicians fall into deep silence; they seem to have nothing to say to each other and to be sitting together only for formal reasons. All that speaks is their restless hands and nervous breathing. After a while they utter some meaningless sentences as if in the waiting room of a dentist's, sentences such as: 'Do you mind if I smoke'. During this silence a mute dialogue develops between the two interpreters which prompts the narrator's desire to get to know his colleague a little better. Imperceptibly, the situation acquires erotic overtones without a word being said. Finally, the male politician produces a heavy key ring from his pocket and plays with it in a somewhat indecent manner. Then he asks whether he should order tea for the lady or not. The absurd banality of the scenario has reached its climax. There seems not the slightest interest in exchange between them. At this moment the interpreter 'translates' something completely different. What he says is as much an outcome of his individual inner tension and boredom as it is a reaction to the 'signified' but unspoken meaning behind the banalities of the politicians. He asks (instead of mentioning tea): "Tell me, do they love you in your country?" The success is enormous. The lady, who in politics bears the nickname 'the Iron Lady', responds with surprising spontaneity and frankness. Her physical attitude changes immediately. While from now on the interpreter translates more or less faithfully — though with small adjustments to hide his initial deviation


Elke Liebs

from the text — the politician accompanies with his rattling key ring the developing strange discourse on love. The partners — unknowingly driven by something that is moving not only their two translators but also themselves — both suddenly become very outgoing and try to find words for their most private feelings. Thereby they reveal themselves, by the way — though officially democrats — as 'nostalgics of dictatorship'. Even in their most intimate utterances, politics raises its head. The lady's central statement and philosophy is: 'We always have to force others to love us.' (Remember: 'Translating is always a work of love'.) The professional and the personal intermingle. Translation becomes a complex philosophy of life. Everyone is saying something or other — or falling into a discourse pregnant with silence — but the actual energy ought to be mobilized to decode what is really intended. This can be achieved only by recognizing and identifying those meanings that first come to mind. These, however, can be immediately excluded; it is more rewarding to observe and interpret gestures and facial expressions and to decipher body language. Memory becomes an indispensable characteristic of translation. But in the further course of the narration the old dialectics is still apparent: even the most complete translation cannot 'wrest' the secret from someone. The more is clarified, the more it conceals. The real 'message' of the book, a Leitmotiv that is constantly varied, is thus evoked by a deliberate 'mistranslation'. It says: Everyone forces everyone else, even into love. Nothing is permanent, everything becomes lost... The erotic obsessiveness and obscene precision of Marias' language circle around certain thoughts and phenomena in order to acquire certainty of them; but what emerges is the sense that there is no such thing as certainty and that precision only impedes the truth. Only what is not narrated takes place. But at some point the moment comes when things want to be told, when they want to step out and across from themselves, in other words: when they want to be 'translated' finally to become fiction. The production of truth by way of a lie as described in the dialogue between the two politicians. 'The only truth' — says Marias — 'is the one which is not known or conveyed, which is nor translated into words or images, concealed and unexplored, and perhaps this is why so much telling is done in order

Philosophy of Translating as a Literary Subject


that nothing ever has happened when it is narrated.' And in the words of Walter Benjamin: 'If there is such a thing as a language of the truth, the tensionless and even silent depository of the ultimate truth which all thought strives for, then this language of truth is — the true language. And it is precisely this (true language) which is concealed in translations' 1 do not need to say, I hope, that 1 have read Marias' novel in translation.



1. Introduction The aim of the first Session was to lay a theoretical foundation for later discussions — or at least to clear the ground. When discussing translation theory, however, we could not avoid looking at its relationship with translation practice — at which point we had our first skirmishes with issues which we tackled more whole-heartedly in later discussions. 1 have structured this report not according to who spoke when, but according to what was said. One reason is that the speakers' and discussants' contributions are printed before each report, so that the reader can refer to them directly. The main reason, however, is that the spoken discussions, like all lively exchanges of ideas, followed an unstructured course. Hence 1 have seen my task as one of adding a structure, of drawing a coherent map of the territory covered — and here I have allowed myself the map-maker's indulgence of filling in the b'elye p'atna, the empty regions, with my own thoughts and examples {Here be dragons...). But if, in drawing this map, I have warped my informants' words, I beg forgiveness. The key input came from the main speaker, Shimon Markish, and the two discussants, Jean Boase-Beier and Elke Liebs. In the open discussion, my notes also record the following contributors: Sture Allen, Philippe Bouquet, Anders Cullhed, Gunnel Engwall, Eugene Eoyang, Efim

Report on Session 1


Etkind, Inga-Stina Ewbank, Lyn Hejinian, Bengt Jangfeldt, Judith Moffett, Mariya Novykova, Tim Parks, Ulla Roseen and Emmanuela Tandello. Where practical, I have identified each comment with a surname. If I have failed to identify the speaker of a comment, or if there are other contributors whose names I did not manage to jot down, they too must forgive me. 2. The translator's impossibility? Four key theoretical issues were raised in Markish's paper and tackled in the discussions that followed: • • • •

Is translation (im)possible? Is translation theory any use to the translator? Should we archaise translations of old originals? Is the translator a creative artist?

The first question is one all too often asked. The answer came swiftly Of course translation is possible: we, translators gathered in this room, were living proof. No-one would deny that when we are translating the poetic — especially in Jakobson's sense, i.e. messages carried by the form as well as the semantics of language — 100% rarely gets across in practice. But to claim that poetic translation is theoretically impossible because "only" about 80 or 90% usually gets across is absurd (is eating impossible because we don't always clear our plates?). A more sensible theory is one that incorporates practice rather than denying its existence The carpet-makers of Islam, who deliberately weave imperfections into their patterns, are the better philosophers here, for embracing the fact that human craft is inevitably imperfect. Even if 100% equivalence were to occur, the translator would vanish (Cullhed), for she would then become the perfect mirror, whose glass is invisible. But the fact that such pure reflectivity is rare leads us to a second theoretical issue, more fruitful than that of translation's alleged impossibility: what are the implications of the distortions and blemishes that the translator's imperfect mirror usually brings to the source text? Distortions and blemishes imply loss, a fall from grace, imperfection. As Ewbank pointed out, many translators do lose key elements of the original through ignorance or lack of skill (though we must not always


Francis R. Jones

assume that the source text represents primal grace and perfection either!). Nevertheless, it was felt that it was more useful to see translation not so much as losing source elements but as changing them (BoaseBeier), i.e. to see the translator as one who can not only take away but also add value. Two types of strategy were proposed to deal with change as the rule of translation: one cognitive and explicit, and one affective and implicit. With cognitive/explicit strategies, the target text would tell the reader: "This is a translation" (Boase-Beier). Or deliberate strategies of compensation would be used: you lose a pun here, but add a pun there (Bouquet). With affective/implicit strategies, the translator's first focus should be not on the words but on the "spaces in between" Not on the semantics, therefore, but on the texture and sensation of the text (Liebs), for this is what makes poetry poetic. Liebs cites Walter Benjamin here, saying that we should try neither to reproduce the source text's information nor to meet the target reader's expectations. Instead, we should "compose ourselves" to reproduce "the unspeakable, the enigmatic": translation as an act of love (or at least of empathy), to introduce a metaphor debated throughout the week (Bouquet, Roseen). This, to my mind, has echoes of Steiner's discussion of the kabbalistic tradition in translation theory, where translation can reveal the Ursprache, the "shadowy yet unmistakable contours of the coherent design from which, after Babel, the jagged fragments of speech broke off" (1975: 64). If an Ursprache exists, it is surely a language of sensation, texture and emotion, rather than some international set of semantic road-signs. Yet relying solely on the translator's intuition is a risky business: intuition can as often be wrong as right (my intuition, anyway!). Text is words as well as texture, so we should balance the rights of both to get through in translation. One tactic proposed is that the translator should be a method actor (Moffett): someone who inlever, lives into, the text (as Roseen said in a later session) and yet speaks it with his own voice. And if not every nuance is translatable, then the translator decides what is important and focuses on getting that across (Boase-Beier, Cullhed, Allen).

Report on Session 1


3. The view from the ivory tower We are already straying from theory into practice here. This leads us to Markish's key question, the central question of any theory: "So what?" Is translation theory, in other words, of any use to translation practice? Here two opposing stances emerged. The first saw translation theories, especially recent ones, as artefacts constructed in ivory towers (Markish, Parks). At best, these artefacts are of little practical use to the translator, and at worst they model not the reality of translation but the blinkered arrogance of their designers. And even if theories account well enough for what happens generally (which, after all, is their job), they can run into problems when they try to account for the particular, the oddball, the unique. Hence, Markish argues, theory cannot account for the masterpieces of translation, which are "as unique as any original chef-d'oeuvre". Developing this argument further, the translation of poetry and poetic prose, which depends not only on craft but also on "unique" leaps of intuition and serendipity, could also be said to be beyond the reach of theory. But this, perhaps, is where this argument breaks down. Any theory of poetic translation worth its salt should try to explain not only the sheer plod of the translator's plough but also her flashes of insight, just as any theory of astronomy should account not only for normal stars but also for supernovae. Certain theorists are moving in this direction, it seems, incorporating intuition into their modelling of the translation process (though I only know of their efforts second-hand: e.g. Wilss, 1989, in Gentzler, 1993: 67-70). Another challenge to theory is the sheer protean complexity of the poetic translator's task (Liebs). The translator is attempting to carry meanings and sensations across a ravine of language, culture and time, and on a bridge that shifts and changes beneath his feet, for today's solutions to such a hugely complex task are unlikely to be the same as tomorrow's. Here too, however, one could say that any worth-while theory should account for this complexity — though, to the best of my knowledge, few translation theorists have tackled this issue in any depth. The second view that emerged from discussions was that theories, whatever their faults, also had their uses. Towers allow us to see further. What matters is not whether they are made of ivory, but whether we


Francis R. Jones

take the trouble to look at the landscape outside. Many theoretical explorations, in fact, take practice as their starting-point and try to find the generative principles that underlie it (Moffett, Novykova). An example here, given by Boase-Beier, is psycholinguistic research into "what goes on in the translator's head" (cf. Krings, 1986). Conversely, practical explorations may use theories as their starting point. Such theories are inevitably provisional: guidelines that tell us where and how we should be looking, and for what (Hejinian). Many stay that way. Others, as their guiding hypotheses are confirmed, modified or replaced by others which summarise more accurately what actually happens, can become generalised descriptions of practice. Both these types of "practical theory" can feed back into practice, when we are training translators, say, or becoming more aware of what we do as translators. A knowledge of stylistics, for example, enables one to recognise a wider range of metrical forms and, eventually, to use them in one's own translations (Boase-Beier, Bouquet). And even the claim that theory is of no practical use to the translator is a theoretical statement (Eoyang): here the translator, like the British lawyer, sees her working principles as based on a body of precedent rather than a single legal code. Nevertheless, some participants (Parks, Tandello) warned that not all practice needs to be — or even can be — shaped into a theory: sometimes we simply act, without underlying principles. A conclusion here might be that the true relationship between theory and practice is not one of opposition, nor one of dominance (with theory attempting to swallow the whole of practice), but that practice carries on with the story where theory leaves off. To get a full picture of the translation experience, in other words, we need both a general theoretical overview, and a detailed look at individual practical instances. 4. Sholde wee archaize? When translating old texts, the translator is confronted with a dilemma (Markish): should we modernize or archaize? Using a modern target style is more accessible to modern audience, but risks giving the illusion that the source text (Boccaccio's Decamerone, say) was created recently and for a completely different audience than the audience it was actually created for (twentieth-century middle-class readers rather than medieval

Report on Session 1


aristocratic listeners). With such a massive shift in implied audience, any pretence that we are trying for "equivalence" is very hard to keep up. The opposite view, that we should archaise translations of old texts, e.g. translate John Donne into cod Andreas Gryphius, is less popular. A theoretical justification might be we are achieving some sort of equivalence of effect — not on a hypothesised sixteenth-century audience (being long dead, they are unlikely to appreciate the compliment), but on a modern German audience, who would ideally read the translation in the same light as modern English native speakers reading Donne in the original. To my mind, trying to get such equivalence can be quite fun. Here's an extract from a Dutch poem by Tesselschade Roemersdochter Visscher (1594-1649) which I once translated for a seminar: Come, praise the Nightingale, Whose song doth oft assaile Thy sense with mocking glee; This warbling featherlett, this winged Melodie. This roguish little thing, And all his chirruping. Soon quickeneth the eare To the tripping Levitie of his twittering loud and cleare... And so on (the last line is intentionally longer, by the way). The question is — fun for whom? More for the translator, I guess, than for the reader, where "authentically aged" can mean "dustily gibberished" — especially as the reader knows that Visscher could not help writing in a seventeenth-century idiom, whereas 1 chose to do so. I certainly wouldn't keep it up for a whole book — unlike poor Emile Littre, with his medieval French version of the Divine Comedy (Steiner 1975: 336-338). And what happens, as Markish pointed out, when — as with Latin or Ancient Greek — the source text is so old that there simply is no target-language equivalent? This dilemma, though voiced by Markish and echoed by Boase-Beier, was not followed through in open discussions. Which, perhaps, is a bit of a shame, as the debate on whether or not to archaise is not only a practical issue. On a theoretical level, it provides valuable insights into


Francis R. Jones

the whole slippery notion of equivalence (Boase-Beier) and its relationship with communication and audience. 5. But is it art? The final question posed by Markish was whether the translator is a creative artist. This brings us back to our earlier discussion. When the translator is forced to change certain elements of the original message, these changes need not only be a matter of trying to do the least damage to the original message. They can also be an opportunity for creativity, for the translator to show off, to revel in his own visibility, as Venuti urges (1995). Markish, however, added a caveat here, or rather a second question: can too much creativity be as bad as too little? Though not discussed directly, the issue of the rights and limits of the translator as creative artist underlay several discussions later in the week. References Gentzler, Edwin (1993) Contemporary Translation Theories. London: Routledge. Krings, Hans (1986) Was in den Kopfen von Obersetzem vorgeht. Tubingen: Narr. Steiner, George (1975) After Babel. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Venuti, Lawrence (1995) The Translator's Invisibility. London: Routledge.

ession 2


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Normalization is at the very core of the problem of all literary translation! By "normalization" or "levelling" I mean the action of trimming off, smoothing out a text, making it more even, cutting off its edges, filling up its curves and blanks and ultimately, neutralizing its very effects... Why? The "translator-neutralizer" certainly means well and is, at the very beginning of the process, conducted by his will to be "faithful"; the question is here to define what he really is faithful to. And in fact, a translator is faithful to two different "elements": himself as an individual, as well as his personal conception of the writing process. The "translator-neutralizer" is not a great writer in the sense that he fears the very excess of freedom. The author, on the other hand, builds up his text by deviating from norms, going back to etymology, regenerating buried roots, forging new words, distorting syntax, playing with the multiple senses of the words and nuances, and also giving to the text the polysemic dimension which is the very trademark, the label of quality of all great writing. A text survives its own time thanks to its polysemic dimension. Thanks to this very dimension, following generations of readers are given an opportunity to discover "new" relevant elements that the author's contemporary readers could not perceive. Let us take an example and mention Shakespeare, often quoted as "our eternal contemporary" A "levelling translator" will have a reductive perception of the author's


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text: he will read it in the limited optics of a certain time, of a certain social environment: his own. Worse: he will read the author's text in the light of his own life experience, focussing on elements of relevance to himself. And it is a fact that a text escapes its own author as soon as it is taken away from his writing table. Once published and available to the crowd of readers, it becomes multiple, multidimensional. The literary text is essentially an interactive object: the page is being read, felt and understood by another person. This intimate marriage of "said-printed" and "read-felt", this genuine and chemical combination is very fruitful: it gives birth to another text, to a different text which does not necessarily reflect the image conceived by the author. One reader might, for instance, read a text in different ways, according to the time of the day, or according to his age. This is a very common — and unavoidable — experience which generates problems when the reader does not only read the text but reads it in order to "recreate" it in another language, another culture. In such a situation. the translator should be able to restitute the entire complexity of the original text, and therefore should not reduce it to a particular reading. This is an extremely difficult task, which the levelling translator would rather ignore. And by ignoring this difficulty, he remains faithful to himself: he reads the text with his own eyes, replacing "he" (the author) by "1", and neglecting the "we" (both present and future, the "we" stands for both contemporaries and future generations). But such a "levelling translator" is also faithful to a certain conception of his own language: a literary text is, in his view, a "well written" text, using a rather classical, traditional, "clean" language, ornamented with stylistic cliches. The sort of text that the French would call "bien leche". "Valputsad". "Well groomed" 1 would like to mention here the explicit case of a student who considered himself a very good translator, the quality of his French being excellent. He simply refused to admit the fact that, whoever the Italian author he had to translate was, his own French was always exactly the same. That particular translator did not "hear" the voice of the text, the voice leading his translating hand being his own (or, maybe, the voice of a very rigorous French teacher, never banned out of his

Normalization and the Translation of Poetry


mind). The conception the levelling translator has of his own language is very narrow; it is never creative. And such a translator should not translate the "great authors", being unable to escape norms or avoid rigid, established linguistic patterns. However, the normalizing effect generated by such a translator is neither planned nor wished: it is rather unwanted, or unconscious. But there is another type of levelling translator, perfectly conscious of the nature of his translation, a translator whose influence is certain. Viallatte, who translated Kafka into French, is one of them. The "French Kafka" is far away from the German one, no specialist of the German language would disagree with me on this point. And 1 would say that Viallatte uses that "well groomed" French 1 mentioned earlier, full of perfectly balanced sentences, often longer than the sentences composing the original text: Viallatte's language enhances the elegance and the rhythm of a language, French, originally considered as a "court language" And such a language is definitely alien from Kafka's own language, the latter being above all pure and clear, plain and unsofisticated, precise and rigorous, harsh at times and purposely ambiguous, which allows us, readers, to perceive a humoristic dimension which is often ignored by Viallatte's translation. Viallatte's Kafka is extremely "Frenchised", Viallatte's wish being to remain faithful to the target language. 1 would say Viallatte's levelling is essentially intolerant and nationalistic, in spite of a real charm due to the translator's personal talent. However: today's translators have learned they have to proceed differently. I would like to come back to the three main aspects of what I call the "levelling action" 1. The cultural levelling This is certainly the worse, and the most intolerant. People tend to forget that the translation of a text is part of the translation of a culture. Any source language expresses a particular world vision which may be extremely different from the world vision expressed by the target language. One may for instance assert, as Nietzsche did, that German is the language of the "becoming" when French is the language of the "being"


Francoise Wuilmart

Such a basic difference appears on various linguistic or stylistic levels: in conjugation, syntax, shades of meaning and modulations, as well as in the very rhythm of the sentences. Let me take a specific example: the use of and reference to time is translated into tense, which can prove extremely complex (as it is in English) or extremely simple (as it is in German). How can a translator communicate or recreate the complexity of "the time perspective" in a language which is deprived of the necessary "tense tools"? Such a basic difference becomes particularly problematic when major symbolical metaphors are being used by an author. "The sun" is masculine in French, and feminine in German; and as we know, a whole poem may be based upon the gender of the sun (and, by extension, of its attributes): in such a case, the translation proves totally impossible. The "exotic" way in which cultural elements are being translated in a typical "levelling" manner has been widely examined and debated. Let us take the example of Prevert's poetry, and let us focus on its specific reference to the cherrytree: how should it be translated into, say, Hindi? Should an Indian local tree — more familiar and association-leading — be substituted to the cherrytree in order to generate in the Indian reader the emotion Prevert tries to communicate? Or should the translator keep the cherrytree in the Hindi version, in order to allow the Indian readers to discover Prevert's tree and, through it, get acquainted to a different, unknown environment? I would personally choose the second option, mostly because of its opening to other cultures. Furthermore, I believe Prevert refers to the cherrytree because of specific poetical and symbolical values which can hardly be associated with another tree. The translator who chooses to adapt original cultural elements to the "receiving culture/language" ruins the exotic — and genuine — dimension of the original text and levels his translated text in an improper manner. 2. The stylistic levelling Let me come back to the above-mentioned relief and loftiness of a literary text or, more explicitly, of poetry. That relief is the specific dimension that distinguishes/dissociates the literary/poetic text from the common, normative language. The author feels free to use and misuse

Normalization and the Translation of Poetry


the language, to abuse it, to deconstruct and reconstruct it in accordance with esthetical or ideological options. And one of the major problems linked to the literary translation comes from the fact that translators are not always sensitive to the author's freedom. For instance: an author may choose (among a number of possible synonyms) the less common, the less "worn out" word, in order to enhance the strength of the idea (or object) he describes. A translator who does not master thoroughly the source language may not be sensitive to the rarity of the original word and may translate it into a common word. Such an improper choice may in its turn have damaging consequences as the author used such a rare word on the basis of historical or ideological resonances commanding a particular — maybe essential — dimension in the text. The translator being unsensitive to that dimension will not be able to communicate it to the readers who will read his translation, exclusively. There must be a parity/similarity between the author's vocabulary and his translator's. A rare and strong word must be translated into another rare and strong word. And the other way around. This prerequisite is often ignored. It is however of crucial importance in any translation process. Another problem occurs when the translator-levellizer does not feel the right tone of the original text. He finds himself in the situation of a piano player who does not pay attention to the key-tone of his partition and forgets a "sharp" here, a "flat" there. One has to remember that the tone gives the text its coherence. The word "text" is contained in "texture". A translator who ignores the key-tone risks to create a nontext full of striking contradictions between the sense of the written text and its tone: it suddenly sounds like a range of falsetto tones. And this brings us to the third — certainly the most important — aspect of the stylistic levelling: the lack of correspondence between form and contents. In his poetical essay "Un art en crise" (1982), Efim Etkind perfectly summed up the problem. According to Efim Etkind, "The word translation is not really proper. To translate is to express the content of a text through another language." The problem is here linked to the interpretation of the word "contents": is it as clear as it seems to be? As far as scientific, philosophical, biological or historical texts are


Francoise Wuilmart

concerned, it is rather plain: the content is a sum of rational information. The form of the text plays a certain — superficial — part but can be ignored. This means that there is a whole production ranging from texts the form of which is unimportant to texts the form of which has become its content. Here we are: "the form itself becomes the content of the text". In terms of iconography, one could say that the nonliterary text is a mere photography of Sainte Victoire Mountain whereas the literary text is the same mountain painted by Cezanne, full of conical, circular and square figures. Should someone describe Cezanne's painting to a blind man, mentioning trees, stones and plants only, it would be tantamount to treason. Describing for the same blind man the photo of the mountain (cones, square and circular figures) would be another kind of treason. We are here at the very core of the problem: the problem of the faithful, proper translation, acknowledging that form is art. And let me quote again Efim Etkind, analysing Verlaine's Chanson: Les sanglots longs Des violons De l'automne Blessent mon coeur D'une langueur Monotone... This poem exists through its sounds and tones. Because of them. "Les sanglots" and "des violons de l'automne" are but words loaded with an associative value; it is hardly possible to, through them, perceive material phenomena belonging to the outside world. Verlaine does not really write about wind, rain, leaves falling down: he uses symbols and associates sounds and tones in order to express a particular state of mind. "Longs-violons, coeur-langueur". According to Etkind, any translator willing to translate Verlaine's Chanson into another language will have to respect and properly transcribe Verlaine's original choice of associations, sounds and tones. The basic sense of the words is, in such a context, of minor importance. The core of Verlaine's poem lies in the melody of the text, in the sadness of its atmosphere: any other kind of "faithfulness" would be treason. One could say that at this point any poetical translation is a metatranslation: in order to recreate the poem, the translator has to use extra resources, extratextual elements. Verlaine's

Normalization and the Translation of Poetry


German translators understood this very dimension: they left aside the "violons" and the "sanglots" and chose other words, other "objects", the sounds and tones of which generate, in German, the sadness and the melancholy expressed by Verlaine. Words alone do not allow us to perceive the whole signification of a literary or poetical text in the sense that its words are parts — only parts — of a bigger text which may be compared to a painting or a piece of patchwork: the value of every word depends upon its location in the text; it may be enhanced, distorted or weakened by "neighbouring" words, by the number of times it is being used... One may compare the variations of a word with the variations of a colour: the same red becomes deeper, lighter or brighter, according to the nearby colour and the overall colour structure of the painting. This is why artists, whatever their art is, are being irritated by the constant question of the un-initiated: "What does your film — or your poem — mean?". Such a question is hardly relevant since what the artist means is expressed in his works, and through his works only; his film/ poem is the only genuine answer to the question. In other words: the literary text's signification is unique, absolutely unique. Let me draw an explicit parallel: at times, a person's body language contradicts the apparent sense of his/her words; fugitive eyes, uncontrolled handmoves may radically contradict the sense of a sentence. The "dress" (looks, gestures) wrapping up the words, as well as the "movement of the voice" (intonation), affect the pure signification and sort of pull the word out of the dictionary to give it a part in an extremely complex semantic ballet. Any literary or poetic text is based upon such dialectics. The melodic structure of a text, its rhythm, the subtle distribution of semantemes or phonemes as well as its tones and sonorities drag the words into a wide symphony within which any verbal value becomes relative. In that wider frame, the word is chosen to "serve" the whole composition; it is selected — among other words — on the basis of its length, on the basis of its intertextual references or simply because of its sound and tone, as Edgar Poe's "Nevermore". The specific, chosen word can neither be replaced nor subtracted from the whole text: to retrieve such a word would be like pulling a stone out of a mosaic. It would be a disaster. The "aesthetic" value of the form (le signifiant) is so important that it


Francoise Wuilmart

can contradict the very signification (meaning/sense) of the text. At times, paradoxically enough, the form simply ruins the sense of a text. In Heinrich Heine's "Meeresstille" the rhythm and the sounds of the words (mostly harsh, raw, brutal) point to an atmosphere opposite to the ocean harmony. Listen to the German text: Meeresstille Meeresstille! Ihre Strahlen Wirft die Sonne auf das Wasser, Und im wogenden Geschmelde Zieht das Schiff die grunen Furchen. Bei dem Steuer liegt Auf dem Bauch und Bei dem Mastbaum, Kauert der beteerte

der Bootsmann schnarchet leise. segelflickend, Schiffsjung'.

Hinterm Schmutze seiner Wangen Spruht es rot, wehmucig zuckt es Um das breite Maul, und schmerzlich Schaun die grossen schdnen Augen. Denn der Kapitan steht vor ihm, Tobt und flucht und schillt ihn Spitzbub'. « Spitzbub'! einen Hering hast du Aus der Tonne mir gestohlen!» Meeresstille! Aus den Wellen Taucht hervor ein kluges Fischlein, Warmt das Kbpfchen in der Sonne, Platschert lustig mit dem Schwanzchen. Doch die Mbwe, aus den Luften, Schiesst herunter auf das Fischlein, Und den raschen Raub im Schnabel, Schwingt sie sich hinauf ins Blaue. Heine's translator, Gerard d e Nerval, translated "Meeresstille" as follows (surprisingly, the author approved Nerval's translation). La mer est calme. Le soleil reflete ses rayons dans 1'eau, et sur la surface onduleuse et argentee le navire trace des sillons d'emeraude.

Normalization and the Translation of Poetry


Le pilote est couche sur le ventre, pres du gouvernail, et ronfle legerement. Pres du grand mat raccommodant des voiles, est accroupi le mousse goudronne. Sa rougeur perce a travers la crasse de ses joues. sa large bouche est agitee de tressaillements nerveux, et il regarde ?a et la tristement aves ses grands beaux yeux. Car le capitaine se tient devant lui, tempete et jure et le traite de voleur: « Coquin! tu m'as vole un hareng dans le tonneau!» La mer est calme. Un petit poisson monte a la surface de I'onde, chauffe sa petite tete au soleil et remue joyeusement I'eau avec sa petite queue. Cependant, du haut des airs, la mouette fond sur le petit poisson, et, sa proie fretillante dans son bee, s'eleve et plane dans I'azur du ciel. This translation enlightens perfectly the content of the poem, the story, the scene and the two events taking place at the same time: the captain getting angry with the young sailor who stole a herring while a seagull catches a little fish before flying back to the skies where it will quietly eat its prey. This "poetic content" seems poor, and would be uninteresting if the form did not "save" it. One could of course blame Nerval for flattening the contents and levelling the form so radically that it vanishes in the French version. Furthermore, the very configuration of the sonnet is, in Nerval's version, replaced by prosaic sentences. The title of the poem as well as its first word point to a calm sea landscape. The two related events are not quiet at all, however: on the contrary. Still, they belong to everyday life: a captain getting angry with a young sailor while a bird is being seen swallowing a fish This is the first contradiction: two minor wars taking place in the middle of a quiet sea landscape. The ideological aspect of this double scene is noticeable: one may associate to child labour, or the exploitation of the working class by almighty leaders, unsensitive adults. One could also make an ethical comparison between nature (where an animal steals from another one to feed itself) and society (within which human relationships are essentially unequal, distorted). But all these elements would remain plain and banal without the message carried by the form of the poem itself: the rhythm of the text is generated by hammered octosyllables. The assonances and alliterations are mainly whistling, fricative, explosive; most of the consonants are


Francoise Wuilmart

hard and dull, brutally colliding with each other. In other words, the form of this text heavily affects (and inverts) the content: the casual, banal content is being expressed through a rebel rhythm, loaded with cruelty and harshness. Nerval's translation illustrates perfectly the process of levelling, smoothing out of a text, his French version being a banal story without any musical relief: 1 would hardly call it a poem. En mer par grand calme En mer par grand calme ! Le soleil Jette sur I'onde ses rayons, Et sur le liquide joyau Trace la nef un vert sillon. Le timonier, affale, dort En ronflant pres du gouvernail ; Le mousse engoudronne, au pied Du mat, raccommode les voiles. Sous le goudron ses joues rougeoient, Une moue d'infinie tristesse Crispe sa bouche, au bord des larmes Ses grands beaux yeux sont douloureux. Le capitaine est devant lui, Furieux, qui I'insulte et qui tonne: « Coquin ! tu as vole, tu m'as Pris tout un hareng dans la tonne !» En mer par grand calme ! Hors des vagues Emerge un beau petit poisson Qui chauffe au soleil son museau Et gaiement sa queue frappe l'eau. Mais la mouette en fendant Tether, Pique sur le gentil poisson Et, sa proie dans son leste bee, S'elance et se fond dans I'azur. (Traduction de travail, stade au 1 octobre 1997) I certainly prefer Nicole Taubes' recent translation of Heine's poem. In spite of an enhanced romantic dimension, Ms Taubes succeeded in re-

Normalization and the Translation of Poetry


creating the sonority and rhythm of the original composition. I would like to add here that she achieved her translation within the geometrical semantics defining Heine's sea landscape: if "movement-verbs" were lines and curves, we would obtain a number of vertical, horizontal and oblique lines crossing one another and cutting across a landscape defined by the sea surface, the horizon and the sky (the sun casts its rays, the boat ploughs its way through the sea, a character is lying, the other one is squatting down, a third one is standing up, the seagull is diving into the sea before flying back into the skies...). All these lines are indeed moving, generating a general impression of lightnings bumping into each other, rushing in different directions and enhancing the sensation of unrest, as opposed to harmony. These lines never converge. And this sort of visual semantics reflects the aggressiveness contained in the very musical structure of the poem. Gerard de Nerval missed it all: his translation is the result of a radical levelling process close to treason 3. Idea-levelling There is a third form of levelling: I would call it "ideological" A number of translators seem to ignore the fact that the — sometimes revolutionary — movement of a text is contained in its form as well as in its very substance/signification. Let me examine here the specific example of Ernst Bloch's works. I am particularly acquainted with Bloch, whose works I have been translating under more than 20 years. His "Principe d'Esperance" contains a perfect adequation between thought and writing. To sum up, 1 would say that the new philosophical categories as well as Bloch's open system had to be expressed through an adequate language: by "adequate", I mean open, new, creative and somewhat disturbing; suggestive and non-discursive by all means. The Blochian writing bores and breaks through rigid, traditional concepts; it splits up their hard but worn out varnish and distorts the so-called "normal syntax" in order to transform a text into a musical composition. In Bloch's mind, music remains the supreme form of artistic expression. And the various constituents of Bloch's writing are identical to the constituents of the ethical action he stands for: tension, energy, colour,


Francoise Wuilmart

subversion, as well as a prophetic vision which pushes and blazes and shoves the reader into a "militant optimism" How? I would say that Bloch grasps the German language by its very root. He regenerates a range of concepts and elements smoothed out or ruined by time itself, freshing up their original — and forgotten — meaning. This etymological research colours his text by offering a new space to ancient archetypes, myths, symbols or allegories. Washed out adverbs, conjunctions and other minor pieces of language, worn out by long daily use, are being given back their original strength and sense. Let me add here that Bloch shows a certain predilection for a particular type of structure which may be compared to the echophenomenon: the binary structure (Furcht-Ehrfurcht/bewusst-gewusst); one does not have to master German to appreciate the rhythmical impact of these lexical couples. However, if the echo-effect is formally and rhythmically obvious, the message carried by the resonance moves away from the first voice; it moves further or, at times, contradicts it. Similarly, the Blochian philosophy is a radical enemy of sterile repetition; it enhances the need for transgressive overstepping through, in the first place, writing. Let me take another example: the lexical juggling used by Bloch to compose nearly musical variations upon a basic theme (often a semanteme like, for instance, "wirklich" ['real']). The modulations of this word achieved by an addition of various affixes or verbal flexions (Verwirklichtsein — des Verwirklichenden — das Verwirklichte — die Aporien der Verwirklichung, etc..) always reflect a modulation of reality; in the mentioned example, it reflects the various stages of the realisation process in dialectical materialism. These unexpected verbal compositions, these astonishing combinations of tangible and abstract, are many in "Principe d'Esperance" Bloch calls Don Quixote's story "Priigelgeschichte des abstrakt Unbedingten": the abstract Absolute's flogging story. The constant association of uneven lexical elements is always underlined by a deep stream made of explosive, subversive, Promethean, Jobian or Mosaic strength, precisely expressed through an unusual language made of upsetting, deviating expressions. This is the Exodus language, the language of departure. Familiar stereotypes and locutions are being distorted and disfigured in order to split up the surface made of traditional and conventional

Normalization and the Translation of Poetry


relationships; new linguistical combinations create new — sometimes surrealistic — constructions generating a possible New. The emergence of a real New is, as a matter of fact, one central entity within the Blochian philosophy. Rhythm, melodic structure, scansion, metaphor, splitting up worn out concepts and deconstructing traditional syntax are, as a conclusion, the major constituents of the only writing to deserve the label "poetic" Writing, by itself, brings forth thoughts through mere style and form. Writing is in itself an expression, the verbal birth of a particular world vision. Writing is the first laboratory in which the negative varnish — the varnish of the real world — starts cracking. Obviously, a French translation should neither level nor smooth out such effects: any levelling or smoothing out might indeed falsify the original composition and denaturalize the author's philosophical views and ethics. A translator willing to protect himself from any "normalization threat" should indeed keep in mind that empathy is a major — and overwhelming — factor acting at the very core of the translating process. In this perspective, the "good" translator is the one who deeply perceives and feels the original "voice" of a given text, such a perception or feeling being generated by a phenomenon of "mimetism" or "identification" Empathy is certainly not a product of ideological ties or similar views. In fact, one may deeply enjoy a text and at the same time dislike its author. In my view, empathy reveals above all a similar approach to things and situations, analog temperaments giving birth to what 1 am tempted to call a "similar global sensitivity"... Maybe I should use here the expression "same wave length" which in its turn leads to a certain style, a particular sensitivity Valery Larbaud used to ask translators: "Tell me who you translate and I will tell you who you are." 1 certainly make this question mine. Let me be more specific: the empathy 1 felt for Ernst Bloch or Jean Amery was never due to the fact that these authors were, one a marxist Jew, the second one an existentialist victim of the holocaust. In these particular cases, the identification phenomenon has to do with the writers' sensitivity as well as with the remarkable manner in which they transcend and aesthetically sublimate their emotions through textual rhythms and melodies. 1 should add that I have always found it easy,


Francoise Wuilmart

natural in some way, to translate — or re-create — Bloch's fundamental enthusiasm and vital energy, since I feel these very basic elements shaping my own verbal and written expression. Equally, 1 have always felt deep affinities with the underlying structure and perception which characterize Jean Amery's writings: 1 am referring here to the implacable logic and the sarcastic bitterness generated by evil. Here are themes and tunes which feel familiar to me; themes and tunes which 1 can — naturally, so to say — recreate in my own language. In other words, a piano player talented enough to play Chopin wonderfully might — in spite of his talent — sound very dull when playing Bach. As a conclusion, let me stress again that in order to protect himself from the threat of normalization, the translator of poetry and poetic prose has to get rid of all sorts of linguistic "iron collars" A translator has to remember that his/her own language has to be seen, felt and used as a living organ, full of profitable germs and developing seeds ready to be transplanted into other living organs, into new cultural and linguistical bodies. A language is and must be considered flexible, fluid and adaptable: it may be transformed, distorted and reshaped without getting damaged or diminished, without losing its very substance or nature. Ultimately, a language should be comprehended as an open territory ready to welcome new world visions, new aesthetics; it should be used as a fertile ground letting new bodies grow and produce new seeds. Fully aware of this complex challenge, brave enough to face the many risks and trapfalls inherent in his freedom, talented enough to recreate what "his" writer originally composed, and last, but not least, eager to remain faithful to his own culture and language as well as to the culture and language he has to transpose, then — and only then — the translator will be entitled to consider that he has accomplished his mission. Traduit du frangais par Catherine Gierow


Inga-Stina Ewbank IS NORMALIZATION INEVITABLE? Discussion of Francoise Wuilmart's Paper "Normalization and the Translation of Poetry"

Francoise Wuilmart's essay eloquently argues that normalization is at the very heart of the problem of all literary translation; and no one, surely, would seriously disagree with her. On matters of principle there is little I can or need add to her well-illustrated attack on "levelling' and her demonstration of how and why 'the translator-neutralizer' sins — culturally, stylistically and ideologically — in reducing the 'polysemic' text of a literary discourse to a 'normal' piece of writing. Nor, although I find it a daunting counsel of perfection, would I quarrel with her model of the ideal translator as one who has a natural empathy — an affinity of temperament and sensibility — with the writer s/he is translating, and who escapes the threat of normalization by being, at one and the same time, faithful to the culture and language of the source text and creative within the target language. So my response to her paper is of the nature of a 'yes, and...', with an occasional 'yes, but...'. What I will do is expand the discussion of what 1 see as the keypoints of her argument, in particular of 'fidelity' and of the (im)possibility of avoiding normalization. I also wish to expand the discussion to include dramatic texts, since translating poetry and poetic prose for stage performance involves particular problems in relation to normalizing Almost inevitably — and by definition, if we agree that normalization is at the heart of our enquiry — I shall be touching on most of the other topics of the Symposium.


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As a professional academic and only an occasional and amateur translator, I find it easier to argue through specific, and often historical, examples. Francoise Wuilmart has wisely chosen to concentrate on positives in reminding us of the qualities of creative texts — vocabulary, rhythm, sound, tone, etc. — which go to make form and content interdependent, and which normalization (as she finely puts it) 'betrays'.1 Comparing translations with their originals can be all-too-easy and negative a critical exercise, and though my own strategy will often be to do just that, this is not in order to engage in translator-baiting but to be able to discuss general problems through minute particulars. When, from a position of modest bilinguality, I find examples of translators' 'treason' in English or Scandinavian texts, then I am outraged.2 But when 1 come, myself, to attempt translation, I am humbled — forever re-discovering the truth of the old Swedish saying which, literally translated, goes: 'It is easy to say "tulip-rose", but make one, make one!'. 3 Inadequacy, compromise, dissatisfaction — these are, in my experience, the lot of the translator. Even August Wilhelm Schlegel, the great German translator of Shakespeare, spoke of translation as 'ein undankbares Handwerk, wobey man immerfort durch das Gefuhl unvermeidlicher Unvollkommenheiten gequalt wird'. 4 And as an autotranslator Samuel Beckett may be an extreme case in point. To

'I should perhaps explain that I have been privileged to read her essay both in the original French and in English translation; and that her own text makes its points not only by what it says but also by how it says it. The 'cceur' in her opening sentence, which places normalization 'au cceur meme du probleme de toute traduction litteraire', has an emotional charge lacking in English 'core'. 2 I first became involved in translating through such an experience of outrage: asked by the National Theatre in London to comment on what was regarded as the standard translation of Ibsen's John Cabnel Borkman. 1 read in the translator's 'Note on the Translation' that he had found the play's language 'tiresomely repetitive' and had decided to 'trim' and 'thin out' the dialogue. So much for the relation of form to content in a play about obsessive, and therefore repetitive, people 3

'Det ar latt att saga "tulipanaros", men gbr't, gor't!' 'A thankless task in which one is continuously tormented by the sense of ineluctable imperfections': letter to Goethe. 15 March 1811. 4

Is Normalization Inevitable?


read — or better still listen to — Fin de partie and Endgame, is to most of us not so much a matter of an original and a translation as of two original texts which are not the same because the linguistic and cultural differences between the two languages make sameness impossible. Yet we are told that Beckett, attending a rehearsal of Endgame in London and hearing his own English version of Clov's punning remark about the telescope, 5 exclaimed: 'It's a rotten line. Bad translation... The more I go on the more I think things are untranslatable.' Beckett's statement becomes a little less of an impasse if we translate it as 'normalization is inevitable'. But before exploring the questions which this begs (not asks), I would wish to test the concept of fidelity: the faithfulness to the original text which is every translator's aim — or is it? In translation theory, now a flourishing academic subject, such faithfulness has become the object of questioning, based on poststructuralist conceptions of textuality in which any original text is itself a translation — a deferred, or incomplete, process of finding a signifier for a signified. Theorists like Derrida and Paul de Man have rejected the notion of a binary opposition between 'original' and 'translation'. To Derrida, a translation 'will truly be a moment in the growth of the original, which will complete itself in enlarging itself'.6 Theory may seem a long way, here, from the practical experience of translating; but I have found it peculiarly relevant to the translation of dramatic texts for performance, where one is faced with the problem of reconciling the often contradictory aims of faithfulness to an original (as I insist on calling it) text, speakability for the actors, and intelligibility for an audience. The last two, in fact, tend to boil down to what sounds right, i.e. 'normal', to a contemporary English ear. 1 don't for a moment believe that directors wanting a free version rather than a faithful translation are consciously thinking of themselves as serving the


'Ca alors, pour une longue-vue c'est une longue-vue': 'That's what I call a magnifier'. (See Harry Cockerham, 'Bilingual Playwright', in Katherine Worth, ed., Beckett the Shape Changer (London, 1975), p. 144.) "Jacques Derrida, 'Des tours de Babel', quoted from Lawrence Venuti, ed., Rethinking Translation (London, 1992), p. 7.


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original by an act of 'enlarging' deconstruction. But we are, willy-nilly, living in a postmodern culture which favours and legitimizes 're-writing', particularly in the theatre. In the hands of a creative director, this activity can produce results such as Ingmar Bergman's Hamlet, King Lear or Winter's Tale. In less creative contexts it can simply come to mean a Strindberg who is tidied up, explained, paraphrased: shorn of the uncanny strength he achieves by bending the vocabulary of the Swedish language, and its rules of grammar, syntax and punctuation, to his own needs. Or it can come to mean an Ibsen normalized to sound like an inferior Galsworthy. Lest I sound as if I were grinding a personal axe, I should mention that 1 have been fortunate to work with brilliant professional directors genuinely committed to faithfulness, down to the last ubiquitous exclamation mark of a Strindberg text, or the last dash of a significantly uncompleted sentence in an Ibsen text; and to work with actors prepared to make speakable a translation attempting to show, through the English, at least some of the qualities of the language of Ibsen or Strindberg — which rarely amounts to the same as good standard English. But the general point I am making is (a) that we cannot in the present cultural climate take for granted the value of fidelity to an orginal text, and (b) that this makes normalization an even more 'constant threat' Perhaps I am also making the point that the practice of translation puts theory in perspective. I cannot, therefore, refrain from mentioning an example which seems to me to challenge the notion that the denser — the more polysemic — a text is, the freer the translator is to write his/her own version of it. It concerns James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, a work which plays havoc with just about every norm of the English language, and which makes new — 'portmanteau' — words by collapsing into each other words from several languages, playing with their roots and building them into expansive puns. In a recent intriguing article, Arie Altena records an experiment in which it was hoped that new meanings would spring from a double translation. An unsuspecting translator, thinking that she was dealing with an original text, was asked to translate into English a Japanese translation of a section of Finnegans Wake. According to Altena, the Japanese text is 'brilliant... and preserves the principle of the pun and the portmanteau in its own,

Is Normalization Inevitable?


uniquely Japanese way'. What happened was that the unfortunate translator tried to make sense of the 'abnormal' Japanese and that, thus returned into would-be normal English, the resulting text is not only flat ('emousse', or 'worn out', in Francoise Wuilmart's terminology) but also nonsensical — more abnormal, though differently so, than Finnegans Wake7 The moral 1 wish to draw from this failed (and, to the second translator, rather cruel) experiment is that the 'constant threat' of normalization undermines the theoretical notion of translations 'enlarging', let alone 'completing', the original. Turning then to the problem of avoiding the threat of normalization, 1 wish to explore Francoise Wuilmart's point about the importance of awareness, in the translator, of the relation between form and content in the text to be translated. She quotes Efim Etkind on the scale of 7

Arie Altena, 'Metandmorefussed', Mediamatic 9#1. May 1998 (electronic text only). I reproduce here a passage in the original text and its re-translation, leaving out the intermediary Japanese version:

Finnegans Wake say, to a lady of the latter's acquaintance, engaged in performing the elaborative antecistral ceremony of upstheres, straight away to run off and vision her plump and plain in her natural altogether, preferring to close his blinkhard's eyes to the ethiquethical fact that she was, after all, wearing for the space of the time being some definite articles of evolutionary clothing, inharmonious creations, a captious critic might describe them as, or not strictly necessary or a trifle irritating here and there.

Re-translation for example it is like a lady acquaintance of the latter man, who visualizes in a flash, the body in its newborn state of absolute nudity focusing on a contrivedly scrupulous ancestral defecation rite; and it is like wearing real items of evolutionary outfits in front of the very eyes of the lady, and to close those blinking eyes to the ceremonious ethical truth, while the outfit, which is dismissed as the result of disparity by a critic who excels at finding faults, is not strictly necessary; or like the small irritations, which lie here and there.


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these relations, from independence to where the form 'becomes' the content; and the implication is that normalization is the more pernicious the closer we are to the latter end of the scale. While I agree in principle, I think it is worth remembering that we do not even have to move into the range of ostensibly literary texts for form, in the sense of words chosen for their tonal values, to become important. And that the greater the distance between the two cultures involved, the greater the threat involved in normalization. In a speech during his recent state visit to Britain, the Emperor of Japan used the words 'kokoro no itami' to express his nation's feeling about those who suffered in Japanese prison-camps during World War II. Literally meaning 'pain in our hearts', this is apparently within a Japanese cultural context a strongly emotive phrase. The official translator who, we are told, feared that a British audience might take the phrase literally and believe that the Emperor referred to a physical heart condition, normalized the phrase as 'deep sorrow'. The result was an angry outburst from a spokesman for the Japanese Labour Camps Survivors' Association who saw the normalization as a 'deliberate misrepresentation', a political act of 'outrageous trickery' by the interpreter to make the English think they had received an apology which the Japanese knew the Emperor had not uttered. 8 A similar phrase in a more obviously literary text may serve to remind us that the threat of aesthetic betrayal through normalizing lurks in the apparently normal. In the opening lines of the first scene of Hamlet, Francisco thanks Bernardo for relieving him on guard, since ' Tis bitter cold, / And 1 am sick at heart'. Two reasons for his gratitude are given, not causally related. By the second clause he presumably means that he is thoroughly wretched, but his 'sick at heart' is the first of the play's many references to sickness, literal and metaphorical, in the state of Denmark; and the phrase serves to initiate us into the moral atmosphere of the play. Not quite so when Francisco's feelings are 'explained' by normalization, as in Schlegel's 'mir ist schlimm zu Muth', echoed in Hagberg's 'ilia ar det mig till mods', or even more rationally in Letourneur's reading which makes the cold solely responsible

'Anger over "deep sorrow" reference'. The Times, 28 May 1998, p. I.

Is Normalization Inevitable?


for Francisco's condition: 'je suis tout transi', in turn echoed by FrancoisVictor Hugo's 'Le froid est aigre, et je suis transi jusqu'au cceur' 9 The moral of the above paragraph is that in a literary text even the most apparently ordinary phrase is not necessarily best translated by an idiomatic equivalent of the 'meaning'; it needs to be considered in relation to the whole verbal tissue of which it is part. This is as true for the prose of Ibsen, whose language has all-too-often been regarded as simply a transparent plastic wrapping round his social or psychological 'messages', as it is for the poetry of Shakespeare. For example, in the final dialogue of John Gabriel Borkman, as two elderly twin sisters reach out to each other over the dead body of the man they have both loved, every word, pause and punctuation mark counts. The choice of words, the strangely impersonal grammar and the slow heavy rhythm complete a pattern of winter and cold which has been immanent in the play as a whole and is epitomised in the key-word of this nearlitany: 'hjertekulden'. It is a compound of 'heart' and 'cold', an unusual word with a touch of the oxymoronic - for the heart is more readily associated with warmth — which thus articulates the reason why three lives have been wasted. English, unlike the purely Germanic languages, no longer runs naturally to compounds, and 'heart-cold' would be dangerously close to the ludicrous by evoking analogues with 'headcold'. The translator has to try to find a language that can be spoken, understood and that also preserves the original's unity of form and content. At such times it may be important to heed Walter Benjamin's point that 'it is not always the highest praise of a translation... to say that it reads as if it had originally been written in that language'.10 It may be easier to heed that point when translating poetry or drama than when dealing with the narrative prose of an apparently 'realistic' novel, where the reader is expecting to feel at home in the


The translations referred to are Letourneur, CEuvres de Shakespeare (Paris, 17761782); Francois-Victor Hugo, Theatre Complet de Shakespeare (Paris, 1859-1866); A.W. Schlegel, Shakespeare's dramatische Werke (Berlin, 1797-1810); Karl August Hagberg, Shakespeares dramatiska arbeten (Stockholm. 1847-1851). l0 Walter Benjamin, 'The task of the translator', in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York, 1969), pp. 69-82; 79.


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fictive world. Looking at different translations of Jane Eyre, I have been struck by the degree of normalization in the early French translation." The French reader (unlike the German, or Swedish) would have known little of the direct appeals to the reader which are essential to Charlotte Bronte's style and technique — most famously in 'Reader, I married him', which becomes a factual 'J'ai enfin epouse M. Rochester'. Addressed, when at all, by the more formal 'vous' (as against the German translation's 'Du'), the individual French reader is not invited, for example, into Jane's agony as she is tearing herself away from Rochester: 'Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt!' Here the 'Gentle reader' becomes "Vous tous qui lirez ce livre'. The intimate emotional engagement asked for by the style of the original is transformed into collective appeal and a cool, clear detachment. Nor, therefore, would the French reader have known how keenly both form and content of the original novel depends on images which almost bodily draw the reader into Jane's passionate inner life. 'A fiery hand of iron grasped my vitals' is how the text renders Jane's ordeal when, after the abortive wedding, she is struggling against the temptation to abandon herself to Rochester. In French this has become 'une main de fer pesait sur moi', thus losing both the 'vitals' and the fire — a recurrent image in the novel, and one which uncannily links Jane with Bertha, the mad wife in the attic. The earliest German translation does its best to keep both: 'eine gluhende, eiserne Hand griff in meine innersten Lebenstheile'; and so does the Swedish: 'det var som om en glodande jarnhand gripit in i mitt innersta'. Mme Lesbazeiiies-Souvestre, the French translator, explains in the 'Avertissement' which prefaces her translation that she has taken pains to adapt Charlotte Bronte's language 'au genie de notre langue'. Interestingly, the 'genius' of the particular language here overrides gender, as the male German translator seems more prepared than the female French to translate a woman's language

"The following translations are referred to: Jane Eyre, ou Les Memoires d'une Institutrice, trans. Mme Lesbazeiiies-Souvestre (Paris: Giraud, 1854: Hachette, 1856); Jane Eyre, die Waise von Lowood, trans. Christoph Friedrich Grieb (Stuttgart, 1850; 2nd ed., 1864); Jane Eyre, trans. C. J. Backman (Stockholm, n.d.).

Is Normalization Inevitable?


faithfully.12 She, on the other hand, has in a sense re-written Jane Eyre, normalizing its language into a more 'well-groomed' text. 13 To discuss normalizing in the translation of poetry raises particular problems of what the receptor language and culture at any given time regard as normal. It might be said that some of the most difficult poems to translate are those which appear to be written in a perfectly 'normal' language. Schlegel provides me with an example when he contrasts an English version of Goethe's 'Der Sanger' with the original: Ich singe wie der Vogel singt. Der in den Zweigen wohnet; Das Lied, das aus der Kehle dringt, 1st Lohn, der reichlich lohnet.

1 2 3 4

As chants the bird on yonder bough, So flows my artless lay; And well the artless strains that flow The tuneful task repay.

1 2 3 4

These lines are really a poem within the poem: the singer has been brought into an artificial court setting and is offered gold as a reward for his song but rejects it, asserting the natural joy of spontaneous creation. Schlegel regrets what he sees as the irrevocable loss, in the translation, of the magic of the original creative impulse.14 My point here is that the English translator has normalized by de-normalizing — an apparent paradox which reflects the fact (a) that the very normality of Goethe's poem is a poetic device, and (b) that the English translator has thought it normal for poetry to use 'poetic diction', i.e. to observe conventions which separate the language of poetry from that of common usage. Goethe performs the minor miracle of fitting absolutely ordinary words and syntax into a regular ballad stanza of rhyming iambic tetrameter (1 and 3) and trimeter (2 and 4) lines. The translator preserves l2

Anxious to present her own name only as a combination of her father's (Emile Souvestre) and husband's (Eugene Lesbazeilles), this translator was clearly far less of a feminist than Currer Bell/Charlotte Bronte. l3 This translation remained popular: by 1920 it had run into 21 editions. l4 Schlegel in a review of A Collection of German Ballads and Songs (1799), in Sdmtliche Werke. ed. E. Bbcking (Leipzig, 1846-1847), vol. 11, p. 405.


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the metrical form (though he loses the suggestive effect of the feminine rhymes in Goethe's lines 2 and 4) but, to do so, breaks the rules of English syntax by inverting word order ('As chants the bird') and suspending a main verb ('repay'). He chooses words that are archaic ('yonder bough', 'lay') or affected (the bird doesn't sing; it 'chants'). Artlessness is the art of Goethe's poem: it makes its statement by being artless. The translation spells the meaning out by using the word 'artless' twice, but it isn't artless: form and content have gone separate ways. The general point here is that the history of poetry is one of successive rebellions of poets against the norms of their immediate predecessors, and that the translator needs to be aware of the rejections of stylistic norms contained within an apparently normal language. (In the specific case above, the translator of Goethe's poem seems unaware that Wordsworth had established a norm by calling, in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, for 'language really used by men'.) In turn, the shifting of norms from age to age raises the problem of what normalization means when you are translating not only from one language into another but from one age into another. The source text stays fixed in time while the target language and culture move. In England a good deal of Shakespeare was re-written into a less polysemic language in a period when the Royal Society had established norms of clarity and univocal meanings. Should German Shakespeare sound as if he had lived and written at the end of the eighteenth century, and French Shakespeare as if he was a contemporary of Francois-Victor Hugo? When Marcel Schwob and Eugene Morand prepared a new French translation of Hamlet for Sarah Bernhardt in 1900, they felt they had fallen between two stools as they found themselves criticized in France because of Tarchai'sme' and in England because of neologismes'. I5 Does each generation need a new translation of the great classics and, if so, is this not only an unavoidable but a laudable form of normalization? A timely illustration of this last question is Ted Hughes' version of Ovid's Metamorphoses, published in 1997. We need only compare his version of the opening lines with that of John Dryden — one of many


Hamlet. trans. Eugene Morand and Marcel Schwob (Paris, 1900), Introduction, pp. xxvi-xxvii.

Is Normalization Inevitable?


English poet-translators of Ovid and in his day, like Ted Hughes now, Poet Laureate — to see how each is of his time: (Dryden, 1700)

Of bodies changed to various forms I sing: Ye gods, from whom these miracles did spring, Inspire my numbers with celestial heat, Till I my long laborious work complete; And add perpetual tenor to my rhymes, Deduced from nature's birth to Caesar's times.

(Hughes, I 997)

Now I am ready to tell how bodies are changed Into different bodies. 1 summon the supernatural beings Who first contrived The transmogrifications In the stuff of life. You did it for your own amusement. Descend again, be pleased to reanimate This revival of those marvels. Reveal now, exactly How they were performed From the beginning Up to this moment.

Neither poet can be said to be very faithful to the original: (Ovid, c. 10 AD.)

In noua corpora; aspirate ad mea

fert animus mutatas dicere formas di, coeptis (nam uos mutastis et illas) meis primaque ab origine mundi perpetuum deducite tempora carmen.

Ovid's hexameter b e c o m e s in Dryden's case the 'heroic couplet': the r h y m e d iambic p e n t a m e t e r that d o m i n a t e d English verse in the Restoration a n d Augustan periods; in Hughes' it b e c o m e s free verse. Dryden, in an age when the Aeneid was the supreme model, 'normalizes' Ovid's opening into an epic invocation and slips in a reference to Caesar. Hughes sounds at first, to contemporary ears, as 'normal' as the opening of a Philip Larkin p o e m (such as 'Sexual intercourse began/ In nineteen sixty-three'); and, in a godless age he is clearly less ready t h a n Dryden to a d m i t 'miracles'. His gods did it for their 'own a m u s e m e n t ' . T h e r e is a h i n t of t h e g r o t e s q u e in t h e w o r d


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'transmogrifications', where we might have expected him to choose 'transformations', or 'transmutations'. In each of these two versions, Ovid has been sifted through the consciousness (which involves a sense of poetic norms) of a great poet who is also in a sense a normalizer. Francoise Wuilmart writes, in her conclusion, that the translator who wants to avoid the threat of normalization must cease to submit to the 'yoke' of his own (i.e. target) language. Here she has put her finger on what is clearly the most fundamental problem of all translation: the differences between the closed systems of different languages. In literary, especially poetic, translations these linguistic differences would seem to enforce a measure of normalization. How do you translate Hamlet's 'To be, or not to be' into Japanese which has no equivalent of the verb 'to be'? As AW. Schlegel emphasized, it takes infinite ingenuity to achieve the same result when using entirely different tools.16 And the different tools are not just facts of morphology, sound, grammar, etc.; they are inextricably both cause and effect of what Francoise Wuilmart describes earlier in her essay as the 'world vision' of a language. I am here rushing into an area where my only qualification is a certain SwedishEnglish bilingualism and an accompanying sense - subjective and impressionistic — of the varying possibilities of English as against the Scandinavian languages. English seems to me the more helpful medium for the intricacies and complexities of human relationships; the genius of the Scandinavian languages tends towards the larger-featured rendering of extreme states of mind. English feels soft and pliable: the vast polyglot vocabulary urges one to pursue nuances of meaning; the ubiquitousness of submerged or faded metaphors, of puns and other forms of wordplay, acts as a spur to the associative imagination; the malleable grammar encourages syntactic adventurousness. For the same reasons, the language can only too easily show signs of tiredness, of being used up: the simple threatens to turn into the banal, the familiar into cliche; repetitiveness can suggest a poverty of the imagination. In contrast, the


'Denn die Aufgabe des poetischen Uebersetzers ist eine ganz bestimmte, und zwar eine solche, die ins Unendliche hin nur durch Annaherung gelost werden kann, weil er mit ganz verschiednen Werkzeugen dasselbe ausrichten soil' (Sdmtliche Werke, vol. 12, p. 140).

Is Normalization Inevitable?


Scandinavian languages feel hard and unyielding: a smaller and purer vocabulary, a correspondingly limited range of word-rhythms, a far more restricting grammar — all these make the medium more sonorous but also less associative, and less rich in nuances, unless one is Strindberg, who both in poetry and prose manages to make Swedish seem not a 'yoke' but a medium of endless possibilities. Ibsen, on the other hand, makes a strength out of the "yoke' itself: hammers away at words until they seem to belong to some arcane language all his own, beats words into compounds which are not so much new words as revaluations of old ones, and so packs with suggestion (of the unspoken as much as the spoken) a style which in English translation can too easily become flat and colourless. Shakespeare translators have felt variously about the 'yoke'. Schlegel, for example, lamented his inability to do justice to Shakespeare's puns and other forms of word-play since the German language, he said, 'always wants to work, never to play' 17 Victor Hugo, on the other hand, for all his admiration of Shakespeare, foregrounded faithfulness to the French language: in the preface to his son's translation into French prose of the complete works of Shakespeare, he writes of English being to French like the night to the day, the moon to the sun. Out of 'cloudy' English, his son has made a 'clear' translation, 'fidele' and 'definitive'.18 My intention here is not to deplore the frenchifying of Shakespeare but to highlight the aspect of normalization which is ineluctably part of moving from one language to another — ineluctably, that is, unless the translator is able to break open what I referred to as the closed system of his/her own language. At this point it is worth remembering that, while Shakespeare was obviously born with a unique verbal imagination, it also matters — as one of many facts of his historical position which he turned to his advantage — that he was writing in a language which was not yet normalized. There was no dictionary of the English language


Sdmtliche Werke, vol 4, p. 128. Victor Hugo. 'Preface pour la nouvelle traduction de Shakespeare par FrancoisVictor Hugo' (1864) in CEuvres completes, ed. Jean Massin, vol. 12/1 (Paris, 1969), p. 330. l8


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until 1604, and Shakespeare was free to coin new words as he needed them for new experiences and ideas. No contemporary of Shakespeare's commented on 'neologisms' in Hamlet, although the play has the largest and most expressive vocabulary of all Shakespeare's plays and abounds in words new to the English language, many of which he never used again. The English of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century also had a fluid grammar, and there was a general, almost obsessive, interest in rhetorical structures which gave both scope and spurs to experimentation with words and word-patterns. Shakespeare — unlike, say, Racine — was free to turn nouns into verbs and vice versa, to make abstracts concrete and altogether to treat language as so much malleable clay — thereby driving to distraction any translator who wishes to avoid normalizing. For, as Victor Hugo asks, when lamenting that 'Shakespeare echappe', how do you translate 'unsex', or 'buttock of the night', or 'green girl', or the phrase where — as in Virgil's 'sunt lacrymae rerum' — Tindictible est dit': 'We have kissed away/Kingdoms and provinces'? Two brief examples from King Lear will illustrate how some aspects of Shakespeare's English may have to be normalized by even the ablest translators. To express his empathy with the sufferings of the mad old King, Edgar turns both 'child' and 'father' into verbs: 'He childed as I father'd!'19 Letourneur, who translated Shakespeare's works into French prose in the 1770s, made perfect sense of the phrase: 'II est aussi malheureux en enfans, que je le suis en pere'. So did Francois-Victor Hugo in the mid-nineteenth century: 'II est frappe comme pere, et moi comme fils!'. August Wilhelm Schlegel, in the classic German translation, embodied the sense in a blank verse line: 'Durch Kinder ihn, wie durch den Vater mich'; and the similarly classic Swedish translator, Karl August Hagberg, used, like Shakespeare, only three-fifths of such a line: 'Min far hans dottrar liknar'. Again, in Cordelia's prayer to the gods to restore the sanity of 'this child-changed father'20 Shakespeare compounds two possible meanings into one ambiguous adjective, 'child-changed': Lear is either changed by his cruel children or changed into a child or (most likely) both (i.e. here is a serious pun). Here translators have had to opt ,g

King Lear, III.6.I10 (in Quarto text only). King Lear, IV 7.17 (in both Quarto and Folio texts).


Is Normalization Inevitable?


for one alternative or the other: Letourneur and Hagberg for the former — 'ce bon pere, dont ses enfans ont aliene la raison'; 'denne far, av sina barn forbytt' — and Schlegel and Hugo for the latter: 'Dem Kind gewordnen Vater'; 'ce pere redevenu enfant'. (Only Hagberg, with 'far...forbytt', attempts an echo of the alliteration in 'child-changed'.) What emerges from these examples is a further illustration of the interdependence of form and content which Francoise Wuilmart emphasizes in her paper. King Lear is a play in which parents and children do unspeakable — indeed abnormal — things to each other, and Shakespeare is able to bend Edgar's and Cordelia's language, to make it, as it were, enact this abnormality, rather than — as in the normalized translations I have quoted — explain (indeed, in the French, even explicate) the facts. Escaping the 'yoke' of one's own language in translating poetry importantly involves finding a meter which conveys the rhythmic effects of the original. Because of different perceptions of, and traditions clinging to, meter in different literary cultures, this does not necessarily mean reproducing the original's meter. Spoken English, we are told, falls naturally into the rhythm of iambic pentameter. Shakespeare turned the blank verse he inherited from his predecessors into a flexible medium, capable of a range of effects, from stylized solemnity to a near-naturalistic following of the curve of the speaking voice and the mind behind it. Turned into rhyming alexandrines, as in some early French translations, his verse loses crucial characteristics, which explains why Victor Hugo was so anxious to stress the virtues of his son's prose translation. It can be a case of deciding which formal aspect you can least afford to sacrifice. At the moment 1 am involved in a collaboration on a translation of an early Ibsen play. Love's Comedy, where we have found that we must at all costs keep the rhyming couplets, as it is through them — through unexpected antitheses and echoes — that Ibsen makes, in a Byronic fashion, both his serious statements and his comic effects. Working some years ago with Geoffrey Hill on a version of Ibsen's Brand, where 1 was to supply a literal translation for him to turn into verse, was initially agonizing: Geoffrey had grave misgivings about finding an English equivalent of the rhyming four-beat meter — trochaic and iambic — to which Ibsen turned after abandoning an 'epic' version in iambic pentameters. A specimen 'literal' had only confirmed Geoffrey's


Inga-Stina Ewbank

suspicion that the play could sound like 6,000 lines of the Hiawatha. Coming upon a remark of Ibsen's, that he had aimed for a meter 'where I could career where I would, as on horseback', provided the solution. Geoffrey found that he could transpose Ibsen's metre into a largely three-beat English verse, and this enabled him to catch the tone and spirit, rather than the letter and meter, of Ibsen's verse. To take just one example. Brand, in setting out in a boat across the stormy fjord to bring solace to a dying man who has killed his own child, flings a couplet at the fearful bystanders: En Syndersjasl, sin Domsstund nasr, ej venter efter Vind og Vejr! Translated word by word, this goes: 'A sinner's soul, to his hour of judgment close, / Does not wait for wind and weather!' In the original, the matter-of-factness of the second line clashes ironically with the solemnity of the first. In the steady, categorical beat of the lines Brand is administering one of his many moral shock effects, clinching it with the rhyme. The Oxford Ibsen is faithful to the letter of the lines: A sinner's immortal soul, so close to perdition, Cannot wait upon wind and weather.21 Geoffrey Hill's rendering is apparently freer: A soul facing its doom can't linger till it's calm.22 But its half-rhyme preserves the shock of the original — the absurdity of measuring endless 'doom' against temporary and local 'calm'; and the rhythm and diction (avoiding a latinate 'perdition') mirror the characteristic Brand impatience. It would seem that this version is more faithful to the spirit, and indeed the ideology, of Brand as it is embodied in the play — and that it achieves this by the kind of creative openness


'Brand, translated by James Kirkup in collaboration with James Walter McFarlane, in The Oxford Ibsen, edited by James Walter McFarlane, vol. 3 (London, 1972), p.105. 22 Henrik Ibsen, Brand. A version for the stage by Geoffrey Hill (London: Penguin Classics, 1996), p. 28.

Is Normalization Inevitable?


to the possibilities of the receptor language which Francoise Wuilmart is asking for. But then Geoffrey Hill is a remarkable poet. After an emphatic 'yes, and', I must finish on a small 'yes, but': a reminder that normalization is not always a threat. In certain circumstances it can also be a boon. The Schlegel-Tieck translation of Shakespeare became a classic of German literature; and if this led to claims of 'unser Shakespeare' and of translated Shakespearean texts being superior to the originals, George Eliot has the wise comment that 'Shakespeare' in German is 'the same music played on another but as good an instrument'. 23 And out of the Shakespeare translations 1 have been referring to, there grew not only further translations across Europe (early Russian translations were based on French, early Polish ones were from the German, and so on), but also an impetus, both dramatic and political, towards the creation of a national and often a popular drama. It is possible for a normalized form to serve a new and important cultural content. Given the location of this seminar, I may be permitted a local example of how a poem written in one language and culture can become an icon in another language and culture. For generations of Swedes, and other Scandinavians, New Year's night was identified with a poem read by the actor Anders de Wahl on the stroke of midnight. He first declaimed it in public, wearing a white fur coat and standing by the bell-tower of the new national monument of Skansen, as the year 1895 turned into 1896. For exactly fifty years, until 1945/46, he performed the same outdoor rite, himself growing into a national monument. From the mid-1920s this reading was also broadcast over Swedish radio, and he continued to read from a studio until his last New Year, 1955/56. In a very homogeneous and radio-centred culture, most homes heard this poem (I quote the first two stanzas only): Ring, klocka, ring i bistra nyarsnatten mot rymdens norrskenssky och markens sno! Det gamla aret lagger sig att do. Ring sjalaringning over land och vatten! 23

I 2 3 4

George Eliot, 'Translations and Translators', The Leader. VII, 20 October 1855, 1014-15; reprinted in Thomas Pinney, ed., Essays of George Eliot (London, 1963), pp. 207-11; 210.


Inga-Stina Ewbank Ring in det nya, och ring i arets forsta skalvande Ring lognens makt fran och ring in sanningen till

ut det gamla minut! varldens granser ut, oss som famla!

It is of course a translation of poem CVI in Tennyson's In

1 2 3 4 Memoriam:

Ring out wild bells, to the wild sky, The flying cloud, the frosty light; The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

1 2 3 4

Ring out the old, ring in the new. Ring happy bells, across the snow; The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.

1 2 3 4

De Wahl had originally been struck by a translation of the poem printed on a New Year card; and he gradually 'improved' it, in ways which served his own declamatory style. What he read is, as a translation, metrically quite faithful. The Swedish is, I dare say, more sonorous than the English: the rolled Rs, the rhyme of 'sno' and 'do' for 'light' and 'night'. The resources of the language have been s u m m o n e d to make the imagery more striking and the action more dramatic: a compound like 'norrskenssky' ('northern-light-sky') for 'flying cloud', or 'ring sjalaringning' (Ting passing-bell') for 'let him die'. In the second stanza, the second line is quite re-conceived: 'Ring happy bells, across the snow' becomes an evocation of 'the first trembling minute of the year'; and in the third line, instead of what looks like a filler, 'let him go', there is the imperative to 'ring out the power of lies from the corners of the world', completed by a fourth-line plea to 'ring in truth to us who are fumbling'. But the most important translation is cultural: not just that mid-winter m e a n s different things in Lincolnshire and Scandinavia, respectively; but that a private poem of grief has been transmuted into a public ritual. I must be one of millions who, as a child, sat dazed with unwonted staying-up late, listening to the voice booming out of the radio, transfixed, imagining the old year lying down to die and the new being born 'in the first, trembling minute'. They are images that stay with you for life and, I find, still produce a frisson which I do not get from Tennyson's original poem.

Is Normalization Inevitable?


But perhaps nowadays, in a different age and culture, that frisson is also a reaction to a threat of normalization so thoroughly executed that it has become appropriation?


Anders Cullhed So RECOGNITION OR ESTRANGEMENT Discussion of Francoise Wuilmart's Paper "Normalization and the Translation of Poetry"

Traduttore traditore — that is a well-known Italian phrase, more or less identifying the translator with a traitor. It sounds like a harsh judgement, but many translators (and sometimes even good translators) have indeed demonstrated some treacherous or at least faithless tendencies. Francoise Wuilmart provides us with an excellent example of how one of the greatest French Romantic poets, Gerard de Nerval, interpreted a poem by Heinrich Heine in a rather unsatisfying way: "his translation is the result of a radical levelling process close to treason" And this "treason", we might add, is one of the worst sins that could occur in literary translation: the normalization and domestication of the original text, the careful elimination of its linguistic idiosyncrasies; in this case its neutralization into a strangely languid and, as it were, powerless French idiom. Mme Wuilmart's scepticism of this kind of normalization in translation can be traced far back in European literary history. Even now it is very conspicuous in our intense discussions of our relation to foreign, mainly non-European, cultures and of some concepts inherent in academic "Cultural studies", as for example the concept of strangeness or "otherness" (I'alterite in French, la otredad in Spanish). These discussions are sometimes centred on the work of the translator, operating along the borderline between different languages, cultures or conceptions of the world. The translator's mission is to do justice to a strange culture

Recognition or Estrangement


within the framework of his own, a delicate task indeed. If the distances in time and space between him and the original work are large, his task gets even more complicated. Is it even possible? Mme Wuilmart's claim that "the translator should be able to restitute the entire complexity of the original text" is perhaps stating an ideal case. Another great contemporary connoisseur of the art of literary translation, Mr George Steiner, deals more concretely with a splendid but rather sad case, that of Holderlin interpreting Oidipus and Antigone in his own German language: Holderlin's genius reaches its final realization in translation because the clash, mediation, and dialectic fusion of Greek and German were to him the readiest, most tangible enactment of the collisions of being. The poet brings his native tongue into the charged field of force of another language. He invades and seeks to break open the core of alien meaning. He annihilates his own ego in an attempt, both peremptory and utterly humble, to fuse with another presence. Having done so he cannot return intact to home ground. There is no doubt that Holderlin was extremely aware of the dilemma of normalization during the translation process. He became unable to return intact to home ground, as Mr Steiner says, or he ended up in the no-man's land of all unhappy translators, a region of loss, of divergent meanings and clashing Weltanschauungen rather than of smooth cultural syntheses. Still, his German versions of Sophocles may be considered a triumphant attempt to resist normalization, or — in the words of Walter Benjamin — to represent a foreign language in his own ("die fremde Sprache in der eignen zu reprasentieren"). The case of Holderlin is certainly extreme but nevertheless paradigmatic. The difficult task of changing something different into something recognizable, yet preserving the original's sense of estrangement, has always bothered literary translators, at least as far back as in Roman times. The intellectual Romans sought constantly — in Mr Steiner's words above — to fuse with another presence, the extraordinary and very much admired Greek culture. But they were also anxious to contrast their own distinctive character with the Greeks', a recurring theme in the work of Cicero. In one of his shortest oratory treatises, De optimo genere oratorum, Cicero tells us that he has exercised his linguistic proficiency by translating the two most eloquent Attic orators, Aeschines and Demosthenes:


Anders Cullhed And 1 did not translate them as an interpreter, but as an orator, keeping the same ideas and the forms, or as one might say, the "figures" of thought, but in language which conforms to our usage. And in so doing, I did not hold it necessary to render word for word, but 1 preserved the general style and force of the language.

Precisely this ambition, Cicero's attempt to preserve the original's "general style and force of the language", genus omne verborum vimque, seems exemplary. A translator inspired by such strategies would be rather immune to the various kinds of normalization that Mme Wuilmart detects in her perspicacious essay. Another lucid authority on the same problem was the great poet and literary critic of the French Renaissance, Joachim Du Bellay. In his treatise La Defense et Illustration de la Langue francaise (1549), Du Bellay focuses on the art of translation, literary and nonliterary, in view of two concepts of vital importance to the paper of Mme Wuilmart: form and contents. He still writes, though, within the framework of ancient rhetorical tradition, and so he prefers the terms of the old Roman oratory treatises, inventio and elocutio, invention and elocution, more or less equivalent to the questions of matter and of style. As for the original work's invention, all skilled translators should be able to represent it adequately in their own language, Du Bellay remarks optimistically. But what are we to do with "l'elocution", the combination of metaphors, allegories, similes and all other figures or ornaments "without which every oration and every poem are nothing, unsuccessful and weak" ("sans lesquels toute oraison et poeme sont nuls, manques et debiles")? It is impossible to render this elocution with the same grace as in the original, Du Bellay warns more realistically. To read Homer in Latin or Virgil in modern French, he concludes, is equivalent to making the journey from burning Etna to the cold summits of the Caucasus ("II vous semblera passer de I'ardente montagne d'Aethne sur le froid sommet de Caucase"). No matter how we really feel about volcanic proximity (for my part I feel rather uncomfortable), we are dealing with literary tropes here, and it is obviously not a very attractive itinerary which Du Bellay depicts for us. The old masters could in fact be very determined on that point: each literary translation lacking due respect to what Cicero called genus omne verborum vimque and to what Du Bellay called l'elocution marks a step from the living core of poetry out into the cold. We could also call

Recognition or Estrangement


it a stage of that dismal cross-cultural journey which has to end in the Caucasus of normalization. Mme Wuilmart's illustrations of this problem seem very convincing. Nevertheless I would like to add one or two instances to her collection of examples. My first shows what could happen along the axis from south to north (as opposed to Du Bellay's imagined east and west) in the process of literary translation, namely from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Stockholm, Sweden. 1 am thinking of a novel, but a very poetic novel indeed. When Ernesto Sabato's magnum opus Sobre heroes y tumbas ("On heroes and tombs", 1961) was turned into Swedish sixteen years ago, in 1982, the translator added a postscript to the text of the novel. He tells us that during the work of translation he was in constant contact with the author himself and that Mr Sabato "is anxious about being well translated, not betrayed. At his request 1 have cut out various passages from the original text: he found them too local, too exotic for a remote Swedish reader. Sabato does not want to write folklore; he wants to be universal, and so he is." 1 would venture to say that we are dealing with a treacherous concept of universality here, a survival of that old Western idea of a universal language which is the target of Mr Steiner's After Babel, an idea that probably works contrary to the very idea of literary translation. This strategy does not expose the reader to something rich and strange, rather the reverse: it tries to eliminate the strangeness for the sake of a (quite illusive) common cultural denominator. The main problem here is surely hermeneutic: do I read a literary work merely to recognize myself, to have my ready-made concepts and prejudices confirmed? Hopefully not. It seems a worthier endeavour to try to exceed my personal limitations or, at the very least, in Keats' famous words, to achieve that kind of negative capability, "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason' I am afraid that any kind of normalization which relies on some ill-defined concept of "universality" tends to dissipate the uncertainties, mysteries and doubts which constitute the very essence of imaginative literature. The problem presents itself even more intensely when the translator has to operate along huge distances in time. How are we to deal with e.g. abstractions and technical terms in poetry, often natural for the


Anders Cullhed

premodern poets who — in the words of T. S. Eliot — were constantly "amalgamating disparate experience"? How do we handle the so-called metaphysical poets of the 17th century, who could excel in, let us say, pseudo-scholastic logical demonstrations and erotic evocation in one and the same poem, in sharp contrast to our later, post-romantic, both emotionally and organically oriented aesthetics? 1 found myself struggling with these questions when 1 translated the th 17 century Mexican poet Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz a couple of years ago. One of her romances expresses the feelings of a widow whose devastating mourning for her deceased husband reminds her of slowly burning firewood: Y como, en un madero que abrasa el fuego ardiente, nos parece que luce lo mismo que padece; y cuando el vegetable humor en el perece, nos parece que vive y no es sino que muere: asi yo, en las mortales ansias que el alma siente, me animo con las mismas congojas de la muerte. This kind of Baroque poetry presents the modern translator with insurmountable problems. Its charm consists largely in a verbal music, in a rich web of internal references or reflections (parece-padece, pereceparece) which 1 simply was not able to render in Swedish. But in this context I would like to draw your attention to el vegetable/humor, "the vegetable humour" which is drying up and consequently dying in the burning firewood. I found it hard to recreate this concept in my own language, partly because 1 could not rely on any given paradigm in Swedish Baroque literature. We simply lack this kind of exquisite and intellectually refined "metaphysical" or conceptista poetry, blending intense eroticism with allusions to the "inward wits" and the old doctrine of the faculties of the soul, in this case the vegetative soul. Perhaps an English translator would find the problem easier, having recourse to such a distinguished model as Andrew Marvell's "To his coy mistress",

Recognition or Estrangement


where the impassioned speaker's "vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires" I also deplored the absence in Swedish of such a word as humor, just as typical of ancient character psychology as the English "humour", meaning both a corporal liquid and a mental (or pseudo-mental) level. In my translation I eventually rendered Sor Juana's vegetable humor with "vegetativa sinne" ("vegetative sense"), trying to do justice to the aesthetic qualities of the poem and to its allusions to Aristotelian psychology at the same time. In that solution, though, I introduced an abstraction ("sense") which does not occur in the original text, and I cannot be sure that 1 avoided the sin of a slight normalization during my recreation of Sor Juana's text in Swedish. On the other hand, 1 would like to hope that the translator sometimes has the right to manipulate the original text; he or she cannot be bound to its literal wording. 1 even feel tempted to quote one of our Swedish Romantic poets, Esaias Tegner, who (in a letter of 1825) remarked that "beautiful translations are like beautiful women, that is to say, they are not always the most faithful ones". And Du Bellay stresses the fact that sometimes a slight paraphrase could be preferable to an exact translation, because we have to transplant the foreign concepts to the soil of our own language. What are we to do, for example, with the famous lines from Ovid's story of Pyramus and Thisbe, where the desperate boy wants to tear his heart out of his body at the sight of his girlfriend's bloody veil? In fact Pyramus says nothing about his heart, nor of his "guilty person", contrary to what my English prose translation of The Metamorphoses will have us believe. In Ovid's Latin he cries out to the lions in the nearby: "Nostrum divellite corpus/et scelerata fero consumite viscera morsu" (Metam. IV: 112-13). A literal (albeit ugly) translation could run as something like "tear our body apart, and devour these criminal bowels with a cruel bite" The wise commentators to my own edition of Ovid remark that a modern Swedish translator simply has to put brost or hjdrta, "breast" or "heart", where the Latin original has viscera, because words like diaphragm or bowels have long been associated with charcuterie and biology in our language. And which translator would like to transform suffering Pyramus into a butcher's apprentice? So perhaps a slight normalization, or at least an adjustment of the original


Anders Cullhed

vocabulary, could sometimes be necessary to avoid irrelevant or misleading associations, simply due to linguistic change over time. Finally, Mme Wuilmart has made it quite clear that the existence of a literary work depends on its form, and I understand as quite categorical her claim that the translator must try to do justice to the work's formal values. The question of a writer's intentions with his work can never be isolated from aesthetic concerns, and probably it is often unanswerable anyway. Let me remind you of what Samuel Beckett replied to such a question, asked by a journalist after the premiere of his Endgame: "What do you really want to tell us here, Mr Beckett?" — "If 1 knew, 1 would have said so in the play." All 1 have to add to the intelligent remarks of Mme Wuilmart on this point is that she draws her illustrative material from modern writers who — with due respect to their linguistic aberrations, syntactic twists etc. — seem rather close to ourselves. Perhaps the problem of form in literary translation must be stated in different terms when you deal with writers from a more remote culture, e.g. the Roman classics which made intense use of the syntactical freedom of their Latin language. The reversal of "normal" word order, hyperbaton, was a very common procedure in all classic Roman poetry, but 1 do not know of any modern translator who has tried to reproduce that syntactical freedom in his own language. Such a strategy would probably be quite absurd, making the poems more or less unreadable to a public used to the rather strict word order of modern English, French, German, Swedish and so on. Nevertheless, there is a problem here, because when we normalize the old Latin word order according to recent usage, we also lose the possibility to estimate the countless aesthetic effects of the old masters' rhetorical chiasms, adversative constructions and other lumina sententiarum or "figures of thought" 1 guess that is the price we have to pay to make the Roman poets accessible to modern readers without knowledge of Latin. On the other hand if—let us say — an English or French translator should dare to take up the most complex poem of the European Baroque, the Spaniard Luis de Gongora's Soledades, his task is in fact much more plausible. That is because Gongora consistently exploited latinizing hyperbaton as an aesthetic device, a radical deviation from normal Spanish word order. His strategy resulted in a very cryptic, often rebus-like long poem, still difficult to penetrate for many Spanish

Recognition or Estrangement


(and, of course, non-Spanish) readers but paradoxically rewarding for translators. The work is equivalent to its form, as Mme Wuilmart has stated, and consequently the translator cannot but try to recreate this complex hyperbaton in his own language. In his edition of Soledades Damaso Alonso, Professor of Spanish literature — and one of the great poets of the Lorca-generation — supplemented Gongora's original text with a prose paraphrase in modern Spanish. Such a curious document could perhaps be of some help to a foreign translator during the preliminaries of his work, as long as he is aware of dwelling in the Caucasus of normalization. The glowing secrets of the poem itself, on the other hand, can only be made accessible by a mind constantly sensitive to the stylistic idiosyncrasies and radical strangeness of the original.


Francis R. Jones ■&D


1. Introduction The working title of the second Session implies that the task was to explore solutions to an identified problem. The debate, however, focused on the existence and nature of the problem — is normalization a threat? — rather than on its possible solutions. The key positions were outlined by the Speaker, Francoise Wuilmart, and the two Discussants, Inga-Stina Ewbank and Anders Cullhed. My notes record the following contributors to the open discussions: Sture Allen, Jean Boase-Beier, Philippe Bouquet, Kjell Espmark, Efim Etkind, Lyn Hejinian, Elke Liebs, Gunilla Lindberg-Wada, Goran Malmqvist, Shimon Markish, Judith Moffett, Tim Parks, Emmanuela Tandello, Eliot Weinberger and Daniel Weissbort. I have had to refer to at least one eminent contributor as NN (Nomen Nescio), and there may well be more. Again, 1 beg forgiveness here, and from those whose words my notes and rhetoric have misrepresented. 2. Normalization and faithfulness Translation transplants a foreign text into a new soil — and there are few plants more complex, delicate and deeply-rooted in their home culture than poetry or poetic prose. The translator has to decide what to do with source-text features that she thinks may be unfamiliar to the

Report on Session 2


target reader. One tactic is to "normalize", i.e. to remove everything unfamiliar, or to convert it into something familiar — even at the risk of robbing the poem of its artistic uniqueness. The opposite tactic, eloquently advocated by Wuilmart, is to keep these unfamiliar features, i.e. to keep the poem's uniqueness — even at the risk of alienating the target reader. This, Wuilmart stresses, is no mere slavery to source text semantics: when forced to choose between semantics or "spirit", she advocates the latter. For want of a better term—pace Etkind, who spoke of "anti-normalization" — I have named this tactic "faithfulness", echoing the traditional Chinese trinity of demands on the translator (faithfulness is, expressiveness il, elegance B: Wang 1995). Of course, we are almost certainly dealing with a dine (more or less normalizing strategies which result in more or less normalized texts) rather than an either/or dichotomy here. And it should also be pointed out that normalization involves two distinct processes (Boase-Beier): the removal of foreignness (i.e. of features which are normal to the source reader but strange to the target reader), and the "smoothing out" of markedness (i.e. the erasing of the individual author's stamp and style). 3. Normalisation as a threat The initial thesis, that normalization threatens the integrity of the original work, was expressed forcefully by Wuilmart. When the normalizing translator domesticates, she changes everything that might be unfamiliar to the target reader into something safe and familiar — in other words, she sees everything in terms of her own time and her own social environment. Edward Fitzgerald's Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam is an oftquoted example of this tactic — one of "venial infidelity", according to Arberry (1975: 611). Here a set of separate quatrains, largely devotional in character, it seems (Ebrahimi 1998), was changed into a single, sweeping narrative of the romantic individual. Though this gives fine English poetry, it is far more in tune with the receptor culture than with the source culture (or, more accurately, with the receptor culture's view of "the East" as a place free from the constraints of Victorian religious and social mores).


Francis R. Jones

When the normalizing translator smoothes, she changes everything into a bland translationese, where all target text styles are the same. Malmqvist gave an example here of a leading Chinese writer who moved to Beijing but kept his distinctive regional idiom throughout his works: translating this into a bland capital-city standard in the target language would be a betrayal of the author's linguistic and cultural identity. Some saw the assumption here that great literature is always "different", iconoclastic. As Weissbort pointed out, however, the idea that great writers should rebel against tradition is a peculiarly Western, twentieth-century tradition. At other times and places, the greatest of writers have seen themselves as swimming with the current of tradition, not against it — as when Li Po, for instance, pays homage to the older poet Meng Hao-Jan (Cooper 1973: 111): In Spring one sleeps absent to morning Then everywhere hears the birds singing:

With wine I sit absent to Night, till (Fallen petals in folds of my gown)

After all night the voice of the storm And petals fell — who knows how many?

1 stagger up to stalk the brook's moon the birds are gone and people are few!

(Meng Hao-Jan: 689-740)

(Li Po: 701-762)

Nevertheless — especially, perhaps, in traditions which do not expect poetry to be iconoclastic — poetry is very different in style and diction from other genres in the same culture (Boase-Beier). If the translator were to remove what makes a genre distinctive from its fellows, this would also be a case of normalization. Thus, for example, the Chinese originals of the two translated poems above are tightly structured in terms of metrics (4 lines — not 8 — of 5 syllables/characters each, interlinked with patterns of tone-structure), rhyme (AABA and ABCB respectively) and semantic parallelism (in the second poem, for instance, face wine in line 1 parallels fall flower in line 2). These structures have been smoothed away in Cooper's otherwise fine blank-verse renderings — though some might argue that this is more a case of domestication, as blank verse is the default norm for most twentieth-century Englishlanguage poetries.

Report on Session 2


4. Faith fulness — a distant grail? Wuilmart, therefore, sees normalization as dangerously devaluing the integrity of the source text. Instead, she argues, the translator should try to reproduce the source text's entire complexity, keeping both its form-content-idea relations and its cultural strangeness. Putting this ideal into practice is easier said than done, however (Ewbank) Firstly, there may simply be no corresponding form in the target language. In Cullhed's example, je est un autre (Rimbaud) depends for its effect on jolting the reader's expectation that je should be followed by suis. In Swedish, however, the present verb stem is dr in all persons and numbers, thus inevitably smoothing out the jolt — in other words, the language system itself allows no alternative to normalization. Polysemy, as Wuilmart points out, is a key marker of literariness, especially of poetry; but it is also a notorious source of difficulty for the translator. With polysemy, normalizing at least one aspect of meaning — that which the translator judges to be least important — is often inevitable (Cullhed, Ewbank). To take an example from my own work (in Agee 1998: 38), a poem by the modern Bosnian poet Mak Dizdar opens with a medieval tombstone inscription: U ovom dobrom u radosnom u bijelom u svijetu dobri radojica bijelic vavijek se radovao Literally: In this good in joyful in white/wide in world good radojica bijelic always rejoiced Here I chose to stay faithful to the two markednesses of wordplay (the punning of radojica bijelic, the dead man's name, with radosnom, radovao and bijelom) and archaism, which gave me no option but to domesticate the dead man's name: In this good worldes joyes 1 Good Abel Joyce was ay good able to rejoyce An we the not

even more common problem is that, if we go all out for faithfulness, risk losing expressiveness and elegance. The target text may give wrong pragmatic message (loss of expressiveness) because we do have the cultural background knowledge which the source reader


Francis R. Jones

uses to work out the illocutionary force of the original: here Cullhed gives the example of the word humour in baroque texts. Or the target text risks sounding weird, awkward and even unreadable (loss of elegance) instead of rich and strange (Cullhed, Etkind). This may make it unusable for its purpose: with drama translated for performance, for example, speakability usually has to have priority over faithfulness (Ewbank). In extreme cases, the sheer density and deviance of some writers' idiolects may be simply unreconstructable in the target language (Parks). And if faithfulness to the original author confuses or alienates the reader, it's the translator wot gets the blame. Hans Faverey was born in what is now Surinam. In the elegy to his father below (Faverey 1993: 447; 1994: 153), the father's Dutch future verb-form has a Caribbean tinge (je gaat instead of je zult). Faverey felt that I, his translator, should keep this in English: [...] In his house next to his house sits Spider; Son pays him a visit: they will never see each other again. 'You going to think of this country a lot' — he stresses this, adjourning death — 'You never going to forget it.' The same little hollow vanishes as soon as I open my fist: I have never existed either. Inevitably, the zero copula looks odd, and several readers have taken me to task for this "mistake" Another issue raised was that different languages may not have the same amount or shape of tolerance to deviance (Cullhed, Ewbank, Parks, Tandello). Italian, for example, was cited as a language which did not brook a great deal of deviance in general. Latin and Ancient Greek are notoriously more tolerant of word-order deviance than Western European languages, and I have found English to be less tolerant of neologism than Dutch.

Report on Session 2


5. Normalization as change In the previous session's discussions, change on more levels than just code was felt to be the rule of literary translation — a rule that the translator is better playing by than quixotically fighting on every front. Normalization may well be simply one type of change — a value-neutral strategy rather than a threat, in other words. Thus Cullhed advocates making "slight normalizations" and "adjustments" where necessary to avoid confusing or alienating the reader, whilst keeping as much markedness and foreignness as target-culture norms can bear. This is a strategy so instinctive that it is used not only by most literary translators. but even by writers — such as Strindberg — who have translated their own works (Espmark, NN). Normalization, in fact — and here I am thinking especially of domestication — may simply be a tactic of allowing the translated text to enter the receptor-culture mainstream with the current rather than against it. Indeed, some domesticated texts may gain deep, even emblematic significance in the receptor culture, although — or even because — they do not question the culture's norms and expectations. Examples cited were De Wahl's domesticated translation of a Tennyson poem (Ring, hlocka, ring...), which became a familiar and deeply-loved part of the Swedish New Year ritual (Ewbank); or the seagull from Heine's "Meeresstille", which Gorki took from a mediocre Russian translation and transformed into a herald of revolution (Etkind). Sometimes a translator normalizes not into an unmarked style for the genre in question, but into his own idiolect ("personal normalization": Liebs). Nerval, for example, following a clear artistic agenda, translated Heine's "Meeresstille" as a prose poem (Tandello). If translating into a personal idiolect does not erode distinctions between different source styles, this is not normalization, of course (Tandello). But if, in so doing, the translator smoothes out differences between original authors — the vice of many a poet who dabbles in translation ("text as pretext", in Wuilmart's words) — he is then guilty of normalization. Here Liebs cited the example of Rilke, whose translations, superb German poems though they may be, all bear the same Rilkean stamp. Finally, cultures grow and change as long as they remain living: tradition is a river, not a rock. Thus, when discussing faithfulness, we


Francis R. Jones

should not assume that a source text is unique, without antecedents. Boase-Beier cited Ovid's Metamorphoses here: just one phase, masterly though it may be, in the re-telling of an age-old set of stories. Nor should we assume that the receptor language and culture is unchanging (Allen). A classic text may need re-translating, because an older translation has lost its immediacy without becoming a classic in its own right (and thus untouchable); this is often the case with performed drama (Ewbank). Conversely, the receptor culture may reject a certain foreign artefact at one point of time, but accept it later Thus, when Japanese poems were translated into English in the 1860s, their prosody had to be domesticated if readers were to accept them; later, once a receptor tradition was established, they could be translated more faithfully (Lindberg-Wada). Nevertheless, as Weinberger pointed out with respect to translations of native American poetry, foreignizing translations may themselves be the agent that creates new poetic forms — not only for later translations, but also for original receptor-language texts. 6. Constant renewal Normalization, therefore, need not always be a threat, nor faithfulness always the best policy. And yet we mustn't ignore Wuilmart's rallyingcry: after all, ideals should be judged by what they inspire people to do, not by their attainability. Without constant renewal — from other cultures as well as from its own — a literary culture will become a dry rock, not a river. Translation is the main artery of renewal from without. Translated texts that try to enter the receptor culture against the current may simply be swept back, but only texts alive with the new and foreign can bring the renewal which every culture needs References Agee, Chris (ed.) (1998). Scar on the Stone: Contemporary Poetry from Bosnia. Newcastle: Bloodaxe. Arberry, Arthur J. (1975): Persian poetry. In Alex Preminger (ed.) The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Enlarged edition. London: Macmillan. Cooper, Arthur (1973): Li Po and Tu Fu. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Ebrahimi, Ahmad (1998): Translating modern Persian poetry. Paper presented at the 3rd ITI Colloquium on Literary Translation, University of Sheffield.

Report on Session 2


Faverey, Hans (1993): Verzamelde gedichten. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij. Faverey, Hans (1994): Against the Forgetting: Selected Poems. Translated by Francis R. Jones. London: Anvil. Wang Zongyuan (1995): Linguistic aspects of CE/EC translation In Chan SinWai & David Pollard (eds.) An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Chinese-English and English-Chinese Translation. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press

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ession 3


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Twenty-seven years ago this spring, when I was first setting up shop as a translator of Swedish poetry, I was moved to do so not from knowledge or love of my subject — those came later — but from a lifelong fascination with and delight in prosody. My qualifications for the work were otherwise pretty unimpressive. I'd spent a year and a half as American Lektor in the English Department at the University of Lund, and could speak and read the language after a fashion. But virtually everything I really knew about Swedish literature I'd learned years before — from the Astrid Lindgren shelf in the public library and, later, from a charming phonograph record (bought in Madison, Wisconsin in 1967, and still played occasionally) featuring Alice Babs and her daughter, Titti, singing the songs of Alice Tegner. I did, however, like Swedish as a language; and I loved poetry in English and always had. From childhood onwards I'd made up poems of my own, some of which had finally begun to appear in the better magazines. Because rhyme and meter had fallen out of fashion by the mid-Sixties, when I was "breaking in" as a poet, I did, with difficulty, learn to write creditable free verse; but what I liked best is exemplified in the formal intricacy of James Merrill's work; and what appealed to me initially about translation was the challenge of trying to turn a Swedish poem into an English poem with all its formal elements intact. In the spring of 1971 I applied for a Fulbright Travel Grant to Sweden, for the purpose of translating Swedish lyric poetry. At that point I had

Judith Moffett


to consider seriously which of the (presumably) many fine Swedish poets, about whom I nevertheless knew next to nothing, might be suitable for my project. I was aware of Robert Bly's work on Tomas Transtromer, and somewhere along the line I had heard of Leif Sjoberg. I wrote to both these gentlemen, asking if they might suggest the names of a few firstclass formal Swedish poets who had not yet been adequately translated into English. Leif's reply was full of useful ideas and suitable names, including the name of the poet I ultimately chose to work on: Hjalmar Gullberg ("utmarkt poet!" wrote Leif). Bly's response is quoted below, in full: 2 May, 71 Dear Judith Moffett, Frankly, translating in such a way that rhymes and rhythms go into English hell or high water has proved to be such a disaster in the past — it has been abandoned by almost all living translators — that I wouldn't recommend anyone. That way will just result in a massacre. If the translator keeps rhyme & rhythm, image and meaning will suffer, since you must lose something. I don't think any poet, no matter how conservative, wants to see his meaning and images mangled. Yours Robert Bly At that time Robert Bly knew even less about me than 1 knew about Swedish poetry, and I was miffed at his assumption that just because "the [generic] translator [who] keeps rhyme & rhythm" makes a hash of things, 1 was bound to make one too. But I shrugged off his discouraging letter and proceeded to look into the poets Leif Sjoberg had mentioned, and eventually got down to work on Gullberg. At that time 1 didn't dream how many people shared Bly's view of the subject — though I shouldn't have been so shocked, since, as I did know all too well, our era had also cast original formal poetry into disrepute. Nobody's arguing that poets are willing to see their images and meaning sacrificed in translation for the sake of keeping rhyme and meter. Where Bly goes astray is in assuming that keeping rhyme and meter invariably results in a massacre. It very well might result in one if he tried to do it; formal technique takes years to master, and Robert

On Formal Translation


Bly, a disciple of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, never felt a need to school himself in rhyme and meter for use in his own work. (Frankly, I think he would keep them himself if he were able to — indeed, that anyone would.) But let's hear now from Richard Wilbur, a wonderful American poet and superb formal translator (of Moliere and Brodsky, among others). Wilbur, who has worked in the traditional forms throughout his long and distinguished career, sees "mangling" as what happens when the translator fails to respect the poet's own formal choices: ...I can say that a few fine translators have been truly attentive to my rhymes and rhythms and to the multiple operations of crucial words, but that there have not been many efforts to find strict equivalents for rhyme and meter. ...I have seen or heard of...translations by Russians which went after whole poems of mine, alliterations and all. 1 am grateful to translators who don't water me down to free verse, and I try to reciprocate whenever I can. I've just given three weeks to doing a 48line rhymed translation of a poem of Joseph Brodsky's, and could have given no less.1 Wilbur reciprocates both because he can — he has the necessary skills — and because he knows that no formal poet wants to see his music mangled by being "watered down to free verse" I myself am perfectly certain that Wilbur is right and Bly is wrong on this issue. Poets (and readers) who care about rhyme and meter, people for whom these features operate importantly in the poetry they write and read, will probably agree. Other poets who write in free verse exclusively, however well they do it, and especially if they are under forty, may not be able to feel the structural power of a given rhyme scheme, or to hear the special quality a particular metrical pattern imparts to a series of stanzas. 2 One must be a poet to translate poetry well, or even at all. It follows that one must be a formal poet to translate formal poetry well, i.e. to do whatever it takes to keep the forms, while remaining faithful to the poem. 1

Translation, 2 (Winter, 1974), 7-8. Bly, to do him justice, is able to. I once heard him read William Blake's "Sunflower" poem with exquisite sensitivity to the metrical shape of the lines.



Judith Moffett

I'm prepared to defend these convictions vigorously, and often do. People inclined to follow Bly's lead on the issue are rarely converted, however, and the same must be said of those inclined to follow Wilbur's; what's involved are differences of sensibility and of "ear", matters largely beyond the reach of rational argument, if not of reasonable discussion. Prior to the early years of this century, there would have been no controversy to discuss as regards the translation of formal poetry into English. It would never have crossed the mind of the nineteenth-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, translator of Esaias Tegner and assorted other Scandinavians, to dispense with the poems' meter and/or rhyme. A century or two ago, with the rare exception of a Walt Whitman or a William Blake, nobody in England or America was writing anything but metrical and/or rhyming poetry; that was the tradition of the time, the technical means by which poets assumed they were to deliver their punch. They had read Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, Pope, Dryden, and Swift from childhood, and typically attended Christian churches — or had grown up attending them — in which even the unrhymed and non-metrical poetry in the King James Version of the Bible was not immune to being transposed into rhyming stanzas, and sung to traditional-style hymn tunes: The Lord is my shepherd; 1 shall The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want; not want. He maketh me to lie down in He makes me down to lie green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still By pastures green, He leadeth me waters... The quiet waters by. Obviously this "translation", or versification, from English into English, of a psalm already translated into English from the Hebrew, has had the unintended effect of turning poetry into doggerel. But I doubt it was done by a poet. A century or two ago, anyone and everyone could compose lines of verse; and if these lines failed entirely to be poetry, nevertheless they rhymed and scanned correctly. Every schoolchild could hear the familiar patterns of stresses and sounds and imitate them. Models were everywhere, from Shakespeare to Mother Goose to "Barbry Allen".

On Formal Translation


Alternative models were available through the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, and to educated gentlemen through the study of Greek and Latin poetry; but if you wanted to write poetry in English you had to learn to write scannable lines of verse. Rhyme wasn't always required — blank verse did without — but meter invariably was. Even Walt Whitman, the great American innovator who substituted his own powerful rhythms for the traditional measured ones, could handle the technique capably enough, as early poems such as "Oh Captain, My Captain!" demonstrate. (They also demonstrate the degree to which his gift lay elsewhere.) To help slow-witted students keep the names of the different metrical feet straight, the English Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, cobbled together a useful mnemonic jingle: Trochee trips from long to short; From long to long in solemn sort

Slow spondee stalks; slow foot; yet ill able Ever to keep up with dactyl trisyllable. Iambic marches short to long;

With a leap and a bound the swift anapests throng. Now (as the hero remarks to King Ring, in my version of Tegner's "The Temptation of Frithiof"), 'tis otherwise. Far from being able to imitate traditional poetic measures, most American college students cannot even hear them (I would expect this to be less true in England). Many of my own students in the Iowa Writers' Workshop twenty years ago, like some of those I've taught at the University of Pennsylvania over the past two decades, wrote astonishingly skillful free-verse poems with excellent intuitive control of rhythm, but could not do a simple scanning exercise correctly to save their souls. A handful of these rhythmically deft but metrically tone-deaf students have gone on to publish their work in good places, and even to collect them into books. Some are truly gifted poets, but only one gifted former student of mine — Geoffrey Brock, son of the poet Van Brock — ever put in the time it took to teach himself how to write in form. This isn't the place to get into what's been going on in recent times, for better and for worse, in American education and culture; but 1 speak from experience when I say that at least one entire generation of poets has come to maturity without learning to use formal techniques


Judith Moffett

in the creation of a poem, or to appreciate how those techniques are operating in the older work they read. And, now that form is mysteriously back "in" again, people who never sang hymns or folk songs, never read the old chestnuts of American and English poetry in school, never even heard any nursery rhymes for all anyone can tell, are taking a crack at rhyme and meter for the heck of it, with, alas, predictable results. To translate poetry, one must be a poet. To translate formal poetry, one must be a formal poet — a good one, with plenty of skill, sensitivity, and patience. Otherwise Robert Frost's famous dictum, that the poetry is what's lost in translation, is all too true. Formal translation is very hard to do well, but only if done well is it worth doing at all. This goes without saying, perhaps, and yet rhyming, metrical translation is so easy to do badly, and so many examples of the bad sort exist, as to explain why Robert Bly should be so testy on the subject — and why Dante Gabriel Rossetti should likewise have taken the trouble to state the obvious: "The life-blood of rhymed translation is this — that a good poem shall not be turned into a bad one." 3 I would add that the "meaning" of every poem is inherent in the poem's form fused with its content. By its very nature, a free-verse poem cannot be a faithful translation of a formal one. Even if the freeverse version reproduces image and idea, and even if a good formal poem is turned into a good free-verse poem, nevertheless the meaning of the original, in this sense of meaning, must be lost. If we grant for the moment that good rhymed translation is possible to do, I can still think of three serious difficulties not mentioned by Robert Bly First: where are qualified formal translators to be found in times like these? Second: given the inordinate demands of work and time — often much heavier work, and vastly more time, than it took to write the original poem in the first place — why would any sane person undertake the task? (Why did Richard Wilbur spend three weeks on a 48-line Brodsky poem?) And third, since there are so few modern readers of older American and English poetry, and similarly slight interest among Swedes in classic Swedish poetry, why even bother? ^Twentieth Century Scandinavian Poetry, ed. Martin S. Allwood (Oslo, 1950), frontispiece. Refers to this and all subsequent Rossetti citations.

On Formal Translation


1 can't answer the first objection. Wilbur and I and a few others are doing our best, but unless things change in the future, many fine formal poems in many languages, especially the minor languages, are fated to remain unknown for lack of translators to rescue them. But as for the second and third, sanity doesn't really come into it. Here is Rossetti again: "The only true motive for putting poetry into a fresh language must be to endow a fresh nation, as far as possible, with one more possession of beauty." You do it, in other words, not for "reasons" but for love — in my case, love of certain splendid and beautiful poems by Esaias Tegner, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Viktor Rydberg, Erik Axel Karlfeidt, Gustaf Froding, and Hjalmar Guiiberg that would otherwise remain unavailable in faithful translation to those readers of English able to appreciate them: fit company, though few. You do it also as an act of fealty to the poets, in response to recognizing their sheer excellence — including excellence of formal technique. Finally, you do it because you can. Fine translators of free verse in Swedish are at work out there; Gunnar Ekelof, Goran Sonnevi, and Tomas Transtromer don't need me, Karlfeidt and Froding do. People work zestfully at the Times crossword for lower stakes than these. Certainly no one translates poetry, especially the formal kind, for money. Society has very little money to spare for such things, not nearly enough to feed and clothe the translator, who must do other kinds of work to support his or her habit, often including other sorts of translating — of popular fiction or technical manuals, for instance — or teaching. I've been exceptionally lucky in finding grants to underwrite my translating, both of Hjalmar Gullberg's work and that of the nineteenth-century poets in my current anthology project. But I'm still scrounging for a publication subvention for the latter, the would-be publishers of this anthology. Southern Illinois University Press, having assured me that they can't afford to bring it out without one. So much, then, for rhyme and meter. There are many other issues common to translating poetry of any kind: how best to be faithful to the poet's vocabulary level and stylistic quirks, when and how much to compromise, whether to improve a line or phrase (sometimes terribly tempting), and so on. A special problem with the older poets I've been working on, one I didn't have to deal with in the case of Guiiberg, is


Judith Moffett

the need to strike a particular period style or sound: to "archaize" the language. When translating Tegner, for instance, I read a lot of poetry by his English quasi-contemporaries, especially Wordsworth and (for Frithiof's heroic speeches) Tennyson, to "get my ear in"; I thought Frithiof ought to speak more like Sir Lancelot than like Indiana Jones. Another issue: when working with classical literature, one encounters snippets of poetry that every native speaker knows by heart ("Vad ratt Du tankt, vad Du i karlek vill..."). The pressure to do a "quotable" job on those passages is fierce. I apologize at the outset for using illustrations from my own work, and thus compounding the self-centeredness of an already immodestsounding treatise, but I understand how I solved my own problems so much better than how others may have solved theirs that it seemed foolish to do otherwise. So let me conclude with a sampler of the sorts of formal challenges I've encountered, and try to provide some sense of how the English versions settled into their final shapes. For a more detailed nuts-and-bolts description of the process, I refer interested parties to my essay "Playing Scrabble Without a Board: On Formal Translation From the Swedish", in Daniel Weissbort, ed.. Translating Poetry: The Double Labyrinth, pp. 144-60 (London: Macmillan, 1989). The looser the form, the easier it is to get a satisfactory translation in a reasonable amount of time. In particular, long lines — because they allow lots of space between rhymes — are a great boon to the formal translator. One example is Johan Ludvig Runeberg's "Sven Duva", composed in iambic heptameter couplets: ...PS atertag var Sandels stadd. och Ryssen trangde pa, Man drog sig undan steg for steg langs stranden af en a. Ett stycke fram pa harens vag gick ofver an en spang, Der stod en liten fdrpost nu, knappt tjugu man engang. Som den var sand i andamal att bota vagen blott, Lag den i ro, sen det var gjordt, langt skild fran hugg och skott, Tog for sig i en bondgard der allt hvad den kunde fa, Och lat Sven Dufva passa upp, ty han var med ocksa. Men plotsligt blef det annat af, ty utfor narmsta brant, I sporrstrack, pa en loddrig hast, kom Sandels' adjutant: "Till bryggan, gossar," ropte han, "for Guds skull, i gevar! Man sport, att en fiendtlig trupp vill ofver elfven der."

On Formal Translation


"Och herre", talte han till den, som forde folket an, "Rif bron, om ni det kan, om ej, sa slass till sista man! Armen ar said, om fienden har slipper i var rygg. Ni skall fa hjelp, genralen sjelf han ilar hit, var trygg!" Here's the English version: Now Sandels' troops were in retreat before a Russian force; Slow step by step the men fell back beside a watercourse. Ahead, along the army's route, a footbridge spanned the flow Where stood a little outpost now, of twenty men or so. As these were only sent to mend the roadway to this spot They lay at ease when that was done, secure from blade and shot; They foraged in a farmstead there and took what fell to hand — And let Sven Duva serve it up, for he was in their band Then of a sudden down the slope pell-mell in mad descent, Upon a spent and foaming horse, came Sandels' adjutant. "Get to the bridge," he yelled. "To arms! For God's sake, lads, be quick! They say a Russian troop is there, and means to cross the creek." "And sir" (to him who'd rushed to move the detail out forthwith), "Destroy that bridge — but if you can't, defend it to the death! We're done for if the enemy should slip behind our rear. The General is on his way, he'll reinforce you there."... I stick to precise rhymes as far as possible, and usually in a poem with such long lines true r h y m e s can be found. But 1 do allow the rhymewords to slant their vowels just a little, as here (with/death; rear/there), when precise rhymes prove resistant, and when slanting does no material d a m a g e to the "feel" of the original poem. A second long-lined example is Tegner's "The Temptation of Frithiof", also written in couplets, where each line is m a d e up of six trochees and a terminal stress. The natural English verse foot is iambic; in Swedish it's trochaic, and the need to begin each line with a stressed syllable m a k e s this form a little m o r e difficult than that of the Runeberg. But the amplitude c o m p e n s a t e s nicely. ...Gamle kungen kan ej folja jakten som hon flyger fram, ensam vid hans sida rider Frithiof tyst och allvarsam. Morka, vemodsfulla tankar vaxa i hans kvalda brost. och varthelst han an sig vander hor han deras klagorost.


Judith Moffett

"O! vi overgav jag havet, for min egen fara blind? Sorgen trivs ej ratt pa vagen, blaser bort med himlens vind. Grubblar viking, kommer faran, bjuder honom opp till dans, och de morka tanker vika, blandade av vapnens glans. Men har ar det annorlunda: outsaglig langtan slar sina vingar kring min panna, som en drommande jag gar; kan ej glomma Balders hage, kan ej gldmma eden an, som hon svor, — hon brot den icke, grymma gudar broto den. Ty de hata manskors atter, skida deras frojd med harm, och min rosenknopp de togo, satte den i vinterns barm. Vad skall vintem val med rosen? Han forstar ej hennes pris, men hans kalla ande klader knopp och blad och stjalk med is." Sa han klagade. Da kommo de uti en enslig dal, dyster, hoptrangd mellan bergen, dverskyggd av bjork och al. Dar steg kungen av och sade: "Se hur skon, hur sval den lund, jag ar trott, kom lat oss Vila, jag vill slumra har en stund." "Icke ma du sova, konung: kail ar marken har och hard, tung blir somnen, upp, jag for dig snart tillbaka till din gard." "Somnen, som de andra gudar, kommer nar vi minst det tro," sade gubben, "unnar gasten ej sin vard en timmas ro?" Da tog Frithiof av sin mantel, bredde den pa marken han, och den gamle kungen lade tryggt sitt huvud pa hans knan, somnade sa lugnt som hjalten somnar efter stridens larm pa sin skold, sa lugnt som barnet somnar pa sin moders arm. Som han slumrar, hor da sjunger kolsvart fagel ifran kvist: "Skynda, Frithiof, drap den gamle, sluta pa en gang er tvist. Tag hans drottning, dig tillhor hon, dig har hon som brudgum kysst, intet manskligt oga ser dig, och den djupa grav ar tyst." Frithiof lyssnar: hor da sjunger snovit fagel ifran kvist: "Ser dig intet manskligt oga, Odens oga ser dig visst. Niding, vill du mdrda somnen? vill du varnlos gubbe sla? Vad du vinner, hjalterykte vinner du dock ej darpa." Sa de bagge faglar sjongo, men sitt slagsvard Frithiof tog, slangde det med fasa fran sig fjarran i den morka skog. Kolsvart fagel Ayr till Nastrand, men pa latta vingars par som en harpoton den andra klingande mot solen far. ...

On Formal Translation


And the translation: ... While the hunt flies madly forward, the old king must needs fall back. Only Frithiof, grave and silent, rides with him behind the pack Gloomy thoughts and dark reflections in his anguished breast hold sway And their voices' plaint pursues him, turn and double how he may "Why have 1 the sea forsaken, blind to all I risked on land? Grief can ne'er abide the billow, bloweth off upon the wind. Doth the Viking brood? Here's Danger, come to bid him dance a reel, And the darkest thought is routed by the dazzling gleam of steel. "Here, 'tis otherwise: dumb longings wrap their wings about my brow And I wander like a dreamer with that shadow on me now — Must recall the grove of Balder, must recall the vow she made — Made and broke — she broke it never, 'twas the cruel gods that did. "For they hate the human kindred, see our joy with rage and hate, And by them my rose was taken, and in Winter's bosom set. What would Winter with a rosebud? He can never know her price, And his frigid spirit dresseth bud and leaf and stalk in ice." Thus he made complaint. Then came they to a lorn and gloomy glade In a dale between two mountains, deep in birch and alder shade. There the king dismounted, saying: "See how cool this grove, how fair. Let us rest, for I am weary; I would sleep a little here." "This is no fit place for sleeping; all the ground is cold and hard. Sleep were heavy here; I'll see thee safe and soon to court, my lord." "Sleep, like other gods, e'er cometh when we may expect him least." Spake the old man. "Wilt not suffer me an hour's peace, O guest?" Then did Frithiof spread his mantle, for his host must have the nap, And the king in trustful comfort laid his head in Frithiof's lap, Fell asleep as calm and easy as a knight upon his shield After battle, or an infant at its mother's bosom lulled. While he sleeps, a subtle songbird black as coal begins to sing: "Quickly, Frithiof, end your quarrel: take your sword and slay the king! She who kissed, who was to wed thee — take her! she was meant for thee, And the grave will keep in silence what no human eye shall see." Frithiof listens; then a songbird white as snow begins to sing: "Though no human eye should see it, Oden's eye sees everything


Judith Moffett Villain, wilt thou murder slumber? Strike an old, defenseless man? Whatsoe'er thereby thou winnest, hero's name thou canst not win." So sang both the birds; but Frithiof seized his great sword where it lay And in horror flung it from him, far into the woods away Coal-black bird flies down to Nastrand, but the white is swiftly gone, Trilling like the sound of harp strings, soaring lightly toward the sun. ...

With so much room to work in, it's not difficult to include all elements of the original poem, Shakespeare quote included. Often they must be rearranged a bit, but this is a harmless liberty. A more serious liberty is to insert a phrase ("for his host must have the nap") which doesn't appear in the original. All things being equal, it would always be preferable not to add or subtract anything; but in this case I needed a rhyme, and found both space and means to insert one seamlessly into the narrative. Inserting the phrase, rather than spending more time hunting for a rhyme within the literal possibilities of the poem — or, for that matter, rhyming "shield" with "lulled", a bit of a stretch — were judgment calls. In my judgment "image and meaning" haven't "suffer[ed]", and energy has been conserved to be expended on some other poem where that much liberty isn't permissible. 1 admit, however, that probably if I'd gone on trying I could have done without either ruse, and maybe also without subtracting the twigs (kvist) from which the two birds sing. To quote Rossetti again: [Rhymed] poetry not being an exact science, literality of rendering is altogether secondary to this chief aim [of endowing a fresh nation...with one more possession of beauty]. I say literality, not fidelity, which is by no means the same thing. When literality can be combined with what is thus the primary condition of success, the translator is fortunate, and must strive his utmost to unite them; when such object can only be attacked by paraphrase, that is his only path... By now it should be clear how much I agree with this. But 1 must also acknowledge that, in a long project, to strive one's utmost line by line and year by year is a superhuman task. The formal translator must constantly be prepared to decide when enough is enough: when the time has come, either to abandon the effort altogether, or resort to

On Formal Translation


"paraphrase". It's partly because such decisions have to be made that a translator of poetry needs to be a poet; 1 don't know where a nonpoet, one who sincerely admires the poem s/he is translating, would find the confidence to make them. Now for something tougher: dactyls and anapests. Froding loves them. I hate to see them coming; 1 know they'll be devilishly difficult and that I'll have to compromise more than 1 want to, however long and hard I try. This example comes from "Hans hogvordighet biskopen i Vaxjo" ("The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Veckshuh"): ...Men Foibos Apollon i gnistrande char olympisk och ljus over Thule far, och stralar fran gudomens harlighet stanna bland lockarnas virrvarr kring biskopens panna och skanka ett tycke av grekisk stil at biskopens fina, fornama profil. Och biskopen reser sig, ogonen ljunga av trotsets, men icke av trones sken, och attiskt ar saltet pa biskopens tunga och tankarna komma direkt fran Aten. Hur ystert de nakna kariterna springa fran biskopens lappar, hur ystert de svinga kring salen i anakreontisk takt, hur adel och stolt gar historiens Klio som korledarinna forut bland de nio, hur skon kommer Eros i all sin makt! ... In English: ...But Phoebus Apollo in chariot bright Olympic and fair over Thule takes flight, And beams from the light of his radiance spangle The brow of the bishop, and catch in his tangle Of curls, and impart something Grecian in style To the bishop's refined and distinguished profile. And His Reverence's eyes, when he rises, are flashing A light of defiance, but not of respect, And attic the salt on the tongue of the bishop, And all of his thoughts come from Athens direct.


Judith Moffett

How spritely the three naked Graces now spring From the lips of the bishop, how spritely they swing To a measure both anachreontic and light; How regally Clio of history paces, The leader of old in the Chorus of Muses; How beautiful Eros in all his might! ... Here the demands of the meter have sometimes forced me into a mere suggestion of rhyme; flashing and bishop rhyme on the slant only if we ignore the unaccented second syllables of each; paces and Muses slant their accented vowels acceptably but one sibilant is voiced and the other unvoiced; and so on. I like this poem a lot and did "strive my utmost" with it, but this was the best I could do in an amount of time I judged to be reasonable. My hope is that the dash and charm of the narrative — the bishop in question is Esaias Tegner, incidentally — carry the reader along so swiftly that these "cheat" rhymes call little or no attention to themselves. The first and last lines quoted, by the way, are two of those lucky instances when Swedish and English are almost identical; a literal translation would be, respectively: "But Phoebus Apollo in sparkling chariot" and "How beautiful Eros comes in all his might!" The rhyming stakes are highest when a lyric stanza is very tight. It's always best in such a case to stick to perfect rhymes, but sometimes that's not possible even after the utmost striving, and I've occasionally abandoned a short lyric altogether, rather than do an unsatisfactory job on it. Erik Axel Karifeidt, a brilliant stylist, makes tremendous demands on the translator, but his wonderful poems are worth all the trouble they cost. From "Haxorna" ("The Witches"): Ga ej bland olvontrad och slan, da kvallens luft ar ljum! Dar dvaljs en underbar demon i tradens dunkla rum. Det ar den gamle Liothans son, benamnd Isacharum. Du hor hans gang i lundens flakt, som irrar skygg och vill pa mark af bruna hostlof tackt i tinande April,

On Formal Translation


och angan af hans andedrakt ar mull som kvicknar till. Nar korsmassmanen nyss var tand och got sitt svaga stril, Da stod i skyn en bage spand och skot en plotslig il. Da skalf du, frysande och brand; det var demonens pil. Minns du en lilja, dystert grann, i skuggan dar du gick? Dess morka eld ur kalken rann som en fortrollad drick. Ditt oga drack och sansen svann, det var demonens blick. Hvad vill han i din barndomslund? Hvi kom han dristelig sa nar den vigda altarrund och lammens fralsta stig? Rys, jungfru, i din hjartegrund: han soker dig, han soker dig. Here's h o w


rendered the first

five stanzas of this truly

poem: When blackthorn and viburnum bloom And mild is evening's air, Walk not within that greeny gloom! A demon sojourns there. He is the fiend Isacharum, Old Liothan's son and heir You hear his pacing in the breeze That wends its wandering ways Past earth still thick with autumn leaves On thawing April days, And soil is quickened where he breathes A smoky steam of haze. When late the new moon rose and spilled Its shower of light aloft, A bent bow stood in heaven upheld And shot a gusty draft.



Judith Moffett

You shook then, feverish and chilled; That was the demon's shaft. Remember now the lily's dram, That somber radiance? Its goblet mingled dark and flame Like charmed intoxicants. Your eye drank deep, your senses swam; That was the demon's glance. Why does he haunt your childhood grove, How draw so nigh unto The altar rails of sacred love And path the saved pursue? Quake, maid, in all the heart you have: He comes for you, he comes for you. Did you catch the "cheat" rhymes? They occur in the second stanza, at the ends of the first, third, and fifth lines — the less conspicuous rhyming position because of the feminine endings, but there just the s a m e for all to see. 1 badly wanted to do full formal justice to this poem, which owes so much of its effect to its quietly terrifying stanza form (with the extra foot at the end of the fourth stanza: dynamite!). But the form permits very little room to maneuver — two rhymes are bad enough in iambic tetrameter/trimeter, three are murder — and at times, as here, some compromise had to be arrived at. Rhyming breeze, leaves, and breathes was my compromise, and I think Karlfeldt would have been proud of m e for coming up with it. And I think it would have been okay with him to let "aloft" rhyme (nearly) with "draft" and "shaft", as they do in England but not in America. He might have been less pleased with my use of "greeny", a word lifted straight from Wallace Stevens and otherwise unknown in English. But I'm not so sure; it does feel very Karlfeldt-like to me. I didn't actually need a two-syllable word for "green", since dunkel is "dark" or "gloomy" and the phrase tradens dunkla rum just m e a n s "the gloomy place of the trees". What I did was exchange "gloomy" (adjective) for "gloom" (noun), and count on the reader to connect the blackthorn and viburnum with the idea of trees if I (1) told them the gloom was "greeny", and (2) moved the imperative "Walk not!" from the first line to the third.

On Formal Translation


"Paraphrase" creeps in as well. Example: "i tinande April" — "In thawing April" — is better poetry than "In thawing April days", but the tyranny of rhyme defeated my efforts to preserve Karlfeldt's compression. Another: "Dess morka eld ur kalken rann" — a fantastic line, literally "Its dark fire ran out of the goblet." I render this "Its goblet mingled dark and flame" — a line stylistically, but not literally, faithful to Karlfeldt's image of the intoxicating brew flowing out of the lily instead of mixing within it. That sensuous pouring action has been lost in translation, also sacrificed to the necessities of rhyme, and equally regretted. But, in my judgment, retaining the incantatory effect of those three-timesthree alternating rhymes was worth these small sacrifices. It's the choice I felt Karlfeldt himself, consummate lyricist that he was, would have made. The thing was not to stray far, and to build in plenty of alliteration and lots of the same vowels. Which brings up a point that can't be emphasized strongly enough. The translator's fealty must be to the sensibility of the original poet. Again and again s/he must submit to the poet's own voice and textures, which may not always be the same as the translator's. My affinities with Tegner and especially Karlfeldt, and to a slightly lesser extent with Runeberg, are strong; on the other hand I have philosophical difficulties with Froding and am somewhat at aesthetic odds with Rydberg. But whether the fit is good or not so good, before setting to work the translator must submerge herself in the sensibility of the poet, and then render that sensibility in the new language as faithfully as she can. It's more enjoyable, of course, to work with a kindred spirit. But it's more edifying to submit to a foreign sensibility, and good for the translator to be forced to stretch her aesthetic sense in new directions. I'll conclude on a personal note. The formal element I'm most reluctant to change is the stress pattern and number of stresses: the metrical scheme. I change these, even slightly, only after truly striving my utmost to keep the poet's original scheme. I can't imagine ever deciding to preserve other elements at the cost of lengthening the lines, which changes a poem's music in critical ways — yet that was the decision made by Sven Christer Swahn when he translated the only poem of mine (so far as I know) that has been put into Swedish. Thus, from "Twinings Orange Pekoe":

Judith Moffett


The gas ring's hoarse exhaling wheeze, Voice of blue flamelets, licks the kettle's Copper underbelly, which crouches Closer; concentrates; by degrees Begins spellbound to match that pressure And dragon tone. Breath crowds the slim Tranced throat that cannot close or scream; It spouts a rushing whooo of pleasure. ... Versus:

Gasringen andas ut med flamt och moda, bla miniflammors rost, och ror tekokarns roda kopparbuk som kryper samman om sin mitt och gradvis koncentrerar sig pa sitt, trollbunden staller upp pa okat sus och draksignal. Och andedraktens anga trangs i en hals, som aldrig stangs av vanda, den slapper loss ett Hooooooo i stegrat gladjerus. ... My strict tetrameters have been expanded by a foot — and sometimes more — and my rhyme scheme tampered with a bit, but certainly this is more than faithful to image and meaning, and I'm extremely grateful to Sven Christer for keeping the poem formal. I consider this a good translation; but what I'd really love would be if he — or someone — would spend twenty times the number of hours this version took him to do, and squeeze the poem back into the four-stress lines of my original music, whose compressive tightness — this is the point — puts pressure on the poem just as the gas flame and the confines of the teakettle put pressure on the water. All this, of course, while preserving everything that's best about the present version. If I understand them at all, the formal poets I've been translating would feel exactly as I do about all this. And, to paraphrase Richard Wilbur. I try, as much as in me lies, to do for their work what I would want done for my own.


Lyn Hejinian FORMS IN ALTERITY Discussion of Judith Moffett's Paper "On Formal Translation"

1 Every language has formal properties — morphological and phonological And these properties have semantic, as well as syntactic, significance; they convey meaning as well as sense The art form that foregrounds the formal properties of language is the one we call poetry (an observation, by the way, that is not meant to serve as a definition, since this is certainly not all that poetry entails and since certain prose works do the same). In foregrounding language's formal properties, poetry addresses itself primarily to semantic (rather than to syntactic) areas; the work will make sense but it will also call to our attention the fact that not only the sense but the making of that sense are meaningful It is not just a sentiment, idea, or piece of information that is to be conveyed; it is also the palpable experience, indeed, the palpability of experience: its realness and the reality of its being meaningful to us. But signifying meaning is not uncomplicated; language doesn't gush out into realness — not only because language, even the sum of all languages, being 'merely human', is limited but also because the reality that is signified isn't pure' Every language speaks of reality, but the reality of which it speaks is one that is preconceived, idealized; a world view, and even, in the broadest sense, an ideology, are in place within


Lyn Hejinian

every language. Or, to put it more boldly, in every language a world is prefigured. Linguists (and, often, philosophers) have been observing and observing about this since the beginning of the twentieth century. Writers have been doing so for far longer, and, at least since the Renaissance, the examination of figuration has been an elemental feature of the literary The first, and the most consistent, object of study has been the figure itself — the trope, and especially metaphor. But though metaphor may be the most readily apparent figure — and the most readily noticed as a figure — there are other figures, and other figurings, present at every level of language. The formal properties of language constitute these figures. This is the case even in everyday discourse, but it is poetry that utilizes them to the full, and it does so not only in order to explore the world but also to reveal the character of our understanding of it. It would be a mistake to restrict the list of the formal properties of poetry to those which are manifest as rhyme and meter, or to posit them as the essence of the poetic. In the last few years, a particular movement in American poetry has argued that modernism's casting off of old poetic forms constituted a casting off of poetry itself. They would locate poetic practice within the observation of old forms and acknowledge as poetry only those works that use traditional meters and stanzaic patterns. The resulting limited notion of what constitutes poetry limits poetry. It makes the poet into an aesthetic functionary rather than a creative thinker, and it relegates poetry to a very minor and marginal role in the arena of thinking, and especially in the discovery of logics, unlikely as well as likely, wild and hallucinatory as well as conventional, that the 'formality' of language embodies. To call rhyme and meter the essence of poetry, or even to name them as the primary formal properties of it, is inaccurate; it is also, and perhaps especially for a translator, misleading. Another, very different group of formalists, working in the early decades of the century and hence within the milieu of modernist invention, also undertook the study of poetic formalism. Although the period during which the work of the Russian Formalists, as the group came to be called, was allowed to develop unimpeded was relatively brief (from the founding of Opoyaz. the "Society for the Study of Poetic

Forms in AJtehty Language", in power



1914 to the t i m e of Lenin's d e a t h a n d Stalin's rise to

1 9 2 4 ' ) , the Formalist approach c o n t i n u e d to have a strong

u n d e r g r o u n d existence despair,



T h o u g h w i t h caution a n d s o m e t i m e s a sense of







Shklovsky, Boris E i k h e n b a u m , Yurii Tynianov, R o m a n Jakobson, and Osip Brik b e i n g p r o b a b l y the most p r o m i n e n t ) c o n t i n u e d its w o r k , even w h i l e work

inspired b y it was taken u p in the relative safety of




I n h e r e n t l y structuralist in a p p r o a c h , the Russian Formalists launched their investigation w i t h the question, w h a t constitutes literariness? w h a t are its d i s t i n g u i s h i n g features? The question is basic a n d original. As R o m a n Jakobson put it: "The object of study in literary science is not literature but 'literariness', that is, w h a t makes a given w o r k a literary work."3

But the answer is infinite. Literariness is instance-specific. The

f o r m a l properties of language are relationships w i t h i n

it; they are, in

this sense, c o n t e x t u a l . To arrive at this insight, the Russian Formalists offered t w o premises The first p r o p o s e d a d i s t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n poetic a n d everyday usages of 'Formalism as a discipline and as a critical method was under attack from 1925 on, and association with it became increasingly dangerous. It was made illegal on April 23, 1932. when the Central Committee of the Communist Party announced the disbanding and illegality of all professional factions and the organization of the Union of Soviet Writers 2

Of particular importance is the work of members of the Tartu School, which sustained itself at the University of Tartu in Estonia until very recently For works available in English, see Jurij Lotman, The Structure of the Artistic Text, tr. Gail Lenhoff and Ronald Vroon (Ann Arbor Michigan Slavic Contributions. 1977). lurii M. Lotman. Lidiia la Ginsburg. Boris A, Uspenskii. The Semiotics of Russian Cultural History, ed. Alexander D Nakhimovsky and Alice Stone Nakhimovsky (Ithaca. Cornell University Press, 1985). Various works by the principal members of the Russian Formalist movement have been translated into English, and the best study of the movement, in my opinion, continues to be Viktor Erlich. Russian Formalism: History, Doctrine (The Hague. Pans, and New York: Mouton Publishers. 1980). 'Quoted in Boris Eikhenbaum. "The Theory of the Formal Method", in Ladislav Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska, eds., Readings in Russian Poetics (Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications. 1978). 8.


Lyn Hejiman

language And the second challenged the prominent position given to the image in analyses of poetry and the poetic To regard language as broadly generic, as a single basic medium, all of whose instances have more or less the same goal, which is to say something about something, is simplistic. Language in its artistic usage — poetic language — is not primarily expository or informative Everyday expository language may indeed be a medium of communication about things — but by virtue of that very fact, its meanings lle outside it; they are exterior to it; expository language makes sense by virtue of being referential — it points to things, its utterances are about But the aboumess of poetry dings also to the interior of the language Its meanings — its very meaningfulness reside within the context of poetry's peculiarities poetry's devices (to use a Russian Formalist term) its foregrounded formal properties form thoughts — they constitute the thinking of thinking These devices are diverse They are not confined to rhyme and meter. Nor are they limited to the invention of imagery, as Russia's conservative academics and Imagist poets had been insisting The image does indeed have its place in poetry - but that is precisely the Formalists' point. The specific placement, context, implementation, the use to which the given image is put — this is what should be given prominence All that is formal must also be dynamic The distinction between poetic and expository language is key here. Exposition, in its effort to convey information (which will be, by definition, new and unfamiliar to its hearers), must render it in accessible, which is to say familiar, terms. Art, on the other hand, has a different goal The function of art is to restore palpability to the world which habit and familiarity otherwise obscure; its task is to restore the liveliness to life Thus it must make the familiar remarkable, noticeable again; it must render the familiar unfamiliar. What is basic to poetry, then, is not the image (the unfamiliar rendered in familiar terms), but rather an unusual placement or usage of it To explain this, Viktor Shklovsky coined the term ostranenie - a term which is sometimes translated into English as 'enstrangemenf' or 'making strange' but which is more frequently left in the original Russian Ostraneme is an essential literary effect, a defining feature of the poetic (which plays, by the way, a central role in fiction as well as in verse)

Forms in Alterity


Poetry is literary not by dint of the mellifluousness of its sounds, the aptness of its imagery, the seamless interweaving of its parts, but through "roughening', dissonances, impediments. 4 If poetic devices are to achieve their effect — if they are to alert us to the existence of life and give us the experience of experiencing — various and new ones must be created constantly Poetry must involve more than the filling out of forms — the exercise of formalities; it requires an invention of form. The writing of formally designed poetry (and the translation of it into comparable formal designs) should provide difficulties — impediments And a translator must keep these difficulties in the light and carry them forward so that they are perceptible impediments to new readers, too. To lift poetry out of its difficulties would be to betray it 2 Recently, at the request of the Russian poet llya Kutik, I translated a number of his poems into English. They do make use of metrics and rhyme; they also involve a high degree of wordplay, often of a type that is dependent on etymological associations intrinsic to and solely available in the Russian language, a device that presents even greater difficulties to the translator But apart from this recent foray into the world of llya Kutik's poetry. my work as a translator has been focussed almost exclusively on the writings of another contemporary Russian poet, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (whom I am tempted to describe, rather, as the "contemporary Russian poet and theorist", except that to do so would suggest a division within his poetics, as if his thought were at variance with his writing, his philosophical method separate from the practice of it, and this is not the case; the poetry is, rather, an experiencing of the theory) In collaboration with my colleague Elena Balashova and with occasional but critical help from the poet, 1 have translated two books of Dragomoshchenko's work into American English, Description (Sun & 4

For the original statement of these ideas, see Viktor Shklovsky. Theory of Prose, tr, Benjamin Sher (Elmwood Park. IL: Dalkey Archive Press. 1990) and in particular Chapter 1. "Art as Device"


Lyn Hejinian

Moon Press, 1990) and Xenia (Sun & Moon Press, 1994). I'm currently working on a third book, an unbounded prose poem entitled Phosphor. The process of translating these works has had the effect of providing me with something like a life apart from my own, a life led by an other — though that other turns out to be me. It is not that translation involves the assimilation of someone else's otherness' — and it does not consist in the uncomplicated making of an American poem out of the raw materials of a 'foreign' one. Rather, translation catalyzes one's own 'otherness", and the otherness of one's own poetry. This is not the alterity that comes from radical introspection — not the sort of making-oneself-strange (or getting 'weirded out') that results from staring for a long time in the mirror, contemplating one's own name, or prolonging scrutiny of the visceral traces of a strong emotion. Rather, it is the otherness of seeming non-existence — the coming into being of non-being, the disappearance into language of ourselves, the world of which we speak, the poem itself. Speaking of his own translations of my work Arkadii Dragomoshchenko suggests. "Maybe one could call it meditation, since such activity actually is meditation: no me, no reality, no non-reality, no time, no space. Who knows, probably in our unconscious we always already have strived for such a ... (I can't call it an emotional state, nor a metaphysical experience) ... for such an order of 'facts', let us say so! Yet, for what reason do I suppose this? To be sure, because of the very nature of writing, inasmuch as our writing reminds me, in the very character of its project, of its ceaseless search for the possibilities of non-existence, non-being, in a word, for a fabulous blank space, the point where every meaning is only its own possibility, bearing in itself the shadow of a future embodiment, which simultaneously means an instant disappearance. Which is to say, from another perspective, that we have been very diligent explorers of disappearance per se. and we have come to know just this, that 'art' and 'life' in the end become the same." 5 It is the task of the translator to preserve this disappearance, and she must do so by sustaining the visibility of the poem — or at least of Unpublished letter to LH, March 13, 1995.

Forms in Altenty


a poem, since a too casual reference to "the poem" raises the question. "what is the poem?" And to answer that we must know where it is — in Russian (let's say) or in English? Can it be in both places? Is "the poem" an immaterial entity that can be in two places at once? The problems such questions bring to light are intensified in the circumstance of translation, since translation discovers the poem precisely in its odd position, there and there but also then and then — suspended between past and future but not quite in the present In part, this experience of being out of the present (or of non-being in the present) is produced by an inverted temporality implicit in the activity of translation It comes about because the translator 'writes' what has already been written; her progress converges with the deja vu. And in part it comes about because the labors of a translator are Sisyphian, as Dragomoshchenko himself pointed out to me: "You know, those guys playing with the stone and the hill and so forth " Or perhaps a better comparison might be to Penelope's tapestry, a prolonged interplay between weaving and unweaving, revealing and concealing. The analogy is apt not just with regard to translation; it pertains also to language itself. "Maybe." Dragomoshchenko remarks, "the only possible 'other' is the words themselves, the writing.... This 'other', or the work disposed in front of 'you', is there by virtue of your desire — it's a disembodied conjecture, an empty apprehension from the start. But of what, exactly? What exactly would one want to find there? What do we expect in this work? Why don't we continue with our own writing? Is there a 'crime' that you must resolve like an abstract problem, tracing it, imitating it to feel yourself as a non-self? I think that last is the most probable. I don't think that we have to speak about 'culture', the 'exchange of ideas', etc. Can't we say that in this activity a poet comes back (as in the 'mirror stage') and again and again attempts to penetrate the mystery of his or her being beyond his or her being; it's like the well-known desire to experience your own funeral.... OK, night birds fly behind my window. You can continue the windowscape yourself and during this time I will carefully investigate your writing room, your fingers on the keyboard "6


From undaced letter to the author, tr. the author.


Lyn Hejinian

In its encounter with the original, translation requires apprehension — apprehension in the sense of 'understanding' but also in the sense of 'fear'. The original serves as a first proposition, a thesis, and the translator responds with a second, dependent proposition — an alternative to it. This in turn becomes embedded in the synthesis we call its translation But this dialectical process is incomplete; it is a negative dialectics, since between the original and the translation the tension remains unresolved — one in which, contrary to traditional dialectics, the thesis, rather than the synthesis, remains dominant. The original, "the work disposed in front of you'", will always demand another translation. "No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better" 7 3

The failure that we produce is a word, phrase, stanza, or whole poem. Confronting it, we say, "Not this." But saying that provokes a response: "What then?" 8 The translator in her audacity begins there: she attempts to give what substance; she brings what — {what?) — into view. The astonishing something whose presence in our way informs us that we are on the way — the impasse (which is not merely a problem of translation but that of literariness itself) — materializes. And it does so through the formal properties of the language; these are its material properties, the conditions of its materialization Poetry is the art form which makes the fullest possible use of these properties. So it is that rhyme and meter, though they may be audible at all levels of language, may become prominent in some poetry. But rhyme and metric regularity have different meanings in different languages9 and even at different periods within a given language culture, and currently, in English, the use of end-rhyme and adherence to regular metrics have taken on very specific, and very limited, resonances. Their 'Samuel Beckett. Worstward Ho (New York. Grove Press. 1983). 7 These two phrases constitute the formal as well as thematic basis for Ron Silliman's Tjanting (Berkeley: The Figures. 1981). 9 lt should be noted, furthermore, that rhyme and meter, strictly speaking, have no meaning in some languages 8

Forms in Altenty


p r i n c i p a l professional 1 0 practitioners apart f r o m purveyors of c o m m e r c i a l doggerel seem to be the c o w b o y poets and the New Formalists — though I perhaps should a d d to the list parodists of the latter, such as Charles Bernstein, w h o s e c h a p b o o k , The Nude Formalism,

includes the profuse

"Gosh", a poem beginning: When fled I found my love defamed in clang Of riotous bed she came, along the flues I harbored there, scarce chance upon harangue By labors grant the fig of latched amuse..." Such paraodies are m e a n t not o n l y to m o c k New Formalist


but, m o r e broadly, to strike at the reverential and even funereal attitudes with






a p p r o a c h e d — as





r e m a i n s — a corpse, in other w o r d s ; funereal attitudes can only be taken to m e a n that p o e t r y is dead To s o m e extent — t h o u g h certainly not always — by evoking closure t h r o u g h the use of e n d - r h y m e a n d stability through the use of regular meter, t r a d i t i o n - b o u n d f o r m a l i s m in English conveys a similar m o r i b u n d c o n d i t i o n . But such is nor the case, for example, in Russian. W h e r e in English, r h y m e d verse speaks of the traditions and conventions of poetry, r h y m i n g in Russian speaks of i n v e n t i o n and e x p e r i m e n t a t i o n

An English

p o e m in a regular m e t e r a n d w i t h its lines h a m m e r e d into position by end-rhymes




a tiresome




p r e d i c t a b i l i t y ; at best, it suggests only ancient w i s d o m , age-old truths


provides familiarity and, through familiarity, consolation. It gives us respite f r o m the hardships of life. A Russian p o e m using these same devices, o n the other h a n d , sets off a pyrotechnical display, full of variety a n d surprise; it conveys a sense of irrepressible vitality a n d new ideas. W h y this is so is perhaps partially cultural. In Russian culture, poetry is (or, at least, always has been) part of popular culture — it is pervasive


l use the word professional to distinguish these groups of poets from the

myriad writers of sentimental occasional poetry —e.g.. poems written for a grandmother's

80th birthday

or as a medium

for participation

in certain

publicized private occasions, such as the death of Princess Diana, or locations, such as the Vietnam War Memorial "See Charles Bernstein. The Nude Formalism (Los Angeles: 20 Pages. 1989).

I 10

Lyn Hejinian

in the way that television shows like "Seinfeld" are in the U.S. This means that the Russian poet is addressing knowledgeable readers, an audience of cognoscenti, at least with regard to rhyme and meter. Russians are literate in poetry and in versification, in the way Americans are tv literate, and they want excitement; Russian readers cannot be satisfied with the same old stuff. But the difference in effect between formal versification at the level of rhyme (and to a lesser extent meter) in Russian and in English is due also to technical features of the two languages. Russian, being a highly inflected language, allows for the fullest possible variations in word order in any given sentence; in sense, though not in tone, word order often makes no difference at all. Each word's grammatical function is clearly indicated within the word form itself, through attached suffixes (and in some cases also prefixes and infixes). Predicates therefore can come long before or long after subjects, adjectives can be widely separated from the nouns they modify. And since the forms of the suffixes are quite limited, being similar whether attached to participles, adjectives, or nouns, rhymes between words with different grammatical functions are possible. Indeed, they are almost mandatory A noun-noun rhyme — of the sort to which English is very often limited — sounds to a Russian ear amateurish and boring. But though the possibilities for rhyming in English are indeed limited both syntactically and lexically, English is not lacking in suppleness or subtlety. The fantastic and inventive nuancing that gets performed through rhyming in Russian, and the highly condensed, carefully contrived, rhythmically compressed dynamic force this conveys, can find their equivalent in English through other devices. Indeed, I would argue that the meaning that rhyme and meter may convey in Russian (as well as certain other languages) can be, and usually must be, translated into English through other devices. Since unless one is translating from an original language rich in cognates with the language of the translation, all sorts of sounds and soundings are going to be changed (and perhaps lost), rhyme being just one of them, one must look at the meanings of the specific sounds themselves in the two languages. And one must look to the myriad

Forms in Altenty

Ii 1

other formal (material) proclivities in both languages — one must compare the ways in which the several languages form their forms A list of all such properties would be very long. It would have to include the various aural devices that produce, to borrow Ezra Pound's famous formulation, the melopoeia through which words are "charged or energized ... over and above their plain meaning, with some musical property, which directs the bearing or trend of that meaning" 1 2 Among these are alliteration, stress, repetition, onomatopoeia, homonymy, etc., and where they occur not only the fact of them but the specific effect of each — its timbral quality, its mimetic purport if any, etc — must be taken into account. And the list would have to include semantic devices which may or not be aural, such as anaphora, irony, synonymy, antonymy, oxymoron, punning, and at a larger level metaphor and metonymy. It would also include the use of etymological networks — the relationships of words within a given lexicon that have branched from a single root. And it would include the implementation of such chains of association as have been formed through the use of words or phrases within the language culture — as, for example, in colloquialisms that bring about an association in English between birds, hands, and bushes or between stitches, time, and the number nine. It would have to include patterning, audible or inaudible: chiasmus, parallelism. anadiplosis, etc., as well as the larger patterns, metric and otherwise. that are perceptible at the level of the stanza or even of the whole poem. Just as rhyme-effects may be achieved in English using devices other than rhyme, likewise, in translating American poetry using rhyme-effective devices, a Russian version may use rhyme; llya Kutik's translations of the sequence of poems called "Up Early" by Kit Robinson, for example, are rhymed. The first poem of "Up Early", with rhymed meanings though not rhymed words, is highly condensed. The meter is not regular, but it reflects the semantic condensation — the crisp vernacular ironies add tension and propel the cadences of the poem.


Ezra Pound. "How to Read", in Literary Essays (New York: New Directions. 1978).

I 12

Lyn Hejinian the tenor of your madness leads me to believe along lines of force the commencement signals an end from which to disembark on a journey to three islands the island of early morning the island of the little pipe and the island where the rubber meets the road as I have been telling you and a steady hum reaches our ears along lines of force13

In llya Kutik's own Russian poetry, rhyme achieves effects with strong affinities to those of Robinson's work. Working in partnership with the poet Jean Day to translate some of this work, I have engaged the rhymes in various ways but particularly through use of compact statement, pressured juxtaposition, and interacting polyrhythms. The third stanza of a poem entitled "The Hyphen" (Perenos) is written in couplets with an irregular rhyme scheme that relates the lines within the couplets not to each other but to other lines in other couplets The couplet form gives the stanza a highly condensed, tightly woven effect; the rhyming unweaves them. Transits — hyphens — crisscross the poem. Our translation seeks to keep them in motion: tighter than a sheep's horn more mute than Roland's this way's not hell's coiled spring nor limbos of the brain nor the cliffs of purgatory nor of Norway with Charles' stretcher (in a niche of canvas a museum

"Kit Robinson. Ice Cubes (New York: Roof Books, 1987), 7.

Forms in Alterity

1 13

passage) the Nose goes but without a breath past Heine's two grenadiers who can't overcome the determined dust and so never — the two — get to Here we hope that the ominous sounding of the coiled "horn' and what it announces about this "way" remains audible, in the repetition of the o and r sounds that echo in the words "purgatory" and "nor" and culminate in "Norway" The homonymic rhyme at the end — the most complete form of rhyme possible — was a gift, it made any others redundant. In a poem related to this one and entitled "Gogol and Hamlet", the poet begins with a dream image of a nose and sees the nostrils as an infinity sign: =», The symmetry of the sign and the inhaling-exhaling pattern of air passing through it (in the form of the nostrils) is replicated in the rhyme pattern of the opening 6-line stanza: a b c c b a. The lines are very short — the first and longest contains four words, the second three, and the rest two (unless one considers the hyphenated "uznik-matros" ["prisoner-sailor"] of the last line one word). To achieve equal compression, even containment, while replicating the rhyme pattern in English was impossible. Things simply take more space in American English.14 Day's and my translation loses another symmetrical element in Kutik's poem, one that parallels the symmetry of the nostrils, the rhyme scheme. and the infinity sign. Two of the four words of the first line are palindromes of each other: "moy son byl nos" (son: 'dream'; nos 'nose';


It is tempting to give this fact a larger cultural interpretation. Americans, at least in the reigning mythology, are addicted to "wide open spaces", to "elbowroom" and unfenced rangeland (nicely expressed in Gene Autry's theme song "Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above; don't fence me in"). American culture is terrified of claustrophobia Faced with an even more immense geographical magnitude, Russian culture, on the other hand, is notoriously agoraphobic.

I 14

Lyn Hejinian

literally, "my dream was nose") We had to use the word "nose", the allusion to the history of the run-away nose in Gogol's story being essential to both the sense and meaning, and there's neither a sonic nor a visual palindrome for the word in English Our translation of the stanza is as follows: My dream was a nose (1 know, Freud: the genius of genitals) of Genoas. of Italies, the noosed sailor of a dreamy passage. A palindrome of sorts does occur here, with "my dream" in the first line recurring as "dreamy" in the last line. In addition, plays on the sonic qualities of the word "nose" are brought into the interior of the lines — a position from which rhyme and near-rhyme can more easily surprise the American reader. The "nose" surfaces audibly in "know", "Genoas", and, more obliquely with respect to sound but quite pertinently with respect to sense, in "noosed", which we derived associatively, as a metonym (in the form of synecdoche) to signify the "prisoner" (the uznik of uznik-matros).'5 Metonymy is a particularly important figure in poetry. And the use of metonymy in English language poetry in particular, and the play on association which metonymy entails, does often provide effects similar to those of rhyme in other languages: a sense of rapidity of thought, unexpected connections between diverse things, a high degree of emotional and intellectual energy, wit, liveliness, etc. And just as the logic of rhymes brings (perhaps even forces) words and hence their associated references (ideas and things) into a poem, thereby determining not just the sound but even the subject matter, so too does the logic of metonymy. Metonymic strategies closely resemble rhyming strategies in inviting language itself to participate in the creation of the poem.


For the original Russian versions of these poems, see llya Kutik, Luk Odisseya (The Bow of Odysseus) (Saint Petersburg, Russia: Sovietskii Pisatel, 1993); the translations are as yet unpublished.

Forms in Altenty

1 15


The poetry of Arkadii Dragomoshchenko presents formal problems of a different kind from those of Ilya Kutik Dragomoshchenko's writing is often driven by etymological metonymy — its themes evolving as words of like origin branch out into the poem. His work is devoted to phenomenological experience — acts of perception, attentiveness to the moments and events through which the world makes its appearance — and occasionally he uses diction of varying tonalities to indicate mood and hence point of view.16 But the real formalisms of Dragomoshchenko's writing lie in the shape of the sentences — in the syntactic complexities, the prolongation of thought, the observation of the conditionality of perception, the postponement of understanding. His sentences are long; they are interspersed with parenthetical as well as conditional clauses; subject and predicate are divided by worlds of time — something, as I've said, which Russian, being inflected, can achieve more easily than English. One solution — and a customary one for translators of Russian prose, even a prose of not-so-long sentences — is to break the sentences up. But I have not wanted to do so. Their duration, their mindfulness, their difficulty speak precisely and intentionally to their subject matter — perception. A roughly-drafted first version of such a sentence — not even really a version but merely an attempt to get all the words down in a form slightly beyond that of the word salad — produced this: But the problem is that between a description and a letter of a word lies a territory which the writer cannot overcome: his first phrase in life (I already once attempted its description in a novel, "An


One particularly marked example of this provides an amusing anecdote In one of the passages in Description, four lines appear not in Russian but in the very closely related Ukrainian When I asked Arkadii to explain the tone that the Ukrainian would convey to a Russian reader, he replied that it would sound like an ancient and more primitive form of the language giving a more natural. less culture-conditioned view of the world, he suggested that 1 find an equivalent in English, an old form of the American language, perhaps Hopi or Sioux. See Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Description (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press. 1990), 74. The passage was beautifully translated into Old English by Steve McCaffery.

I 16

Lyn Hejinian Arrangment in Hours and Trees"), written at the age of 9 into a notebook in a binding bitterly smelling of carpenter's glue that was slipped to me by my mother somehow in passing, absent-mindedly, with a pencil (the pencil was stolen from my father's sanctuary, his desk), and it's not known what was more tormenting, the slightly green cut into squares field of the minute page that lost its borders at that instant when the glance was falling into its milky smoky with fog mirror or the oily in camphor cedar fragrance of pencil point (although, to confess, the pencil belonged to my mother and the notebook was taken from my father's desk, where it lay near a bronze bear), or possibly it was all completely in reverse —in reality coinciding with imaginary reality — as in cool autumn when for the first time with pleasure one puts on warm clothes in the morning, despite the fact that they're completely unseasonal. while inside, as if something was sick of summer and strives for the frost, cold, like the light in an operating room. sun. brittle like the first ice on the lips, fills one with sorrow like a lump in the throat when you are all attention looking at how the bird splits against the wall of light like the eye — into two lines, the horizon line and another, the line of the edge of the shore, hissing, wandering, like a person with griefstricken eyes in a crowd, who reeks of stale urine and habitual feeblemindedness, moving his lips, calculating, everything in everything. repeating with automatic, mechanical passion everything about everything. I7

To produce even this rough version of the sentence, to give it a degree of comprehensibility and to convey its beauty, required moving clauses and inserting conjunctions as well as definite and indefinite articles. The more difficult and more important task of conveying the skepticism of the original, the underlying doubt, producing not melancholy or nostalgia but rather a sense of life's cruelty — this has to b e attempted through the larger figures of writing — through image, obviously, but also through the relationships between parts of sentences and between s e n t e n c e s within a p a s s a g e . W h a t m u s t b e p r e s e r v e d are the disappearances that are enacted as specific meanings vanish into the


The passages in translation, based on a manuscript version of the book, are as yet unpublished, for a shorter version of the work in Russian, see Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Phosphor (Saint Petersburg, Russia: Severo-Zapad, 1994).

Forms in AJterity

I 17

time and space of sentences, the sentences into paragraphs, and the paragraphs into a book — the momentary experiences of our perceptions occurring always just at moment when they too disappear.


Bengt Jangfeldt So

THE BODY AND SOUL OF POETRY Discussion of Judith Moffett's Paper "On Formal Translation"

What Judith Moffet is saying in her paper is, basically, that when translating poetry one should try to be as true as possible to the original, even — or especially — when this original is composed according to a strict prosodic pattern, including meter and rhyme. For some people — such as Robert Bly — this approach appears disastrous and leads to "massacre" To me it has always been a great challenge, and if I believed that the endeavour would inevitably result in a "massacre", it wouldn't be worth trying It might, of course, end in a "massacre", but only if one tries to do the undoable, to translate the untranslatable; here, the translator's feeling for his own language is crucial With a dead author, one can always choose how one wishes to mutilate his work — by rhyming or not rhyming —but with a living poet who demands that one keep all the formal elements in translation, there is little choice. 1 will say a few words about this, too, and am sorry if doing so anticipates the discussion of Eliot Weinberger's paper. In order to avoid misunderstanding. I want to make it clear from the outset that 1 use the expression "formal poetry" in the same sense as Judith Moffett, i.e., to refer to metric and/or rhymed poetry. I am fully aware that all poetry, all good poetry at least, is formal in the sense that it is highly structured, that there is in fact no such thing as "free verse"

Body and Soul of Poetry

1 19

I would also like to mention that I have all my life been involved in Russian poetry (both as a scholar and as a translator), translating mainly three poets — Mandelstam, Mayakovsky, and Brodsky — and this background will no doubt tinge my exposition. I Judith Moffett's first proposition is that one of the reasons why "formal" translation is often disrespected is that poets themselves, not only translators, no longer adhere to the formal rules once compulsory when writing verse. Now, this is true in Sweden, and it is true in the larger part of the Western world. The liberation from (or onslaught on) formal poetry began, on a wider scale, in this century, and the victory (or defeat) was a fact around the Second World War. But it certainly is not true in one of the great poetry nations of the world, Russia. The Russian tradition is quite different from ours, for a variety of reasons. One is that the movement towards freer verse that took place in Russia in the tens and the twenties never came to fruition. The aesthetic dogma proclaimed by the Soviet State was conservative, and virtually no formal experimentation was allowed after around 1930. It would, however, be wrong to attribute this development, or lack of such, to the socio-political situation only. There is little reason to believe that formal poetry would have disappeared in Russian had the political system been different. We would have had "free verse", of course, but we would also have had a vigorous "traditional" or "formal" poetry alongside The viability of formal poetry in Russian has to do with the language itself. Russian is an extremely flexible language, not least concerning word order, which is virtually free: much like in Latin, you can put the words in any order you like without breaking the limits of what is grammatically possible and correct; it leads to semantic and stylistic shifts, no more. To find a rhyme is thus simple, especially since the language is at least as rich in words as English. Furthermore, unstressed last syllables are reduced phonetically, which means that words that do not rhyme in writing, rhyme when spoken. Russian is also a highly inflected language, in which a word may be


Bengt Jangfeldt

identical at one level but differ at another — the word 'russkoy', for example, is a feminine singular adjective or adjectival noun in the genitive, dative, locative or instrumental case, but it is spelt and pronounced the same way in all four. Adjectives, nouns, pronouns, etc., may thus be identical at the morphological and phonetical levels but carry different grammatical and semantic information. To tell a Russian translator that he should not try to rhyme is thus pointless. As a matter of fact, the problem for (and with) Russian translators is quite the opposite Since in Russia unrhymed poetry is often not conceived as poetry at all, a Russian translator is prone to translate even unrhymed poetry into rhymed Russian. This means that the unrhymed verse of, for example, the Swedish poets Karl Vennberg and Goran Sonnevi is rhymed (and metered) in Russian. The results are quite horrifying Please forgive this excursion into the mysteries of the Russian language, but it does have some bearing on my further reasoning 2 Judith Moffeit's second proposition is that the "meaning" of a poem is "inherent in the poem's form fused with its content" This, one would think, is self-evident. But if one consults a much sold American dictionary of poetics, one can read: "Form in poetry, simply defined, is the manner in which a poem is composed as distinct from what the poem is about." This is not a very satisfying definition: "form" is supposed to be one thing, and "content" or "meaning" another. Of course, there is no opposition here, these notions are not antitheses: there is no form without content, and no content without form. What we are talking about is an organic whole. The poet says it this way: "The formal structure of a poem is not something distinct from its meaning but as intimately bound up with the latter as the body is with the soul." In the course of poetic history, we have seen examples of poetry being more or less formal, paying more or less attention to form, sometimes taking its strength from the "message", sometimes — in latter days, especially — being formal to the point of becoming meaningless.

Body and Soul of Poetry


Whatever our preferences, the poet — his name is W. H. Auden — is, of course, right; we cannot imagine a poem without either form or content, a "formless" poem is also a poem with a poorly planned argument. A form is not a mould, or a vessel, into which one can pour a "content". If you turn Shakespearean blank verse into rhymed iambic pentameters, what you get is not Shakespeare's "content" plus rhymes What you get is something qualitatively different. By the same token, if a poet writes a poem in a certain meter, he does so partly because or though he knows it will provoke associations in the reader: this metre echoes the poetry of, say, Donne or Marvell. Sometimes the echo is so strong and so intentional that a translation of the poem without keeping the formal aspects would distort the socalled message. In Russian poetry, for instance, the iambic tetrameter is forever associated with Alexander Pushkin, and no Russian poet can use the trochaic pentameter without the reader hearing a distinct echo from Mikhail Lermontov"s poem "Vykhozhu odin ia na dorogu...". When Brodsky wrote a poem dedicated to the war in Bosnia, "Bosnia Tune" (one of his few topical poems), he cast it in a form (trochaic tetrameter) that associated to a well-known poem: the third part of Auden's "In Memory of W B Yeats" Auden's famous lines: Time that is intolerant Of the brave and innocent, And indifferent in a week To a beautiful physique ... are echoed by Brodsky in: Time, whose sharp blood-thirsty quill parts the killed from those who kill. will pronounce the latter band as your brand. I was asked by several newspapers to translate this poem into Swedish, but 1 refused. First of all, because it is very tightly knit semantically, and, as Judith Moffett says, the shorter the poem, the less room for the interpreter. And. secondly, because of the semantic and formal references with which the poem is imbued. With this poem. Brodsky wanted not only to comment on the war in Bosnia, but also to send a metapoetic signal which would be totally lost in translation


Bengt Jangfeldt

The resounding of this echo, this poetic interplay, continued after Joseph Brodsky's death, when Seamus Heaney wrote a tribute to the poet, in the same metre. It is called "Audenesque": a double allusion — to Auden through Brodsky, who adored the English poet And this is really an "Audenesque" poem, which we would recognise as such even if the author had chosen to give it another title If one (for the sake of simplicity rather than of accuracy, given my objections to the very terms) tries to picture a scale showing two extremes, "form" and "content", the needle will in this case no doubt oscillate heavily towards the former Anyway, in this case it is impossible to imagine the poem cast in another form. 3

This brings us to another question, the question of translatability. The poem I mentioned, "Bosnia Tune", is, to my mind, a good example of a poem that cannot be translated, where too much is lost in translation. But where do we draw the line? I agree with Judith Moffett (and Richard Wilbur) that a poet has the right not to be "levelled down", and with her statement that a good translator should know when to "abandon the effort" In any case, you can never transpose all relevant elements into another language: you always have to sacrifice something. What is sacrificed depends on the poet or the poem being translated. If 1 am allowed to stick to my Russian guns, 1 will continue with a few words about this, about rhyming especially. As I said, in Russian poetry rhyme is not a marked feature, whereas the absence of rhyme is. But this does not mean that one can or should refrain from rhyming when translating from Russian. For even with Russian poets, the rhyme is a more or less stressed or significant element, and the poets are more or less good at it. With a poet such as Vladimir Mayakovsky, both rhyme and rhythm (not metre) are strongly marked, since he broke with the old Russian tradition and introduced a new verse form, where the separate word is the dominating element of the line. In this accentual verse, the rhyme word has the greatest semantic weight but is only the first among equals. When translating Mayakovsky into another language, therefore,

Body and Soul of Poetry


it is essential to keep both rhythm and rhyme (or half rhymes), since these are dominant elements in his poetry In the case of Osip Mandelstam. both metre and rhyme are rather conventional, i.e., they add little to the poem, semantically or euphonically. Here the complicated imagery is the dominant trait. Discarding the rhyme here, therefore, could perhaps be regarded as a lesser offence. That in any case is what I did when I translated Mandelstam together with the Swedish poet Goran Sonnevi almost twenty years ago: we didn't rhyme but we kept Mandelstam's rhyme words in the rhyming position, at the end of each line. I am not sure I would choose the same method again, but that was one way of trying to solve the formal problem. 4 I have translated both living and dead poets. To work on Brodsky's poetry, being able to consult him, was a great experience, especially since we were often working on the same poems at the same time: he was translating his poems into English, I into Swedish Brodsky was tough on the issue of keeping the formal elements of a poem, more uncompromising, I would think, even than Wilbur (whom, by the way, he appreciated for his attitude in this matter). This had to do, no doubt, with his Russian background, but also with his deep conviction that verse meters are "spiritual magnitudes for which nothing can be substituted", "vessels of time", in fact. And since, according to Brodsky, holding Time back, trying to prevent Time from overtaking Man, is one of the main tasks of the poet, it is essential that these elements be kept in translation as well. This being his conviction, he once wrote a letter to his Swedish publisher about the principles of translation It is dated April 27. 1989, and reads as follows: In connection with the forthcoming [Swedish] edition of my poems I'd like to outline two or three principles by which the selection of translations should be guided: I would like to insist on preserving [the] formal aspects of the original By that I mean meter and rhyme I do realise that in certain


Bengt Jangfeldt cases this may prove to be impossible, but I'd rather prefer my poems non-existent in Swedish than misrepresented. The minimal requirement that should be met by any translator is the preservation of the meter. [-] Meter is the backbone of a poem, and I'd rather appear stiff than spineless I am a professional, and I'd like to be treated professionally No personal philosophy of this or that translator should be paid heed to, regardless of his or her reputation in the country. The aforesaid requirement should be put to any individual who'd volunteer, or be assigned, to translate my work, so that he or she knew from the threshold what is being expected from them. [ ] It would be nice to make rhymes survive as well: not for my sake but for your readers'.

This is a letter to a publisher, but since Brodsky also worked as a translator, it is also a letter to himself. In this capacity, he faced the s a m e p r o b l e m s as any other translator; especially given such a demanding principal. Brodsky states that he'd rather see his p o e m s "non-existent" than "misrepresented" This m e a n s that he had to make the s a m e kind of choices as 1 did, between p o e m s that are translatable and those that are not, and he, too, sometimes had to "abandon the effort". What struck m e was that we m a d e almost identical choices, independently of one another Some of the very best p o e m s were never translated into English, just as they were never translated into Swedish. Some, on the other hand, were, but at the cost of being almost rewritten But that is the author's prerogative. Judith Moffett writes that long lines are "a great boon to the formal translator" This is certainly true for rhymed accentual verse where the length of the lines is not strictly regulated: there are more opportunities, simply. And if you look at Brodsky's p o e m s in English, you will see that the lines in this kind of poem are often longer than in the Russian original. But it is not necessarily "a boon" in p o e m s written in a strict metre, where one may sometimes have to pad to fill out the metric gaps. That the poet and the translator often face the s a m e problems is shown by the following story I once explained to Brodsky that in the poem "An Admonition" I had to change the rhyme structure to get a good rhyme in Swedish. I not only moved the Russian rhymeword

Body and Soul of Poetry


"vran'e" ["lies", "nonsense"] away from the rhyming position but rendered it with two words, "logner och svekfullhet" ["lies and treacherousness"] — a rhythmically motivated padding Brodsky smiled and said, "That's all right. In fact, that's exactly what I wanted to say in Russian — but 1 couldn't because of the rhyme." The poet and the translator thus are in the same boat, but there is a fundamental difference: while the poet can rock it, the translator has little room for manoeuvring. When the poet and the translator are the same person, the problem is non-existent since in both languages he is the author of the poem. 5 The most common arguments against trying to render the formal aspects of a poem are that it is difficult and that too much has to be sacrificed. It is also said that this kind of poetry is outdated, and that all rhymes are worn out. As for the first argument, it is difficult, but the fact that it is difficult is hardly an argument against, but rather for: who wants to do what is simple? As to the other objection, that too much is lost, one can counter and say that too much is lost if you don't A third argument, that this kind of poetry is old-fashioned, is simply not true (and probably won't be either, since formal poetry seems to be on its way back); as concerns the objection that the rhyming possibilities have been exhausted, it was perhaps correct at the time when poets abandoned rhymed poetry decades ago, but it is no longer; since most poets have refrained from rhyming for so long, there are hoards of words that have never been rhymed: the vocabulary of technology, science, sport, modern slang, and so on Needless to say, the amount of unrhymed words will only increase. And this linguistic potential is no doubt worth exploring Another argument in favour of "formal translating" is that you are likely to make fewer mistakes, since you will probably work longer on the translation, twisting the meaning in and out until you are satisfied with both the "inner" and the "outer form" If you don't subject the poem to this kind of re-creation in your own language, there is always a risk that you work too fast and miss a nuance or two. By doing so, on the other hand, you may perhaps not grasp the exact meaning of


Bengt Jangfeldt

the poem, if such is to be found, but you usually end up at least knowing what it is nor about. On top of that, you learn quite a lot not only about the possibilities of the language you translate from but about the potential of your own language as well Joseph Brodsky's letter (pp. 123-4) is quoted by kind permission of the Estate of Joseph Brodsky.



"A problem of great importance is the translation of metrical and/or rhymed poetry, especially when translating into languages where such forms are no longer in active use. This inevitably brings the question of the structure of free verse to the fore, as well as the factors that make poetry into poetry" (From the preliminary descriptive note about this session) The problem or question, of course, is whether or not imitation of the source text's metre and rhyme in the target language is a sine qua non. Clearly mimetic formal translation is not the only option available to the translator. Other possibilities are as listed below — I shall avail myself of the categories supplied by the late James S Holmes (doyen of translation studies) in his exemplary essay, "Forms of Verse Translation and the Translation of Verse Form" (Translated! Papers on Literary Translation and Translation Studies, Rodopi, 1988), which is still the most lucid treatment of this matter (see also, in the same book, his essays: "Poem and Metapoem', "the Cross-Temporal Factor in Verse Translation" and "On Matching and Making Maps: From a Translator's Notebook"). As a preliminary, though, the notion of "formal verse" as opposed (presumably) to "informal verse" came under scrutiny, in that any poetry worthy of the name can be described as "formal", meaning deliberately put together or formed, whether using regular metre and rhyme or not. This may be borne in mind when considering Holmes's remarks, which


Daniel Weissbort

concern themselves with the translation of metrically regular and rhymed verse into English. The following options, then, are discussed by him: mimetic form, where the original form is reproduced exactly; analogical form, where the function of the form within its poetic tradition is examined and a form that fills a parallel function in the poetic tradition of the target language is chosen; organic form, which is content- rather than form-derivative: i.e. the translator "starts from the semantic material, allowing it to take on its own unique poetic shape as the translation develops"; deviant or extraneous form, where the translator "casts the metapoem [i.e. translation] into a form that is in no way implicit in either the form or the content of the original" What are the consequences of these different approaches? Analogical form tends to naturalize ("domesticate") the poem (as Holmes remarks: "Pope's Iliad, in rhymed couplets, becomes something very much like an English poem about English gentlemen, for all the Greek trappings of the fable") Mimetic form has the reverse effect, emphasizing the "foreignness" of the text (eg in attempts to reproduce the Greek hexameter in English, the dominant metre of which is the iambic pentameter). The "organic" approach follows from the conviction that form and content are inseparable, so that form cannot be predetermined, as it is in the above form-derivative approaches. The "extraneous" approach, it turns out, is an older version of the organic approach. Holmes, of course, discusses these options or strategies — always non-normatively — in considerable detail, giving practical examples of what he has in mind; however, I shall now attempt to proceed under my own steam. For practical purposes, as was clearly shown at the Stockholm Seminar, we need to distinguish between translation involving languages which are culturally and linguistically approximative and those that are not. So, if mimetic translation tends to produce foreignized target texts, this effect will be tempered when the prosodic conventions of the two languages are relatively close. Furthermore, the ostensibly more intelligent or rational approach whereby the translator seeks an analogical form, is in practice not so unproblematical, since what is analogous for one translator may be spurious or incongruous for another Our discussion, however, concerned itself more with the question as to whether it was plausible mimetically to translate a formally regular source text into English, in which - or so it is often claimed — regularity

Report on Session 3


of form has long ceased to be requisite of poetry The translation of regularly metered and/or rhymed verse into so-called free verse, might, in Holmes's typology, appear to be situated somewhere between "analogical" and "organic" translation, although, as indicated in the description of this session, it would of course be necessary to define what was meant by free verse. Still, as a general strategy for the translation of formal verse from whatever language into English, translation into free verse leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, even if, as is pointed out, forms can be transferred, the effect in the target language will not be the same as or even necessarily similar to that in the source language, whereas content will often have had to be altered to an unacceptable extent to allow the formal requirements to be met. Nevertheless, proponents of metrically mimetic translation are surely to be forgiven for reacting defensively to the criticism so often levelled that their approach is mechanistic. The argument goes back and forth, and as Holmes remarks: "There is, surely, no other problem of translation that has generated so much heat, and so little light, among the normative critics." By "normative critics", of course, he also meant practitioners, defending their particular translational approaches. Bearing this in mind, the participants of the present symposium showed remarkable restraint, maintaining their positions vigorously enough, but not to the bitter end. Judith Moffett, for instance, having persuasively advocated formally mimetic translation in her opening address (her examples being drawn from her own translations of nineteenth-century Swedish poetry into English) admitted, at the session on translation from non-lndo European languages, that she could certainly see how dubious a proposition mimetic translation would be when the prosodic conventions were as remote from one another as they were between, say, the classical Japanese tanka and English-language verse of whatever period. Nor was Lyn Hejinian, who had been considering the question from the point of view of a translator of two post-Soviet Russian poets (i.e. llya Kutik and Arkadii Dragomoshchenko), any more intent on legislating for fellow translators When she was asked how she would tackle a poet like Hjalmar Gullberg, a selection of whose highly formal work Judith Moffett had translated into English, preserving both rhyme and metre, she admitted that, in the first instance, she would probably not


Daniel Weissbort

have attempted to translate such a poet but that had she done so, she might have felt obliged to approach the task much as Moffett had done. It can confidently be stated that Judith Moffett, for her part, would not have embarked on the translation of Dragomoshchenko or Kutik No value judgement is implied in either case. (Collegiality informed the sessions, although I suspect that this will have been more apparent to participants in the symposium than it will be to readers of the statements here presented.) There was a general acceptance, I believe, that much depended on what the translator had in mind, what motivated him or her, what the context not only of the source text but also of the target text may have been. Along the way, a number of understandings and misunderstandings were aired, and we even found time to clear up one or two of the latter. For instance, the contention that translation of metrically regular and/or rhymed verse into verse that did not reproduce these features was the easy way out (even if it can hardly be denied that it often has been) was shelved; after all, the claim that the opposite is true, can also be made, even if this may seem somewhat more spurious, at least to the uninformed. As the session proceeded, it became increasingly clear that while we might discuss individual translations and agree or disagree on strategies even in these cases, it was doubtful whether specific principles (as against a general injunction to try even harder!) could be laid down. In other words, it would seem that we are in need of more material, of more individual studies, and also of continuing open discussion among — practitioners. The question arises, however, as to whether, in our "post-colonial" times, there is a greater readiness to accept "foreignizing" translations than there was in the recent past. It should be stated, parenthetically, that Judith Moffett's translation of formal nineteenth century Swedish verse into a metrically formal English verse takes advantage of two factors: in the first place, the relative closeness of Swedish and English, and secondly the survival of a formal tradition in English itself, even if for a while free verse did appear to have swept all before it. In this instance, therefore, the formally mimetic approach did not produce Englished foreigners, even if there may have been a polemical or didactic

Report on Session 3


component in a strategy that gave Moffett the opportunity to write additional formal verse in English Bengt Jangfeldt brought his experience as a critic and translator of Russian poetry of three major poets, Mandelstam. Mayakovsky, and Joseph Brodsky, to bear on the problem, pointing out, as has been suggested above, that the degree of formal imitation might well depend, among other things, on the prosodic significance of such formal devices as metre and rhyme. With Mayakovsky, for instance, so semantically loaded were the rhymes that it was hard to do without them, even allowing for the fact that rhyme is less of a marked feature in Russian than it is in English. With Brodsky, there was the further complication that the author himself was involved in the process of translation, as a self-translator into English but also in his supervising of translations of his work by others. Brodsky, as we know, insisted wherever possible on the preservation of rhyme and metre, particularly metre. He was quite uncompromising in this matter, convinced as he was that verse metres are "spiritual magnitudes for which nothing can be substituted". When translating his own work Brodsky was often ready to rewrite lines that proved recalcitrant (this authorial prerogative, of course, was not transferable to his translators) However, self-translation, where source text and target text authors are one and the same person, is surely a special case. Perhaps, what Brodsky's work as a self-translator underlines (always allowing for the fact that English was not his native tongue) is that formal imitation will often require a degree of rewriting, sometimes amounting even to reformulation. Brodsky was led to develop an idiolect designed, it is true, to serve his own needs, but also to accommodate features of the Russian language that a more standard English was less able to do In the present climate, experiments such as Brodsky's, which are the product of a perceived necessity, suggest to some translators (at least in respect to poetry and to translation between languages such as Russian and English) a more radical course of action, combining a formally literalistic approach with a willingness to modify English syntax and prosody Others, of course, strenuously oppose this, as potentially disintegrative of our language.

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Session 4


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A bilingual student of mine recently made the following observation. During a period of study in England, she had become an admirer of Milan Kundera, reading his work in English. Later, back in Italy, she had picked up an early novel of his, in Italian this time, that she didn't know. She remarked: 'It was only when 1 was three quarters of the way through that 1 realized it was the same novel 1 had read first of all in England. I knew the plot was the same of course, but the book was so completely, so utterly different 1 was convinced it couldn't be the one I had already read.' Checking recently through the Italian translation of an early novel of my own, a noir I suppose you would call it, scribbled in my second year in Italy, I was disturbed to find the following remark. The hero, a young Englishman in Italy who is about to turn to a life of crime, recognizes that this has something to do with the change of language. He says: 'the only thing he had truly gained these last two years was the ability to speak a foreign language near perfectly and the curious freedom that ability now appeared to give him in the way he thought As if he had shifted off rails. His mind seemed to roam free over any and every possibility. He must make a big effort always to think in Italian as well as to speak it (certainly he had been thinking in Italian when he stole the document case) It could be a way out of himself,


Tim Parks

he thought, and out of the trap they had all and always wanted him to fall into.'1 I wrote this, and promptly forgot it, in my late twenties, some years before I started translating anything with literary pretensions and many years before I began to read more seriously about language and linguistics. In the meantime, however, I have discovered the Italian proverb: 'Inglese italianizzato, inglese indiavolato'. which would have been such an appropriate quotation to have placed on the title page. Just as that proverb translates poorly into English, so my comment on the hero's sense of moral liberty in a foreign language, which seemed convincing enough in the original English, appears much less so in the Italian translation, where the reader is doubtless all too aware that his language is drenched in catholic morality The liberty Italian gave my hero had to do with its novelty, his unawareness of its implications, his being uninitiated in the culture it supports. What I want to do in this paper is to ask if there is any useful connection to be made between my bilingual student's surprise on reading Kundera in a different language, and my hero's perception that his appropriation of the Italian language would open the way to his appropriation of other people's property. And again whether there is a connection between these two events — one real, one fictional — and my own growing conviction that a very great deal of literature, poetry and prose, can only be truly exciting and efficacious in its original language, a conviction that goes hand in hand with my decision not to write any more in Italian, never to translate into Italian, and never to translate poetry in any direction at all. This is a personal decision I should stress, not a prescription... It is amusing, of course, that my student should have discovered the shock of the difference between the same text in different languages, with, of all people, Milan Kundera. For perhaps no other contemporary writer has been so ferociously attentive to the translations of his own work, nor dedicated himself to such scathing polemics at the expense of lazy and 'unfaithful' translation, polemics underwritten, it sometimes seems, by a belief in the possibility of a near identity between original

'T Parks, Cara Massimina, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1990. p. 11.

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and translation. Kundera speaks of having left a publisher because he changed semi-colons into full-stops. He speaks of a natural tendency of translators to reject repetition, to use richer and more literary vocabulary where the original text was lean and simple, and above all to return 'stylistic transgression' to convention.2 Kundera is not alone, of course, in finding such shortcomings — I think most of us will have made the same observations — nor in identifying an author's stylistic transgression with his originality "and indeed the raison d'etre of his work. Explaining his own habitual use of repetition, D. H. Lawrence remarked: 'the only answer is that it is natural to the author.'3 Less defensively, Proust spoke of style as 'the transformation that the author's thought imposes on reality',4 suggesting an essential equivalence of style and vision. In this regard, i suspect we would all agree that the mark of a 'poetic prose' is its consistent and internally coherent distance both from what is recognizably conventional and indeed from the creative styles of other authors. It has its meaning, that is, within a matrix of texts from each of which it establishes its distance. We would thus tend to accept Kundera's claim that: 'For a translator, the supreme authority should be the author's personal style.'5 And presumably then his complaint that: 'But most translators obey another authority, that of the conventional version of "good French'" 6 (French being the specific case he is referring to). We might then go on to suspect, as Kundera clearly does, that if we find a work so radically different in different languages, it is because the translator has let us down. But why are these translators so perversely obtuse? Is their conventionalizing tic, as Kundera would have it, an occupational hazard, like the gravedigger's insensitivity, the politician's ambiguity? Or could it 2

These and other remarks are to be found in M. Kundera, Testaments Betrayed. trans. L Asher, Harper Collins. New York. 1995. See in particular the essay on

Kafka. D. H. Lawrence. Foreword to Women in Love. Thomas Seltzer. 1920 4 M. Proust. Contre Sainte-Beuve. Gallimard. Pans, 1978. p. 225. 5 M. Kundera, Testaments Betrayed, cit.. p. 110. 3


Loc. cit.


Tim Parks

be that the recognition and reproduction of transgression is not, as it turns out, such a simple thing at all, not merely a question of accepting some unusual punctuation and repeating a word where the author does. Kundera does not discuss the fact that since the conventions, social, moral and linguistic, of any two cultures and languages may be, and usually are, profoundly different, any transgression of them is not absolute in nature, but has meaning only in relation to the particular expectations it disappoints. It needs the context of the conventions it subverts Notoriously, it is in those places where poetic prose deviates from standard usage, establishing a personal style and creating meaning through its distance from something else, that translation becomes tormented if not impossible. For the 'something else' in French is not the same as the 'something else' in Czech. Thus when Kundera writes: 'Partisans of flowing translation often object to my translators: "that's not the way to say it in German (in English, in Spanish, etc.)!" I reply: "It's not the way to say it in Czech either!"'7 he is being ingenuous. Translating poetic prose, and even more so poetry, means creating the miracle of the 'same difference' from different and sometimes potentially antithetical conventions: as if the transgression of a 16th century Hindu widow in attempting to escape suttee could be made equivalent to that of a 20 lh century Scottish Moslem refusing to obey her husband's order not to go out to work. The rare bilingual person, the person most thoroughly grounded in two distinct conventions, is the person most likely to be struck by the utter difference of the same text in their two languages, because more keenly aware of the distinct value structures implied by the languages and the subversive force of whatever differences from convention are there established. Those who have merely learnt another language, however well, are not so easily disorientated. They are more like my cheerfully criminal protagonist who shakes off the conventions and taboos implicit in his native tongue the better to enjoy the freedom of what is experienced, at least at first, as not much more than a delightful code, a mental playground. The only thing that can be subverted for this person is the morality he was brought up with and the language that is its vehicle.


M. Kundera, The Art of the Novel. Faber & Faber, London 1990, pp. 129-130.

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Lawrence's novel Women in Love is an account of the felt necessity to escape a series of conventions which have outlived their usefulness. The pressures of convention are dramatized in relationships, but Lawrence immediately recognizes language as the cement of convention 'It depends what you mean,' remarks Ursula, on the first page, making a semantic problem of her sister's seemingly innocent question, 'don't you really want to get married?' I have long taught this book to Italian students by inviting them to compare passages of the original with the Italian translation, identifying the places where the two texts part company, and then trying to establish links between those departures. Since the translator is more than competent, these inevitably occur where the original prose is, as the title of today's session would have it, poetic: 'Birkin shut himself together,' Lawrence remarks. 'Gudrun shrank cruelly from this amorphous ugliness.' Or again: 'she was destroyed into perfect consciousness'. Or of Ursula: 'she was free, in complete ease.' 'they could forget perfectly'8 In each case. Lawrence distorts normal usages to suggest a complex psychology, and often to gesture to an underlying pattern of thought that is peculiarly his own. The Italian translation shrinks from the oxymoron of 'shrank' suggesting fear and withdrawal, followed by 'cruelly' suggesting aggression, it has no answer to Lawrence's subversion of 'pulled himself together' into 'shut himself together', it does not know what to do with the aberrant 'into' after the verb 'destroy', nor does it catch the oddness of 'in ease' instead of 'at ease', or the peculiarity of 'forgetting' — but what? — 'perfectly'. (The translations, in entirely standard Italian, are: 'Birkin si chiuse in se stesso' 'Gudrun rabbrividi fenta dalla bruttezza informe' 'dilaniata, in uno stato di lucidita perfetta' 'libera e totalmente a suo agio'. 'Erano immersi in un perfetto obblio' 9 ). But those who know Italian, and many who do not, will appreciate how difficult it is to recreate such a style which gains its meanings from idioms and usages only hinted at in the original and unavailable in the target language. What's more.


D.H Lawrence, Women in Love, Penguin, London 1982, pp. 113, 57. 430, 396,

397. q

Donne Innamorate, trans. A. dell'Orto, Rizzoli, Milan. 1989. pp 94 24. 499, 455, loc.cit


Tim Parks

however unusual Lawrence's English, it should be noted that, in these examples at least, it flows wonderfully. It deviates from standard English, but is always attentive to the rhythms of English prosody The unusual locution 'destroyed into perfect consciousness', for example, draws on the syntactical pattern of 'turned into', 'changed into', 'transformed into', introducing a semantic shock with the word 'destroyed' but keeping the same structure. Likewise, the preposition 'in' is separated from 'ease' by 'complete' to avoid the jarring of 'in ease' as opposed to 'at ease', thus creating the expectation of entirely standard usages such as 'in complete liberty', 'in complete harmony', only to surprise us with 'ease'. Hence Kundera's suggestion that it is the 'partisans of flowing translation' who are hostile to creative and original writing is again ingenuous. Lawrence's prose flows well enough and presumably one would wish to be faithful to that fluency It is part of his style It is natural to the author. The problem is that the author is deviating from English in a manner, he has seen, that English allows, perhaps even suggests. In the same way, his characters find unconventional solutions which society, though not sanctioning, may well have hinted at. They are the solutions of people escaping from these particular conventions, not some notional idea of convention in general. Indeed, by living on its margins, Lawrence's characters define the society they wish to escape, as his own work defines the conventional novel he no longer wishes to write. To put it another way, when writing in English, there is no way of being entirely outside Englishness. At the end of Women in Love, when one of the protagonists chooses the most drastic form of escape by walking out into the Alpine snows to die, Lawrence remarks on how close he was to a path that led over the Alps into Italy 'Would that have been a way out?' he asks 'No, it would only have been a way in again.'10 My contention is that translation itself is always 'a way in again': anything we write in a translation will always be understood in terms of the world, the conventions, the general literary context of our target language, usually our native tongue. To imagine one can transport transgressions or deviations from other conventions and reproduce them in the same way and in the same place in the


D.H. Lawrence. Women in Love, cit. p. 579,

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translation, thus generating the same meaning, is to be dangerously naive. So it happens that, rather than embarking on a transgression that in their own language would come across as no more than an oddity, many translators feel obliged to revert to the conventional. This hardly seems perverse. It does, however, have serious repercussions for our understanding of the status of a translated text. I came to Italy at twenty-five, translated commercial and technical material for many years, then moved on to translating novels and I suppose we could say poetic prose in my early thirties. In those days, when choosing whether to accept a translation or not, I went very much on the question of what I call voice. If 1 felt I could mimic the voice of this prose in English, I would accept the book. If not, not. Since money was an important factor at that time, I should stress that these decisions did not always coincide with taste. I sometimes felt that, alas, I could not mimic a book I liked and would have to turn it down, or that I could manage a book 1 didn't like and, to make ends meet, would do well to translate it. Only years later, reading Humboldt, did I come across the expression, 'elective affinity'. One can have an affinity with something one doesn't like, just as one can find areas of one's own personality less than desirable. At that time, when it came to faithfulness, it seemed enough to me to shadow in English, so far as I could understand it, the text's relationship with its own language. Later, however, as my knowledge of Italian and above all Italian literature broadened and deepened, I became aware that my understanding of texts I had translated in the past was being altered by my growing appreciation of the context in which they had been written. My translation, while attractive, could not, within an English context, transmit many of the book's gestures. On the contrary, the books would be understood in relation to an English literary matrix, perhaps suggesting meanings not apparent or even remotely intended in the original. This does not mean I would now translate these books very differently, only that I would be more aware of the various areas of loss. On the one hand, then, long immersion in another culture brings empowerment — we understand things better — on the other it becomes a handicap — we begin to doubt whether some texts are translatable at all. Perhaps I am approaching my bilingual student's perception of absolute difference.


Tim Parks

While I was doing my first literary translations and immediately before my first novel in English was accepted for publication, I wrote a novel in Italian with the odd title, / nam di domani, which, literally translated, means 'Tomorrow's Dwarves'. Unlike any of my other novels. this was a straightforwardly rumbustious comedy — an innocuous version of the evasion that characterizes the English teacher turned criminal I mentioned earlier on. For both of us, the escape from English was an escape from moral seriousness. I was pleased with what I'd done, proud of having managed to write in Italian, albeit with a great deal of help from my wife, and began to send the typescript around, but although an agent took the book on. it wasn't published. I hazarded a translation into English, but with every sentence the book shed its charm. Indeed, it seemed infinitely more difficult to translate than the work of other writers. The reason, perhaps, was that the driving energy of the book was the evasion of writing in Italian. I could not be interested in this material in English. Fifteen years on, a reputable house offered to publish the novel. They declared it charming, even hilarious. I went back and read it. What charm it had lay entirely in its naivete. Its frequent deviations from standard Italian were as innocuous and random as its satire of provincial life was superficial and caricatured. I felt it would be best not to publish it since it represented neither what I feel now nor even what I truly felt then. Its real meaning was its escape from something else, something the Italian reader wouldn't be able to understand because it wasn't available in the text: Englishness. Ironically, at about the same time, the early noir describing a character's move into crime sparked off by his transplantation into another culture was also accepted. This book, I am more or less happy with. It presents that evasion of a new language within the moral framework of the old. I mention this episode because it offers the opportunity to make two reflections: first that, aside from economic reasons, a writer chooses to change language successfully when the particular aesthetic he has drives him to it. Not otherwise One can see how, obsessed as he was by the compulsive nature of language, our lack of individual control over it and its distance from our experience of reality, a writer like Beckett would choose to work in a second language where any alienation he might feel, or lack of expertise he might fear, would play to his

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poetic. Joyce, on the contrary, whose project was exactly the opposite of Beckett's, an attempt to use all the resources of language to recover our experience of place of time, to make the text, as Beckett described it, 'not about something, but that something itself." remained anchored, despite all his experiments and all his years abroad, to Dublin and to English The second reflection that arises out of the otherwise trivial episode of my Italian novel, is that the very notion of 'stylistic transgression' may have a very different value in different cultures. My Italian novel was accepted because, even when intended and aimed at some particular target, its transgressions could nevertheless be seen as the amusing shortcomings of the learner, of one seeking to become an initiate on the same level as the reader. In this sense, far from being subversive, it was reinforcing convention. And Italian is a language where there has been very little seriously transgressive prose of the Lawrence or Beckett variety, and much extremely attractive writing within generally accepted and in the end by no means despicable conventions. This, after all, is a country where one of the leading satirical magazines will still reject an article because it too aggressively attacks Catholic sensibilities, a country where a famous writer/translator like Elio Vittorini could openly defend the radical cuts and changes he made to Lawrence's work on the grounds that not to make them would damage the beauty of the prose 12 Certainly — for example — there is nothing transgressive that I can see in the Italian translations of Kundera's work. Italy is thus a country with very different sensibilities from England, where these days a novel with even the mildest of pretensions is obliged to be openly transgressive at the linguistic level — something that has led to the tedious multiplication of demotic voices and the wholehearted often uncomprehending acceptance of different forms of English from all over the world. The quirky is at a premium. Thus, in a sense, to write in a rigidly 'conventional' prose becomes itself a form of transgression. Shortly

"S. Beckett, Dante... Bruno. Vico... Joyce In / can't go on. I'll go on. Grove Weidenfeld, New York, 1976, p. 117. l2 See Fondi Alberto Mondadon. Arnaldo Mondadon. Autori, Fascicolo Vittorini. Available for consultation at the Mondadori publishing house, Milan


Tim Parks

after winning the Booker Prize, Kazuo Ishiguro, the Anglo-Japanese writer, gave an interview to Time magazine in which he criticized his British contemporaries for writing in ways that made translation difficult. His rigidly austere prose, which so effectively expresses the emotional limitations of his protagonist in The Remains of the Day, was, he claimed, partly the result of his attentiveness to eventual translations. He pared his English down to what a translator in any language could easily handle. What Ishiguro could not have appreciated is that the underlying menace of that precise conventional voice disappears entirely in Italian where such a controlled form of expression is common in prose fiction. The distance Ishiguro establishes from other writers in English thus disappears. What is disturbing, if one wishes to be disturbed by such things, is with what appetite the public laps up translated literary works whose essential cohesion has all too often, though by no means always, been lost in translation. Might it be, 1 sometimes fear, precisely that loss of depth that makes translations attractive? I live in a country where a good 70% of prose fiction is translated Is this yet another of the many negative aspects of globalization? And yet I translate and people tell me they enjoy my translations. 1 would like to conclude by discussing my relationship with one of the Italian authors I have translated and to look at a paragraph of his work in original and translation. Roberto Calasso is about as different from myself as a writer could be, A meticulous scholar, admirably intellectual, he sternly avoids any autobiographical material. His creative reconstructions of Greek and now Indian mythology have the advantage, from the translator's point of view, that they contain little that is culture-specific to Italy in terms of semantic content. They are attempts to enter and regenerate different mindframes, though of course they do so from an Italian starting point and in the Italian language If my own writing has matured and changed radically over the last few years, it is largely due to my reflections on Calasso's work and on what it has meant to translate it. Sometimes, however, it occurs to me that I have come closer to putting him into English in the echoes of his writing in my own than in my translations But here he is, introducing the god Apollo in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony:

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Delo era un dorso di roccia deserta, navigava seguendo la corrente come un gambo di asfodelo. Nacque li Apollo, dove neppure le serve infelici vanno a nascondersi Su quello scoglio perduto a partorire, prima di Leto, erano state le foche. Cera pero una palma. a cui si aggrappo la madre, sola, puntando le ginocchia sulla magra erba. E Apollo apparve. Allora tutto divenne d'oro sin dalle fondamenta D'oro anche Tacqua del fiume, anche le foglie dell'ulivo. Quell' oro doveva espandersi nel profondo del mare, perche ancoro Delo. Non fu piu. da allora. isola errante. I3 As I suggested, Calasso's book involves a creative recreation of Greek mythology and one is struck throughout both by the vatic authority of the tone and by the presentation of myth as real event, or at least as something that requires no apology. The voice combines certain poetic or archaic elements, particularly of diction and focusing, with the short, even terse sentences that we tend to associate with modern prose. That is, while it draws on literary resources from previous periods, it does not a p p e a r to be a pastiche, but rather uses them to acquire a peremptory authority that is all its own. Since not everyone here will understand Italian, let m e try. however unsatisfactory this approach may be, to give you a brutally literal translation so that you can grasp, in however crude a form, the content offered: Delos was a spine of deserted rock, it sailed about following the current like a stalk of asphodel. Born here was Apollo, where not even the unhappy servant girls go to hide themselves On that lost rock to give birth before Leda were the seals. There was, however, a palm tree to which the mother clutched, alone, bracing her knees on the sparse grass. And Apollo appeared Then everything became gold right from the bottom Of gold also the water of the river, also the leaves of the olive tree. That gold was to expand into the depth of the sea Because it anchored Delos It was no longer, from then on, a wandering island. From the purely semantic point of view, this is a faithful translation. The Italian is not standard Italian and this likewise is very far from standard English. The focusing particularly is bizarre in both texts, most


R. Calasso. Le none di Cadmo e Armonia. Adelphi. Milan. 1988, p. 67


Tim Parks

notably in the flourish, 'Born here was Apollo...' (Nacque li Apollo...). But one transgression is not equivalent to the other Where the Italian elegantly and fluently — for there is rhythm and alliteration in plenty here — gestures back towards archaic forms to acquire its lofty tone, the English drifts aimlessly about the syntactical currents of the original, and if it is not incoherent semantically, it certainly is so in terms of register and thus risks drawing more attention to Its own vagaries than to its content (in a way the Italian does not). So the English will have to be changed. But how? A standard modern English would be banal and inappropriate. The only solution would seem to be to draw on the resources of an older English as Calasso has drawn on those of an older Italian. But notoriously these resources are not equivalent. In short, to be faithful to Calasso's strategy and the reading experience it generates, which 1 so much enjoy, I shall have to appropriate — that awful word — the text into an English context. But any notion of translation without appropriation is nonsense. The only way not to appropriate a text is to leave it in its original language. Here is the published translation: Delos was a hump of deserted rock, drifting about the sea like a stalk of asphodel It was here that Apollo was born, in a place not even wretched slave girls would come to hide their shame. Before Leda, the only creatures to give birth on that godforsaken rock had been the seals. But there was a palm tree, and the mother clutched it, alone, bracing her knees in the thin grass. Then Apollo emerged. and everything turned to gold, from top to bottom. Even the water in the river turned to gold and the leaves on the olive tree likewise. And the gold must have stretched downward into the depths. because it anchored Delos to the seabed From that day on, the island drifted no more.'4 There is neither time nor space here to go through this translation line by line: suffice it to say that when 1 have invited students to compare these passages they invariably remark on the very different syntactical structuring of the two texts, and the more generous lexicon of the English. Thus 'Nacque li Apollo' has become: 'It was here that Apollo l4

R. Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, trans. T Parks, Knopf, New York, 1993. p. 51.

Different Worlds


was born...', the English retaining the focus on 'here' at the expense of a much longer and more regular locution. Or again the rhythmic, alliterative 'Su quello scoglio perduto a partorire, prima di Leto, erano state le foche' (On that lost rock to give birth before Leda were the seals) has become: 'Before Leda, the only creatures to give birth on that godforsaken rock had been the seals.' Once more the foregrounding of the place and, in this case, the focus on 'seals' at the end of the sentence, has been kept at the expense of a certain expansion. The Italian is powerfully elliptical, in a way that much poetic material in Italian gestures back to Latin ellipsis. While this is sometimes possible in English, it is rarely so when the content is determined by another language. Meanwhile in lexical terms, one notes how 'serve infelici' (unhappy servant girls) has become 'wretched slave girls', 'perduto' (lost) has become 'godforsaken', 'nascondersi' (hide themselves) has become 'hide their shame', and the word 'seabed' has been introduced to offer an anchor to 'anchored' which in English seems to require an indirect object. How long it would take to discuss each one of these and all the other decisions involved in the translation of this brief text! How complex it all is, not just syntactically, but in terms of the larger literary context At first sight, it would appear that I offer the perfect example of Kundera's obtuse translator, substituting one sentence for two at one point, using more literary words, entirely reorganizing almost all the sentences. But Italian is not English and the spirit guiding these decisions is clear enough. The English is groping for a rhetorical tone, a register, comparable to that of the Italian, drawing on an archaic, perhaps biblical language with which my vicarage youth makes me all too familiar. Given the larger and more layered lexicon of English, the move away from 'unhappy' to 'wretched' is dictated by the need to gesture to the classical world through the use of a slight archaism ('infelice' in Italian sits happily with either a modern or archaic register). In English a 'servant girl' would normally be a 'maid', which would tend to make us think of the British upper classes, hence the switch to 'slave girls'. 'Hide themselves', is as inelegant as third person plural reflexives tend to be in English and. what's more, not immediately comprehensible here, hence the interpretative introduction of 'hide their shame', 'lost


Tim Parks

rock' would not easily give the Italian sense of 'far away from anywhere', nor would it, as does the word 'perduto', offer alliteration Cperduto a partorire, prima...'). The choice of 'godforsaken', does give that sense and offers a rhythmic alliteration with the earlier 'gives', albeit at the risk of introducing a concept not present in the Italian. The last sentence of the translation, 'From that day on, the island drifted no more', rearranges the Italian to discover a vatic register complete with alliteration that matches the original in gesture if not in exact semantics. So the text is now in English It is faithful in that it suggests a consistent, coherent relationship between this voice and a literary past, not unlike that of Calasso's text. It includes much of the same alliteration, rhythm and peremptory fluency. Am I happy with it? Yes and no. The main failing comes in the translation of 'E Apollo apparve. Allora tutto divenne oro fin dalle fondamenta.' This is clearly the climax the text has been working toward. And here 1 lost my nerve. Having already used an 'and', rather than a relative, to link the previous sentence, I chose to begin this sentence with 'Then'. This would be all very well if the next Italian sentence didn't begin with Allora'. Unable in the translation to start a second sentence with 'then', I thus chose to run the two sentences together. Looking at the whole thing in Italian and English we have: E Apollo apparve. Allora tutto divenne d'oro sin dalle fondamenta. Then Apollo emerged, and everything turned to gold, from top to bottom. Clearly the English loses drama by not introducing a period after 'emerged'. Worse, it loses the now extravagant alliteration of 'Apollo apparve' (an alliteration then echoed, as it were, in 'Allora'). Why? I was worried about the semantics of 'appeared' as a description of birth, thinking that this word might be more acceptable in Italian than English. I also felt the alliteration was now overly heavy. 1 thus settled for 'emerged' which, on reflection, seems no more appropriate than 'appeared', since one does not, I don't think, speak of babies as 'emerging', though technically one might see that this is a more accurate choice. But my real mistake here was not to think in terms of the relation of style and content, not to understand what Calasso was up

Different Worlds


to. Apollo is the god of appearance' of beauty, of art With him appearance, as it were, appears, for the first time. And with this sentence the alliteration, the artifice of the paragraph, now comes to the surface in a way that no one can ignore. Had I been aware of all this, I would surely have had the courage to write 'And Apollo appeared'. But even assuming 1 made this correction, my difficulty here does little more than suggest a deeper loss that takes place in this translation We have noted that almost all the changes I have made to adjust register and rhythm involve a slight loss of concision, a slight expansion. But perhaps the best way I can explain my misgivings is by quoting the next paragraph from the original L'Olimpo si distacca da ogni altra dimora celeste per la presenza di tre divimta innaturali: Apollo, Artemis, Atena. Irnducibili a una funzione. imperiose custodi dell'unico, hanno stracciato quella lieve cortina opaca che la natura tesse intorno alle sue potenze Lo smalto e il vuoto, il profilo. la freccia Questi i loro elementi. non acqua o terra.15 Here Calasso begins his presentation of the Greek obsession with appearance and aesthetics, the sharp line, the fine profile, a love-affair with clarity, the territory of Apollo. And clearly it is to this that his prose is aspiring. Indeed we could compare the sharpness of Calasso's focusing with the clarity of gesture on those black-on-white designs that characterize the pictorial vases of the early Hellenic period. A literal translation will be so ugly and clumsy as to give only a vague idea of this intention. But here it is: Olympus detaches itself from every other celestial dwelling through the presence of three unnatural divinities. Apollo. Artemis. Athena Irreducible to one function, imperious custodians of the unique, they tore away that flimsy, opaque screen that nature weaves around its forces. The enamel and the void, the profile, the arrow These their elements, not water or earth Once again it is clear that this will not do. The intention is lost in the extravagant unusualness of the English which seems to have no point of contact with the rhythms of any known English prosody Once again. 15

R. Calasso, Le none d\ Cadmo e Armonia, cit. p. 67.


Tim Parks

as we shall see the published translation seeks a rhetorical gesture similar to that of the original, but at the expense of that extraordinary concision that welds the style of the Italian to its subject Note in particular what heavy weather is made of that crucial and crucially brief sentence, 'Lo smalto e il vuoto, il profilo, la freccia.' If Olympus differs from every other celestial home, it is thanks to the presence of three unnatural divinities: Apollo, Artemis. Athena. More than mere functions, these imperious custodians of the unique stripped away that thin, shrouding curtain which nature weaves about its forces The bright enamelled surface and the void, the sharp outline, the arrow. These, and not water or earth, are their elements.16 The problem in this case is that one simply cannot translate the semantic freight of 'smalto' or 'profilo' as used here in Italian with just one word. And then of course there are questions of rhythm and balance to consider, two aesthetic qualities as dear to Apollo as clarity Yet precisely because one appreciates how much Calasso's text is doing, one fervently wishes one could have followed the Italian more closely Perhaps the most dangerous moments for a translator are those when he so admires the original, so understands its surrounding context, that he wishes his target language were the same as the source language, and then stubbornly tries to make it so. This is the territory of Nabokov's translation of Pushkin, which is all but unreadable, it is the experience of the bilingual person who is shocked by the idea that the same text can be so radically different in two different languages, as different indeed as those two languages are from each other. It is the starting point of all Kundera's criticism. It also explains why I have decided never to translate into Italian. And never to translate poetry. The more poetic, or transgressive, a text is, the more it departs from familiar usage, so the more it comes to be about the language it is written in, not in a narrow linguistic sense, but in the sense of all that language stands for and supports. While I feel I can manage this conundrum with prose, where content still plays its very large part, 1 find poetry, not being a poet, is quite beyond me.


R. Calasso. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, p. 51.


Gunnel Engwall So DOUBLE TONGUE — FOR PLEASURE OR NECESSITY Discussion of Tim Parks's Paper "Different Worlds"

In his paper 'Different Worlds', Tim Parks (1998) discusses a number of important issues in translation. He tells of his own experience as a writer in both English and Italian and as a translator between these two languages. Change of language can modify an author's personality and the character of a text, sometimes to advantage and sometimes not. Whichever way the change goes. Tim Parks's examples clearly show that texts are not the same in two different languages. This leads him to question the very possibility of translation. He also discusses the problems of transposing a personal style into another language and the risks of translations being levelled out More specifically, he deals with the question of how to translate cultural and linguistic phenomena. idioms and metaphors. Here I will take up some of these points and illustrate them using examples from the work of another writer and translator, the Swedish author August Strindberg (1849-1912) who produced many novels and plays in Swedish. However, he also longed for European recognition and wrote some of his works in French. I start with the question of transiatabiiity and continue by dealing with the case of an author translating into or writing in a language other than his mother tongue. I also address the question of whether translations are always more conventional than the original


Gunnel Engwall

Is Translation Possible? Tim Parks proclaims his growing conviction that a great deal of literature, poetry and prose can only be truly exciting and effective in its original language. Consequently he has decided that he will never again write in Italian, never translate anything into Italian, and never translate poetry at all. Does this mean that some works should never be translated? Is translation hostile to creative and original writing? Tim Parks would certainly not agree, and nor would I. As he states with reference to D. H. Lawrence, translation itself is always *a way in again' and not a way out. Deliberation on these issues by various scholars has made it clear that it is literary works, and especially poetry, that cause problems for the translator. In his book After Babel (1992), George Steiner argues that it is not possible to translate everything in an original work, as each language maps the world differently. There are mysteries that can only be transcribed, and not translated directly, and events whose significance may not be apparent to those not familiar with a particular period. In his view, this means no one translation can capture all aspects of a work. Roman Jakobson (1966). on the contrary, believes that all linguistic content can always be understood and reformulated, and that therefore it can also be precisely translated by rewording, translation proper, or transmutation. In this context, it seems relevant to stress that translation is not identical to writing, but an activity of its own with its own raison d'etre. As Christina Gullin (1998) argues in her recent thesis, the translator has his or her own voice and thus there are two voices which meet in a translation, the voice of the author and the voice of the translator. When translating we encounter problems relating to interpreting allusions in the text, to the level of specialization in the text, and to the differences between the source and target languages and cultures. Other more specific problems concern wordplay, polysemy and ambiguity. Models have been developed for examining translations and assessing the solutions chosen by the translator. Such models examine the external form, the macro- and the micro-level of translations. The variables

Double Tongue — For Pleasure or Necessity


considered include general strategy, titles and metatexts in regard to the external form, division into chapters and the general structure on the macro-level, and word choice, grammatical patterns and mood on the micro-level.1 It can thus be argued that all texts can be translated, even if it is not possible to find exact equivalents for every part of the text. I would maintain that translation is an important activity in its own right, and certainly worthy of study I would also argue that all translators have their own reasons for devoting themselves to translating With this in mind, I will, in the following section, discuss the situation of authors translating their own works into a foreign language or writing directly in this language. The Author as His Own Translator As has been mentioned, Tim Parks has decided never to translate into or write in Italian again. Nevertheless, he gives us examples of how fruitful it can be to use another language. Samuel Beckett, for example, was obviously inspired by the use of a foreign language, in his case French instead of his native English. He felt that the new language gave him more freedom.2 James Joyce, by contrast, desired to exploit all the resources of one language and thus remained faithful to English, even though he spent many years abroad and was influenced by other languages in his English writing. Other authors who have used a foreign language are Rainer Maria Rilke and Julien Green. Rilke has described how the target language, French, influenced and changed his own poems when he translated them from German. 3 As for Julien Green, in his bilingual book Le Langage et son double/The Language and Its Shadow (Paris 1985), he discusses the essential differences between a text in English and the

'See Lambert (1995) for the model described, and Gullin (1998. pp. 57-60) for a discussion of different models. 2 Cf. Cohn (1962). 'See Rilke et la France (1942).


Gunnel Engwall

same text in French and illustrates this by supplying the text in both languages. English on the even pages and French on the odd. 4 In this context, I will compare Tim Parks's situation with that of August Strindberg, who is the best-known Swedish author to have used another language. Strindberg translated from Swedish into French or wrote directly in French, while Parks has translated from English into Italian. Here the languages involved make the situation very different for the two authors. Parks's mother tongue is English, which is understood by a large number of people in many different countries around the world, while Strindberg's mother tongue, Swedish, was then, and is still, hardly understood outside Scandinavia. When Tim Parks writes in Italian, we can assume that it is for his own and his readers' pleasure. But when Strindberg writes in French, we can say that it is out of necessity, the main purpose being to reach a wider audience. As we can see from his letters, he was oriented towards Europe. 'I want to become European!', 'My mission is to make all Swedes European', he wrote in letters in the mid-1880s, when he spent six years in a row outside Sweden. He saw the French language and the French capital as the shortest routes to Europe As regards the experience of translating one's own writing, Tim Parks describes how arduous it was to translate from Italian into English and how infinitely more difficult it seemed to him to translate his own work than the work of other writers. His explanation is that the driving energy to produce the original came precisely from a need to compose in Italian and to escape 'Englishness'. Strindberg's feelings vacillate when he writes in or translates into French. Sometimes he is extremely proud of his knowledge and emphasizes that he has such skill in French that soon there will be no need to revise his French writing. On other occasions, he complains that French fits him as badly as a poorly cut coat or is like a straitjacket. He claims that his tongue cannot get round it, and that his writing in French has destroyed his brain. Despite this, he translated his plays The Father, Creditors, and A Dream Play into French, and wrote many articles


Julien Green died 97 years old on 13 August 1998 when the first version of these comments was already written

Double Tongue — For Pleasure or Necessity


and essays in the language. He even wrote the novels A Madman's Defence and Inferno entirely in French, and also part of Legends. Obviously, translating the work of others differs in many respects from translating one*s own work. The author-translator is certainly likely to have a good knowledge of the real meaning of the text and any underlying allusions, and to be acquainted with the cultural events described in the text Nevertheless, the author faces in this case the same difficulties as any other translator in finding equivalent expressions in the target language Therefore, I argue that, as with the translators studied by Christina Gullin. here too we meet two voices, namely the English Parks and the Italian Parks, the Swedish Strindberg and the French Strindberg. The second language and the second culture are so influential that the writer is not the same in the two Does Translation Mean a Levelling? Translation involves solving the problem of finding suitable equivalents in the target language for ideas in the source text. Sometimes an explanation in the text or in a footnote is necessary to express the meaning adequately. For example, Tim Parks mentions one of his translations from Italian, which, although attractive, could not convey many of the gestures in the book within an English context. An author like Milan Kundera, also quoted by Tim Parks, finds it most important that the translator follows the author's personal style. If he himself as an author expresses something in Czech, for example, in a way that deviates from the norm, he expects to find the same deviation in the translation These requirements are certainly not always easy to fulfil. As Tim Parks emphasizes in his paper, 'many translators feel obliged to revert to the conventional'. 1 would add that the translators often explain hidden meanings and elaborate dramatic expressions too extensively, as can be shown from two examples from Strindberg. The first is drawn from his own translation of Creditors, where Strindberg follows his Swedish original quite closely. The much longer text is a revision of this translation by a young Frenchman, Georges Loiseau, who supported Strindberg in Paris in various ways during the years 1892-1895 and revised many of Strindberg's French texts.


Gunnel Engwall Strindberg. Fordrmgsdgare (Swedish text, ms, p. I 7): GUSTAF Du kunde saledes inte ha nagra misstankar, och det behofver du inte ha heller, for en omgift enkas barn likna ofta den dode mannens! Det ar forargligt, forstas. men derfor brandes enkorna i Indien, som du vet' — Na sag' Har du aldrig varit svartsjuk pa honom, pa hans minne! Skulle det inte ackla dig att mota honom pa en promenad och han med bgonen pa din Tekla skulle saga dig: vi i stallet for jag' — Vi! Strindberg. Creanciers (French translation, ms. pp 18-19): GUSTAVE Point de doutes. alors ; surtout que les enfants d'une veuve remariee s'avisent parfois de ressembler au mari defunt C'est vexant. sans contredit. et les Hindous ont su y remedier en brulant les veuves. — Mais, d'autre part, n'avez-vous jamais ete jaloux de ce man, de son souvenir! Ne serait-il pas ecoeurant de tomber sur lui dans la rue et de le voir vous dire avec les yeux en envisageant votre femme: nous, au lieu de moi: nous deux? Loiseau, Creanciers (French revised text, 1894, p. 30) GUSTAVE Tout soupcon devoir done etre ecarte. et dans le cas present vous ne pouvwz en avoir aucun, car il n'est pas rare que des enfants d'une veuve remariee ressemblent au man defunt C'est une aventure, sans contredit, vexante. Et c'est pour eviter cela bien certainement, que les Hindous briilaient les veuves sur le corps de t'epoux. — Mais, d'autre part, n'avez-vous jamais ete jaloux de ce mari. de son souvenir' Ne vous serait-il pas odieux. le rencontrant sur une promenade, de le voir devisager votre Thekla et de lire dans son regard ce qu'il pense, clair comme s'd disait hautement. « Nous I'avons... - au lieu de «Je I'ai...» — « Nous deux, nous Vavons possedee », par exemple?

In this example. 1 have put Loiseau's most obvious changes in italics. He extends the text, presumably to make it easier to understand, by adding expressions such as 'dans le cas present' ('in the present c a s e ) , 'il n'est pas rare que' ('it is not rare that") and 'Et c'est pour eviter cela bien certainement' ('And to be very sure of avoiding this'). At the end of the passage he spells out the implications to the reader, pointing out

Double Tongue — For Pleasure or Necessity

I 57

that both men have possessed the same woman, rather than relying on Strindberg's simple allusion to 'nous deux' ('we two') My second example derives from A Madman's Defence, which Strindberg wrote directly in French Georges Loiseau revised this text too before publication. Strindberg, Le Plaidoyer dun fou (ms. p 127) une colonne de fumee noire, emanait d'une source invisible et a jet continu. se couchant sur les dots. Loiseau, Le Plaidoyer dun fou (1895, p 141) une colonne de fumee noire montait, emanant a jets contmus d'une invisible cheminee, puis se couchait sous le vent jusqu'a la crete vive du flot. Even in this much shorter example. Loiseau has made important changes, adding expressions and using a more precise word 'cheminee ('chimney') instead of the undoubtedly more imprecise, but also more poetic, word 'source'. These examples link up with Tim Parks's example of Elio Vittorini, who defended the cuts and changes he had made in his translation of Lawrence's work, claiming that these changes did not affect the beauty of the prose. As for Loiseau, he defended his modifications by arguing that translations of foreign authors needed to be adapted so that they could be understood by the French-speaking audience. Should we thus share Tim Parks's fear that it is the loss of depth in the translations that makes them attractive? There are certainly some grounds for fearing this. Yet, I think that, even if there has perhaps been some loss of depth. Georges Loiseau was right to have changed Strindberg's texts into more conventional French Even if he sometimes went too far, as in the examples above, it was probably necessary for him to present the French public with an adaptation, rather than a strict translation, in order to lay the foundations for Strindberg's success in Paris in the mid-1890s Concluding Remarks Tim Parks's paper deals with many important aspects of translation and gives glimpses into the author's personal experience. It has given me


Gunnel Engwall

an opportunity to comment on some problems that I find particularly interesting, such as the question of translatability, the specific situation of an author who translates his own works, the status of the translator in relation to the writer, and the possible levelling out of the language and style in translations. In my comments I have presented several arguments in support of my view that all texts are in some sense amenable to translation, even if we cannot translate every nuance in the source text, and even if differences between the two languages and the two cultures require us to explain particular passages. I have also argued that translation must be considered a separate activity from writing This is quite clear from examination of authors translating their own works. They do not find the two activities identical. As to the levelling out of the language and style in translations, we cannot normally accept that the translated text becomes conventionalized. At the same time, however, there are occasions when adaptations are acceptable or even desirable. In my view, this was the case with the adaptation of Strindberg's work for the French public at the end of the nineteenth century. In conclusion: We need to continue to translate and to study the products of translation, drawing upon papers like that of Tim Parks, where we can hear the views of both the author and the translator. References Cohn. R. 1962. Samuel Beckett: The Comic Gamut. New Brunswick, N.J. Green. J. 1985 Le Langage et son double I The Language and Its Shadow. Paris: Editions de la Difference Gullin, C. 1998 Oversdttarens rost. Lund: Lund University Press Jakobson, R. 1966. 'On Linguistic Aspects of Translation', in Fang, A, (ed.). On Translation, pp 232-239. Lambert, J. 1995. 'Literary Translation Research Updated', in Borillo. J M. (ed) La Traduccio litterana. Publicaciones de la Universitat Jaume, Castello de la Plana, pp. 19-42. Rilke et la France 1942. Textes et poemes inedits de Rainer Maria Rilke Essais et souvenirs de Jaloux. E. et al. Pans. Sterner, G 1992. After Babel. Aspects of Language and Translation. Oxford & New York Oxford University Press (2 nd ed). Strindberg, A 1887-88. Le Plaidoyer d'un fou. French Manuscript Oslo University Library.

Double Tongue — For Pleasure or Necessity Strindberg, A. 1888. Fordringsagare

1 59

Copy of Manuscript, Royal Swedish Library

Strindberg, A. 1888. Creanciers. French Translation in Manuscript, Royal Swedish Library. Strindberg, A. 1 894. Creanciers. French Translation Revised by G Loiseau. Paris Paul Ollendorff. Strindberg, A. 1895 Le Plaidoyer d'un fou. French Text Revised by G. Loiseau Paris Albert Langen


Mariya Novykova -3D

DOUBLE TONGUE: TRANSLATING TEXTS OR CONTEXTS? Discussion of Tim Parks's Paper "Different Worlds"

It is my great pleasure to discuss Mr Parks's report at the Nobel Symposium of the Swedish Academy. Sweden is a starting point of an ancient business and cultural route from North to South, from Europe to Asia: the route from Norsemen to Greeks. The Crimea is at the other European end of this route. The route forms a kind of arch, a rainbow promising that the flood of confrontation will give way to cross-cultural harmony. The Swedish Academy is known for its constant orientation towards national cultural revival joined with transnational cultural experience. This is very close to the purposes facing translators in Central and Eastern Europe The peoples of the "European frame" (i.e. the borders of "Atlantic Europe") can be justly named first among those who have preserved both Biblical and folklore attitudes to the Word: not only as a means of mere factual communication or as an aesthetic device but as a foundation of mental and social structures. In the beginning was the Word — that is how the Testament of St. John opens. In the beginning was translation — that is how I paraphrased the quotation at the International Congress on Theory, Methodology and Practice of Translation in the 20th century (Kiev, 1997). Mr. Parks confirms it with his report and, particularly, with an appendix to it. A joke perhaps, but while reading his texts, I imagined not a contemporary specialist at the computer but an ancient Celtic Druid, or

Double Tongue: Translating Texts or Contexts?


a Germanic Visi, or a Slavic Volchv, or someone like that. Only people like them could feel the depth and the importance of the Word in such a way. Perhaps, romanticists. And, undoubtedly, genuine translators. But first let me return to two substantial concepts, "tongue (language)" and "double", from the viewpoints of interlingual, intralingual, intersemiotic and intercultural translation (R. Jakobson). Thus the very idea of translation broadens into research on communicative theory (E. Benveniste) and cross-cultural semiotics (ML Novykova). "Doubleness" (from sign to text) 1 view as a dialogue between "me" ("my" language and world) and "the others (they)", with "their" language and world. This initial opposition is by no means static. Gradually the dialogue may turn from estrangement to contact, from alien "they" to actual "you (the other me)", and even multiply or congregate as "we = 1 , 2 , ... n". This slow and painful drive to participation (L. LevyBruhl) can run through several stages: 1. exclusive (only "our" culture really exists), 2. oppositional ("our" cultural world versus "their" world), 3. incorporated ("you" and "your" world is incorporated either into "our" or into "their" world), 4. multiplied (cultural "multiverse"), 5. communitive ("our" world and all possible "your" worlds have common cultural meta-language and meta-space). "Double language" can be represented as a system of dialogical (or translational) means, being 1. intralinguistic (genres/registers/styles/ idiolects, etc.), 2. interlinguistic (contaminated speech, "traditional" translation), 3. intersemiotic (para- and extralinguistic), 4. intercultural: translation from one culture into the other (E. Etkind, Ju. Lotman). The higher the level is, the wider the dialogical (translational) language; the more complicated and non-conventional translational strategies are, the deeper their impact. However, these are theoretical preliminaries. An even more significant aspect of the problem is the practical methodology of translating. Unfortunately, the iron curtain divided us; otherwise, Mr. Parks could long ago have obtained answers to many of his questions from theorists and translators in Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Ukraina, Belarus, Russia, the Caucasus, etc. On implicit meanings in translation. On its cultural background. On polysemy. On the stylistic asymmetry of languages (a sphere of special interest to Professor Jefim Etkind). My


Mariya Novykova

own special interest is translation and context, the subject of my doctoral thesis, monographs, articles and guide books. In them I have tried to develop some of Prof. Etkind's ideas. Following Mr. Parks 1 would like to demonstrate this contextual methodology of translating and contact using one example: Goethe's ballad "Der Erlkonig" ('The Elf King' [literally: 'The Alder King']), bearing in mind its deep Scandinavian roots. First, we need a brief summary of this approach. The semantics and structure of any text are provided by its author, can be decoded by its translator, or can be more or less objectively analysed by a critic not through the text itself. And not using dictionaries of the two languages, however all-embracing. The text exists only within a context, or, to be more precise, a system of contexts. It is generated by a meta-textual (though not extra-textual) situation. These contexts and situations serve as criteria for understanding and adequate cross-cultural reconstruction of the source text. This is true for contexts and situations in both the source culture and the target culture. Now let me add to this theoretical concept my own experience as a university professor and a translator. We have been analysing the original text, "Der Erlkonig", in a number of interpretations: Russian (Vasily Zhukovsky, Marina Tsvetayeva), Ukrainian (Maxim Rylsky, Victor Koptilov. et al.) and Belorussian. My new Russian version will be included into my anthology of translations which is in publication. So, let us have a deeper look into the ballad, starting from its title and situation. "Der Erlkonig" (The Elf King') Who is he? Who are the figures with whom he communicates? Where, when, in what way and why do they get into contact? Intralinguistic translation gives an answer: this is a meeting of Our-World and the Otherworld. Our-world is a human, common home The Otherworld is a non-human, magical wood. The pagan context can add: everything is symbolic in this meeting, be it time, or place, or characters' looks, or their actions. Everything is "speakable", everything is dialogical. The Elf King appears long before the father and the son can see his presence; he starts talking to them before his voice seems to be heard. He speaks through the symbolics of the environment: the wind, the night, the wood, autumn, the fog. Proportionally, all these symbols need to be preserved in translation. The folk-Germanic symbolic context (as well as the Slavic) says: in the

Double Tongue: Translating Texts or Contexts?


Elf King we see the King of the Otherworld. A Scandinavian ballad has the same name: "The Elves' King" Correspondingly, all the non-human, magical tokens are semantically relevant and obligatory for translating. The mythological context can add extra details. The child dies as a result of the meeting; hence we have here the King of evil forces, not good ones (in Scandinavian mythology, too, alvar could be both "white"/ good and "black'Vevil). The trouble lies in the fact that Slavic wood spirits are of ambivalent nature As to the Christian context (since Goethe. the author of "Faust", cannot be treated as an ancient pagan), this context knows no "Elf King", it takes all pagan spirits for demons In a Christian code, the meeting in the wood is between the Christian (father) and the Devil taking the son away. Thus negative connotations of the whole "forest" symbolics are obligatory as well, but not for the same reason The generic context reminds us that the ballad is a genre of the late Middle Ages. Ballad is still magic (following the old pagan tradition), yet it gives psychological insight into a human soul (according to the new Christian tradition). Contact with a miracle is still fatal, but the result of this contact is already determined by personal spiritual reaction The son could have been saved, had he and (what is particularly important) his father "answered" the temptations and threats suitably Therefore, their answers in the ballad are wrong, and this point should be clear to the reader of the translation. What about the interpretations of my predecessors? Zhukovsky is psychological (the Christian tradition), but fatal (the pagan tradition). For him the main character is the innocent child ("the baby", in his version), perishing from the unknown: a typically romantic plot The King is nothing but a metaphor of that unknown. Tsvetayeva is both naturalistic (the pagan tradition) and psychological (the Christian tradition). Her King is natural reality, not a fairy-tale but the Other reality But Tsvetayeva is a demon-obsessed neo-romanticist. The character of primary interest for her is the King, the "demon". His spiritual armament, the charm, and his magical world are magnificent. The death of the child is also magnificent: he has been taken home Ukrainian (and Belorussian) interpreters are less bookish, more folklorish The exaggerated demonobsession, the romantic admiration of the world of magic are foreign to


Mariya Novykova

them. But folklore does not know the Christian absolute good. In folklore, the Our-World can conquer the Otherworld either on "our" territory, or with the help of magical, not purely spiritual, instruments. The father will not save the son because both are in "foreign" territory, and because the father is unable to protect his child from the Otherworld in an adequate symbolic way. For me, the main character in the plot is the father. But "we" and "they", Our-World and the Otherworld, are dynamic (as they are in Christianity), not static (as in folklore) There is no Evil as a sovereign power for Christianity. But Evil turns into a powerful element as soon as "we" are willing to admit its power, and are terrorised by it (as the child is), or deny it totally, escaping the metaphysical struggle against it, hiding behind common sense (as the father does). It is not the King, but the father who ruins the son, trying to subdue metaphysics to mere "physics". After this intralinguistic explanation we turn to the intersemiotic translation. What can and should a Slavic translator preserve in the original situation, and what can he not and should he not preserve? What variations and transformations can be admitted? The title. With the Slavs, alder (remember, the literal translation of "Erlkonig" is 'The Alder King') is not a symbolic tree either in folklore or in literature. It is a fir-tree that is magic, symbolic and "gloomy" (Cf.: "yel'sicha", the wood witch, is a fir-tree woman. Cf.: nothing could be made of fir-wood in a house.) The ending "-an" (Yel'shan) in the King's name is also far from being occasional. The King in translation cannot be a "pure Slav", but he must be folklorish. In Russian adaptations (16th-18th century) of Western and Eastern folklore plots many magic characters had their names with "-an" finals (Polkan. Saltan, Ruslan, etc.). My "Yel'shan" follows the same stream. "The autumn mirkwoods': (The first two lines, back translation: "Who is riding at night and in wind? The Father and the Son in the autumn mirkwoods.") This is my addition to the source text, following, however, the same contextual principle. Autumn is the season of the dead, the time of evil spirits and ghosts, both in the West and in the East of Europe. (Cf.: the "marked" autumn dates: Halloween, Martinmass, the Slavic "Forefathers" [D'edy], the most important festivals of the year,

Double Tongue: Translating Texts or Contexts?


when the dead ancestors come to "dine" with the living) In the original text "autumn" is transmitted through "dry leaves" Wood ("Bor" in Slavic) is not only a dense (usually, pine) forest but also a very folklorish word [cf. Tolkien's Mirkwood]. There is no "wood" in the original text, but there are forest trees and the mirksome Otherworld. "The fog is crawling upright". (This is the way the father in my version sees the King) In the original text we find a "streak of fog", a "wreath of fog" Fog is a symbol of the Otherworld (cf Nibelunge, Niflungar); it is negative in the Christian symbolicon (a Saint or an Angel may appear in a cloud but not in a fog) That's why the "foggy" King crawls slowly and ominously upright from the "bad" Otherworld Finally, the father's third answer. 1 have changed it most radically: "Synok, ty bol'en, ty zan'emog! Eto zhe mokh serebritsya, mokh..." [lit. 'My young son, you are ill, you are unwell This is the moss glittering in silver, the moss...']. In the original text the son catches a sight of the King's daughters, with their dreadful burning eyes. The father calms him: these are but old grey willows shining. But for Slavs a willow is a symbol either of fertility or of a forsaken girl Grey is as symbolically "bad" for Slavs as for Germans. Yet silver is also a symbolic colour of the Moon, "the Night Sun", a female, magical, "non-Christian" colour Moss is a sign of the nether world, dampness, wasteland. Moreover, my key formula (the point where I could not but fit the rhyme) was: "ty bol'en, ty zan'emog" [lit. 'you are ill, you are unwell'] It is here that the father interprets the son's vision in a naturalistic — should I say psychoanalytical — way. In doing so he finally deprives his son of help, be it a magical response or a Christian prayer. The father does not believe in miracles, and his disbelief appears to be fatal What conclusions can we come to? What can be said in reply to Mr. Parks's questions? Three answers are most fundamental. First: we do translate texts. But the limits of the obligatory and the optional, the invariant and the variant in translating texts, are determined not by texts, but by contexts The more a translator takes them into consideration, the better is his text. Secondly: there are no untranslatable texts. But there are various strategies for and limits to translatability, various correlations between the two worlds, Our-World and the Other one, in a deeper, global sense of both notions


Manya Novykova

Thirdly: we translate from tongue to tongue. But any tongue is not only verbal but also mental, cultural and spiritual. It is the world vision, imago mundi, in old Latin terms. Mykola Lukash, an outstanding Ukrainian translator, used to say: Every national language as a world vision has in itself absolutely everything. Everything to transfer and express other worlds, however differing in their verbal forms. For instance, to translate Castello into English one might turn to the poetry of T. S. Eliot or to mythological studies of Robert Graves, in short, to the analogies within not only English language but English culture A proper translator does not just make cultures communicative. It is even more important for him to make them communitive: having the same meta-semantics and the same spiritual meta-tongue/language. Of course, this is much more difficult But heed the joke: it is the untranslatable that is actually worth translating.



Participants, including the present writer, experienced a certain difficulty in getting to grips with the topic. The description stated: "This session will focus on the experience of poets writing in more than one language, and on the status of a poem that is extant in several languages" The discussion, it should be said, did not confine itself to the experience of poets. Even now as I attempt to summarize the proceedings, I find myself somewhat at a loss. For one thing, what is the source of the phrase "double tongue"? No doubt someone could tell me, but for the purpose of this commentary I shall continue in my ignorance! The initial association is with "forked tongue" or "serpent's tongue" — that is, with deceit, treachery, danger. So. "double" as suggesting duplicity, deception, or at the very least unreliability? However, this may be misleading. We are not in the realm of "translator/traitor" (or worse, translator as assassin). Although we certainly are in that of ambiguity. A relief? Perhaps the topic quite simply has to do with translators who are equally (?) in possession of the two tongues, the original, or source language, and the language into which the translation is being made, or target language. But is not this just to describe the situation or dilemma of any translator, translators by definition being in possession of the two languages? Still, few translators can claim to be equally in possession of the two languages. And that the translator's mastery of the target


Daniel Weissbort

language, generally his own, must be as complete or more complete even than his command of the source language, is often taken as axiomatic, although nearly always accompanied by an insistence on or reaffirmation of the need for linguistic competence in the source language as well. This is related, of course, to the belief or assumption that the translated text must function in the target language as though it were native to it. that it must be able to compete on equal or near-equal terms with the homebred products. Now, however, one can readily conceive of a translator who, while still based in a single home language, will be prepared and able to allow that language, his native language, to be altered — or "foreignised" — by the source text. How then can the translated text operate in the target language as though it were native to it? Well, perhaps not as though, but in some other way? My point, however, is that, to a greater or lesser extent — i.e. whatever his relative mastery of the two languages —. the translator, any translator, is likely to be troubled by the dilemma suggested by the phrase "double tongue" Thus, while Tim Parks described what might be taken as an extreme case, an exceptional case, his remarks are relevant to the experience of all of us. The case is exceptional in that Tim Parks writes, or has written, both in Italian and English. He has moreover even attempted to translate a novel he wrote in Italian, his acquired language, into English, his mother tongue. This experience brought to his attention the uncomfortable fact that what he wrote in Italian could not be translated, could not (in the true sense of the word) be translated by him, because he wrote it precisely in Italian for a particular reason. In English it would not only have been quite different; it would not have been written in the first place! This is straightforward enough and yet at the same time something of a conundrum. We are accustomed to thinking of any text as being translatable, after a manner, but here we are being told that there are certain texts that absolutely resist or reject the possibility of translation. Milan Kundera, as Tim Parks writes, famously quarrelled with his translators. Kundera complained often of the well known tendency to conventionalize (normalize) his texts in translation. His departures from standard language (standard Czech, in his case) were often eliminated by the translator who opted instead for standard English. When Kundera was told that whatever it was could not be done in English, his response

Report on Session 4


was that it could not be done in Czech either One understands his disappointment at this loss of originality or particularity, but one sympathises also with the translator It is disingenuous of Kundera to suggest that a transgression in one language can simply be transferred into another language with the same results. The linguistic contexts being different, translators, in the interest of coherence, may be better advised to normalize (assuming that the source text itself is coherent). Another striking example of the desirability of compromising is with D H. Lawrence's poetic prose. While Lawrence deviates from standard English, he is always attentive to the rhythm of English prosody, he remains fluent Fluency and deviation from the norm, therefore, can and do co-exist. A translation of Lawrence which seeks to reproduce the deviations but which fails to reproduce the fluency is stylistically (and semantically) misleading. So, a persuasive, if somewhat unfashionable case is implicitly made by Parks for the domesticating type of translation that theorists like Lawrence Venuti and others tend to characterise as colonialistic or exploitatory. In the present context, however, the case being made is one that altogether casts doubt on the possibility of meaningful translation. It seems that the closer one comes to native knowledge of the source as well as target language, the more one doubts the possibility of translation, at least of certain texts. Rather iconoclastically Parks suggests that blissful ignorance or semi-ignorance may be necessary for anyone planning to embark on translation. Because once the translator begins to admire the original too much, that is to appreciate and understand it as a native of the language might, he may want the target language to be the same. That is, he may feel inclined to alter the target language, not just to deviate from time to time, but to change it so that it can accommodate the source text, without major alterations becoming unavoidable. Since this would seem to be what the foreignizers are calling for anyway, perhaps the question is more one of strategy or degree than of principle The danger, I take it, is that the translator — on the horns of the double tongue! — will be so convinced that translation is impossible that he will abandon the project and resort to richly annotative literalism, of the sort Nabokov is supposed to have adopted in his translation of Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin" Translation, that is, will cease and we will


Daniel Weissbort

have only unwieldy scholarly texts that seek to return us to the source texts, making pseudo source-text readers of us all. What this would mean, of course, is that we would read far fewer non-native texts. It would also virtually eliminate the casual or ordinary reader, while not really satisfying the scholar. In any case, while we might imagine a situation in which most poetry translations conformed to this pattern, the same cannot be envisaged with novels, except perhaps "art" novels, with a very small readership (That "Eugene Onegin" is a novel in verse might be taken as a criticism of Nabokov's method, except that I for one find his translation quite readable, more readable indeed than any of the many versified versions.) Tim Parks here takes up a dilemma that is no longer so often discussed in our theory-dominated times. If he seems to think that the dilemma is unresolvable, that is surely what any true dilemma will be. It does not, of course, mean that translators will not continue to translate (or to do whatever it is that they do). Indeed, it is human nature to attempt the definably unachievable. But just as an author may feel that his work cannot be translated, so a translator who gets very close to his author may increasingly feel likewise. How will this affect his translation? Of course, it will depend on circumstances. But a distinct possibility, if he does not simply throw in the sponge, is an increased literalism, to the point of imitating the syntax of the original, accompanied or unaccompanied by a Nabokovian apparatus. Tim Parks is surely right in suggesting that this is at least as likely as that the greater inwardness with the source text will lead to a more perfect or organic embodiment of its qualities in the target text. Gunnel Engwall took a particular case, that of Strindberg's selftranslations into French, which were revised, domesticated or tamed by a contemporay French writer, Georges Loiseau. The question asked is whether this naturalization of Strindberg's somewhat recalcitrant French was justified, given the sensibilities of the French public at that time. Her conclusion was that, in general, a good argument can be made for Loiseau's revisions, bearing in mind that Strindberg's reputation depended on his at least getting a hearing in a major European language. Like Tim Parks, then. Gunnel Engwall seemed to have little time for foreignization, the kind of foreignization which an author (Strindberg) will often produce when translating his own work into a second language,

Report on Session 4


however well he may know that second language. There is also, of course, the question of what the times will accept In our day there would no doubt be a greater tolerance, at least among certain readers, of the non-standard or foreign-sounding locutions of a Strindberg in his self-translations than there would have been in the author's own day. It does not always follow that an author translating himself will have a better chance of success Closeness to the text and the language in which it is written, the particular idiolect indeed of the particular author, may not always be an advantage when it comes to translation, since the closer one is the less possible does translation seem. Strindberg did the best he could and, from our late twentieth century perspective, his auto-translations are of great interest However, it is arguable that Loiseau's intervention was necessary if Strindberg was to be made readable in France, in French. So, if much was lost as a result of the native speaker's revision, there was one gain, readability. Before passing judgement, though, we might do well to remember Goethe's remarks about "three types of translation" (see "Noten und Abhandlungen zu besserem Verstandnis des West-ostlichen Divan", 1819), positing three stages, if you will, of poetry translation (this may also surely be applied to poetic prose and even to prose as such). The first of these stages introduces us, via a "simple prose version", to the foreign text; with the second, the translator "wants to enter into the spirit of the foreign land, but in fact only tries to appropriate this spirit and reconstruct it in his national one"; and with the third, there is an "attempt to make the translation identical with the original so that the one is not accepted instead of but actually takes the place of the other" These methods or approaches may not take place chronologically, although there is a certain cogency in a chronological sequence, and may even occur simultaneously. In the first instance, Goethe posits an introductory form of translation: "[l]t unexpectedly brings superior foreign material into the closed circle of our national and everyday life...'; in the second, he engages with what today we would call "domesticating" translation. He points out that, "[a]s a rule intelligent people prefer this method". At the same time, he is critical of the French who generally adopt it in the translation of poetry: "The French adapt feelings, thoughts, and even objects as they do foreign words. They want substitutes grown in their own soil for every foreign fruit." A higher form, for Goethe


Daniel Weissbort

(and probably for many of us now), was translation that tried to find its way back to the original, to embody linguistic aspects of the original that had been passed over in the first type of translation and transformed or naturalized in the second. But as he warns: "The translator who associates himself closely with his original more or less abandons the genius of his own nation." Readers who are faced by such translation have, therefore, first to accustom themselves to it, gradually to learn to hear and feel their way into the new manner, as Goethe himself put it. But, of course, these "Germanized foreigners" bring many gains to the target language and its users. In the case of Strindberg's auto-translations, the French readership might not yet have been ready, so that a Georges Loiseau was necessary, somewhat normalizing Strindberg's own rather foreignised versions In our time, Strindberg's own translations are more accessible and at the very least may be welcomed as an illuminating or revealing selfcommentary on his work. The auto-translations into English by Joseph Brodsky, which have been criticised as non-English, particularly since they have to compete with versions of the same author made by native English speakers, nevertheless occupy a not unimportant position in this author's total oeuvre. But even viewed on their own terms, as translations of his poetry, they already begin to challenge their target-language readers' notions of the limits of English While Brodsky was prepared (or obliged) to make quite substantial semantic changes in the translations, he adhered to the form, in particular to the metre or accentual structure of the original This aspect of the poetry remained, as it were, a constant in both the original writing and the re-writing which was the translation (re-writing is probably a better term for what the translator does, particularly if he is also the source text author). And the re-writing, such as it is, is called for not only (in the case of Brodsky) because formal constraints make it inevitable, but also because the nature of English, as against Russian, demands it. For Mariya Novykova, the second discussant, the notion of translation as "double tongue" was more overtly political, translation being a form of literary expression through which various heterodoxies might be voiced or at least intimated. This was one reason for the high prestige enjoyed by translation in the countries of the former Soviet empire. Translations. indeed, spoke with a double tongue and this could be exploited by

Report on Session 4


those seeking to expand the area of freedom of expression. Novykova's contribution served to re-emphasize the role of language, as such, in the creation of meaning. Just as in a different language the multilingual writer is a different person, a different writer, so a translation, under certain circumstances, may be the conveyor of unorthodox or unconventional ideas or concepts. Translations, by definition, stretch both ways, towards the source and towards the target They are. to change the metaphor, a sort of masquerade What gets said, acted out, is not always immediately apprehended, but it does not have to be for it to do its work.

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oession 5


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Introduction Does translation from non-Indo-European languages present special difficulties and, if so, what are they? Obviously, there is no clear answer to this question. Many of the difficulties encountered when translating texts from a non-Indo-European language into a European language are not actually different in kind from those encountered when translating texts from a different period within the same culture or language group, or even when reading a text in an older version of the same language The frame of reference, sets of values, ideas and conventions, for example, change enough over time to present a number of difficulties that do not differ greatly from those encountered when crossing the line between Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages. To start our discussion 1 have in this paper chosen to present translations into English and Swedish of two short Japanese texts, of the type that may present problems of translation of a more complex nature: firstly a tanka (short poem) composed within the poetic tradition which was established as a norm by the beginning of the tenth century and continued until the middle of last, and secondly, one short chapter of Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), a "romance" created at the


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada

beginning of the eleventh century, and traditionally regarded as a literary work unsurpassed in the history of Japanese literature In this kind of translation, some options are ruled out from the start We cannot even pretend to read the text in the same way as the author or contemporaries may be imagined to have read it, nor can we ask them for information Besides, the original text is not extant. A couple of hundred years separate the available texts from the presumed original, and between us and the earliest extant copies there is also a 750-year scholarly tradition of explanation and interpretation to be considered. The non-Indo-European language the text is written in, the cultural background and social setting of the text, the system of literary genres the text is part of, are other important components of its context. In translation the translator's reading of the text as transmitted is recreated in a language and context of a different kind. Translation of Poetry Japanese tanka poetry presents a number of difficulties when translated into a European language. From a eurocentric point of view, most of the properties traditionally expected in lyrical poetry are missing. The Japanese tanka poem is structured according to the pattern 5/7/5/7/7 syllables; rhythm and alliteration play some part, but one of the most important features of this 31 -syllable poetry, the plays on homonymic words so cleverly exploited in this kind of poetry, is almost impossible to translate into another language. One other problem when translating traditional tanka poetry is how to introduce the poetic frame of reference, which is presupposed when interpreting the meaning. Clusters of motives, closely connected by way of word play and precedence in poetry composition, create sets of fixed connotations latent in most of the phenomena of nature or place names which appear in the poems. Thus they create a pleasant, yet strangely vague and evasive impression, if taken only at face value, so to speak. To exemplify these complex difficulties when translating Japanese poetry into Swedish, I have chosen a poem by the famous poetess of the middle of the ninth century, Ono no Komachi. which appears in written form both in Kokin Wakashu, an anthology of waka (Japanese poetry), mainly tanka poetry, compiled by imperial edict in 905, and in

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


the famous poetry collection Hyakunin Isshu (One poem each by a hundred poets; as poem number nine), according to tradition compiled by the imperial court poet Fujiwara Teika in about 1235 Hyakunin Isshu later developed into a popular card game, where the first half of each of the hundred poems is chanted in random order, and two teams compete to find the card with the second half of each poem written on it. The team which collects the largest number of cards wins This poem by Ono no Komachi has thus appeared in quite a number of English and a few Swedish translations since 1866. There are probably translations into other European languages as well, which would be interesting to compare, but 1 shall here restrict the exemplifications to the translations quoted below. In Japanese, the tanka poem is written in one unbroken line, or is divided into two or three lines, according to the calligrapher's taste. In translation the poem is mostly divided into five lines, and this is usually the case with the romanized version of the original Japanese poem as well. The poem by Ono no Komachi reads in a romanized version (Hepburn system) as follows: hana no xro wa utsurinikeri na itazura ni wa ga mi yo ni furu nagame seshi ma ni In Hyak nin xs'shiu. or stanzas by a century of poets, being Japanese Lyrical Odes, translated into English, with explanatory notes, the text in Japanese and Roman characters, and a full index. By F. V. Dickins, M. B., London: Smith, Elder, & Co, 65, Cornhill. 1866, p 6, this poem reads: Thy love hath passed away from me Left desolate, forlorn — In winter-rains how wearily The summer past I mourn! In the preface the translator comments: "Finally. I would remind the reader, that the Odes of which the following translation is offered in no way lay claim to any high


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada poetic merit, and are but expressions of pretty but ordinary sentiments. But, whatever their intrinsic value may be, they are extremely popular with the Japanese, and on that account, rather than for any literary merit they may possess, have I ventured to offer this English version of them to the public. It was found impossible to adopt a uniform metre, for, while some stanzas were complete (as to their meaning) in themselves, and could be rendered almost literally, others were suggestive of much more than what was verbally expressed, and were, besides, so full of allusions and word-plays, that a literal version of these would have been quite unintelligible, and I found myself compelled to resort to an imitation of the original, in which more or less amplification was necessary to render even a small portion of the point and force, and to explain with any degree of clearness, the leading ideas (often very difficult to make out) of the Japanese stanza " (pp. viii-ix).

In A Hundred Verses from Old Japan, being a translation of the Hyakunin-isshiu, by William N. Porter; Charles E. Tuttle Co., Tokyo 1979; first edition 1909 by The Clarendon Press, London, this poem, no 9, reads: The blossom's tint is washed away By heavy showers of rain, My charms, which once I prized so much, Are also on the wane, — Both bloomed, alas ! in vain. The poem is accompanied by a short note on the author and some words of explanation: "The first and last couplets may mean either 'the blossom's tint fades away under the continued downpour of rain in the world', or 'the beauty of this flower (i.e. herself) is fading away as I grow older and older in this life', while the third line dividing the two couplets means, that the flower's tint and her own beauty are alike only vanity. This verse, with its double meaning running throughout, is an excellent example of the characteristic Japanese play upon words." In the introduction the reader is informed: "Japanese poetry differs very largely from anything we are used to; it has no rhyme or alliteration, and little, if any. rhythm, as we

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


understand it. The verses in this Collection are all what are called Tanka, which was for many years the only form of verse known to the Japanese. A tanka verse has five lines and thirty-one syllables. arranged thus: 5-7-5-7-7; as this is an unusual metre in our ears. I have adopted for the translation a five-lined verse of 8-6-8-6-6 metre. with the second, fourth, and fifth lines rhyming, in the hope of retaining at least some resemblance to the original form, while making the sound more familiar to English readers." (pp. vii-viii). In




Poems from

One Hundred

H o n d a , Visiting Professor


of Japanese




H. at

Honda Harvard

University), The Hokuseido Press, San Francisco, 1957, p. 9, this p o e m reads: As in the long and weary rain The hue of flowers is all gone. So is my young grace spent in vain In these long years I lived alone. Some w o r d s o n the r h y m e scheme are included in the short appendix. "An English friend of mine once wondered if these songs could not be rendered in such a way as to enable English readers to play cards with them just as we do in Japanese And this I hope I have attained to some extent in the present attempt The rhyme scheme of each quatrain is a.b.a.b the first line of the upper part or kami-no-ku rhymes with that of the lower part or shimo-no-ku. and the second line with the last." (p. 103). In The Penguin

Book of Japanese

Verse, Translated w i t h an i n t r o d u c t i o n

by Geoffrey Bownas and A n t h o n y Thwaite, Penguin Books Ltd, Middlesex, England 1964. p. 8 4 , this p o e m appears in chronological order, arranged a c c o r d i n g to poets, f r o m ancient to m o d e r n times: The lustre of the flowers Has faded and passed, While on idle things 1 have spent my body In the world's long rains. In





W a h l u n d , Japansk


& Widstrand. Stockholm

150 kortdikter

i svensk


1968, p. 9 6 , this p o e m reads



Gunilla Lindberg-Wada Blommornas farger

ha blekts av langvangt regn. Sa spills min skdnhet ar efter ar; jag aldras, till kvaljning matt pa varlden. In the introduction (p. 21) the translator comments that most of his interpretations are not so much translations as imitations, paraphrases or thematic variations, sometimes bordering on the original creation of lyrics. In spite of this, he continues, he has chosen to adhere strictly to the syllable counting system of the original poems in Japanese, such a task in his opinion presenting a stimulating challenge, and at the same time enabling him to protest against the formlessness and verbosity of much of contemporary writing In Kokinshu, A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern, Translated and annotated by Laurel Rasplica Rodd with Mary Catherine Henkenius, Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1984, p. 80, this poem reads: the colors of the blossoms have faded and passed as heedlessly 1 squandered my days in pensive gazing and the long rains fell The poem is accompanied by a note: "The complex rhetoric, including two kakekotoba, 'furu' (to grow old, to rain) and 'nagame' (long rains, pensive gazing), and the comparison of the beauty of the blossoms and of youth mark this as a poem by Komachi, the famous poetess of love and longing." In the preface the translators inform: "In the translations in this volume, we have tried to strike a balance between literalness and pleasure for the reader of English. The only formal criterion we established for ourselves was the use of the 5/7/5/7/7 syllable pattern of Japanese waka. Whenever possible we have tried to maintain the order of the images in the original and to convey the use of pivot words, pillow words, and other rhetorical devices." (p. viii).

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise In Kokin







of Japanese


Translated a n d A n n o t a t e d by Helen Craig McCullough, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California 1985, p. 3 5 , the p o e m reads: Alas! The beauty of the flowers has faded and come to nothing, while I have watched the rain, lost in melancholy thought. Some w o r d s o n translation in the Translator's Preface: "Two basic options exist for the translator of classical Japanese poetry A waka may be treated as a point of departure for a very different poem in another language, or an effort may be made to reproduce content, form, and tone as faithfully as possible. The second method, which seems the more conducive to an understanding of Japanese literature, has been the one adopted here. Unfortunately, it has not produced many poems in English" (p. vi). In










S t o c k h o l m , p. 96, the p o e m reads in Swedish: Korsbarsblomman har vissnat och fa Hit ned i fruktlds tomhet medan tiden forflutit i regndagars dagdrommeri The p o e m is directly followed by an explanation that the cherry blossom in waka s y m b o l i z e s b o t h the transitoriness of life — as its petals fall so soon — a n d the eternal t i m e of nature — as the cherry tree blossoms every year, w h i l e h u m a n life is utterly short. This k i n d of cherry blossom does not bear fruit, a n d the blossom period is followed by a period of persistent

rains. This p o e m w o r k s on t w o levels: w h i l e the poet


spent the rainy days in m e l a n c h o l y b r o o d i n g , the cherry blossoms have withered


fallen, w i t h o u t

b e a u t y of y o u t h



it, at the same

has w i t h e r e d a n d v a n i s h e d , leaving only




(p. 97). In










translations are m o r e or less a p p r o x i m a t i v e , but w i t h the explanations


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada

should give the reader some idea of what the originals are like. She has as far as possible tried to keep the original word order and adhere to the syllable counting system of the poems in Japanese. In Sdngen /ran Ogura, Den japanska lyrikantologin Ogura Hyakunin lsshu — en dikt vardera av hundra poeter — i svensk version av Shozo Matsushita och Per Erik Wahlund, Med hundra kalligrafier av Hiroko Kimura, Alba, Stockholm 1988, p. 33, a somewhat revised version of the poem earlier published in Per Erik Wahlund, Japansk poesi, 150 kortdikter i svensk tolkning, Wahlstrbm & Widstrand, Stockholm 1968, is included: Ack korsbarsblommen har blekts av Ungvangt regn — S3 spills mm skonhet ar efter ar, jag aldras till kvaljning matt pa varlden This translation is accompanied by a word-for-word translation as close as possible to the original wording in Japanese: Korsbarsbloms farg har bleknat (!) forgaves jag sjalv tid spiller lange regnat medan * ** In my opinion the translations quoted show clearly that there is no one perfect method of translating poetry. Each translation conveys important aspects of the poem, in different ways However, the chronological arrangement of the poems seems to reveal a clear tendency to greater open-mindedness regarding what can be considered poetry Translation of Poetic Prose Genji monogatan (The Tale of Genji) was created at the beginning of the eleventh century by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu. It is a long tale. consisting of 54 loosely-knitted chapters of varying length. The narrative evolves around the Shining Genji, who in different ways, directly or indirectly, connects the stories of a number of women.

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


The text is highly poetic. The prose parts and dialogues are filled with implicit or explicit allusions to the collections of poetry the educated reader more or less knew by heart, and the emotive highlights are couched in poetry. Cenji monogatari was first translated into English by Arthur Waley and published in six parts around 1925. In 1928 the first of those six was translated from English into Swedish by Anna-Stina Alkman (Genjis roman, Natur och Kultur, Stockholm, in 1987 a new translation of the same text by Kristina Hasselgren, Berdttelsen om Genji, was published by Natur och Kultur). In 1976, Edward G. Seidensticker's translation from Japanese of the whole of Genji monogatari was published It has also been translated into French and, at least in parts, into Finnish. To exemplify the translation difficulties encountered and different ways of solving these, 1 quote below three versions of one of the shortest chapters: Arthur Waley's and Edward G. Seidensticker's translations into English, and my own from Japanese into Swedish. The Japanese title of this, the eleventh, chapter is Hana Chiru Sato. The footnotes are those of the translations, the order is the same, but not the numbering a) The village of falling flowers Translation, Arthur Waley In The Tale of Genji, A Novel in Six Parts by Lady Murasaki, Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo 1970, pp. 226-228 (originally published in 1925). The outlook was very black. Not only were his private affairs in a state of grievous entanglement, but also his position at Court was being made every day more difficult. So despondent did he become that he had serious thoughts of giving everything up and quitting the Capital. But this was by no means easy now that so many persons were dependent upon him. For example there was Lady Reikeiden, a lady of his father's Court. She had no children to look after her and had, since the old Emperor's death, been living in very bad circumstances But for Genji's assistance she would never have pulled through. With her lived a sister much younger than herself with whom he had once had a fugitive affair when both of them were living at the Palace. He never forgot anyone to whom he had stood, even for the briefest period, in


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada

such a relation as this. Their friendship had never been resumed; but he had reason to suppose that on her side the attachment was still as strong as ever. During the period of emotional tumult through which he had just passed he had many times brooded upon his relations with this lady At last he felt that he could neglect her no longer, and the rains of the fifth month having given place to an enchanting spell of fine warm weather, he set out for her sister's house. He went without any outriders and took care that there should be nothing to distinguish his coach from that of an ordinary individual As he was nearing the Middle River he noticed a small house standing amid clumps of trees. There came from it the sound of someone playing the zither; a wellmade instrument, so it seemed, and tuned to the eastern mode.' It was being excellently played. The house was quite near the highway and Genji, alighting for a moment from the carriage, stood near the gate to listen. Peeping inside he saw a great laurel-tree quavering in the wind. It reminded him of that Kamo festival long ago, when the dancers had nodded their garlands of laurel and sun-flower.2 Something about the place interested him, seemed even to be vaguely familiar Suddenly he remembered that this was a house which he had once visited a long while before. His heart beat fast... But it had all happened too long ago. He felt shy of announcing himself. All the same, it seemed a pity to pass the house without a word, and for a while he stood hesitating. Just when he was about to drive away, a cuckoo flew by. Somehow its note seemed to be an invitation to him to stay, and turning his chariot he composed the following poem, which he gave into Koremitsu's hands: 'Hark to the cuckoo's song! Who could not but revisit the hedge-row of this house where once he sung before?' There seemed to be several people sitting together in a room on the left. This must be the lady's own apartment Several of the voices Koremitsu thought he could remember having heard before. He made a slight noise to attract attention and delivered the poem. He could hear it being dicussed within by a number of young women who seemed somewhat puzzled by it. Presently a reply was brought: 'That to my garden Cuckoo has returned, his song proclaims. But how, pray, should I see him, caged behind the summer rain?' Koremitsu made sure that they were only pretending not to know who their visitor was. The lady indeed, though she hid her feelings from the rest, was very loath to

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


send Koremitsu away with this hollow message. But so long a time had elapsed since her adventure with Genji that she may very well have had good reasons for doing so. Suddenly, as he drove away, there came into his mind a picture of this lady dancing with four others at the Palace. Yes, that was who she was. She had been one of the Gosechi dancers one winter long ago. How much he had admired her! And for a moment he felt about her exactly as he had felt before It was this strange capacity of his for re-creating in its full intensity an emotion suspended for months or even years and overlaid by a thousand intervening distractions, that gained for him, faithless though he was, so large a number of persistent admirers. At last he arrived at Lady Reikeiden's house. Noting that it wore an aspect fully as cheerless and deserted as he had feared, he hastened at once to the elder lady's room. They talked much of old times and the night was soon far advanced. It was the twentieth day and the moon had now risen, but so tall were the surrounding trees that the garden still looked dark and gloomy as before. The lady herself sat in a room pervaded by the fragrance of orange-trees. She was no longer young, but still preserved much dignity and charm. Though she had never been singled out as a particular favourite with the late Emperor, they had been on very familiar terms and she was able to entertain Genji with many intimate recollections of his father's life and habits. Indeed so vivid a picture of those old days soon rose before his mind that the tears came into his eyes. A cuckoo was suddenly heard in the garden outside, perhaps the very same that had sung when he was waiting at the gate of the little house; its note at any rate seemed strangely similar. Had it followed him? Pleased with this idea he sang softly to himself the old song, 'Knows the cuckoo when he sings?' Presently he handed to her this poem: ' "It is the scent of orange-trees that draws the cuckoo to the village of falling flowers." I knew you would remind me of many things that I would not gladly forget; that is why I made my way straight to your room. Though life at Court gives me much both to think of and to feel, there are often times when I should like to have about me people who would talk of the past, and now that the world has given its allegiance to new powers such people are hard to find. But if I, amid the bustle of the town, feel this deprivation, how much the more must you in your long hours of tedious inactivity!'


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada

His prospects had indeed changed very much for the worse since she had first known him. and he certainly seemed to feel those changes deeply. But if her heart went out to him it was perhaps rather because of his youth and beauty than because she regarded his position in the world as calling for any particular commiseration. She answered him with the poem: 'To these wild gardens and abandoned halls only the scent of orange-trees could draw the traveller's steps!' She said no more and he took his leave. Yes, despite the fact that greater beauties had overshadowed her at his father's Court, this lady had a singular charm and distinction of her own. Her sister was living in the western wing. He did not hide from her that he was only calling upon her on his way from Lady Reikeiden's rooms. But in her delight at his sudden arrival and her surprise at seeing him under circumstances so different she forgot to take offence either at his having visited her sister first or having taken so long in making up his mind to come at all. The time that they spent together was in every way successful and agreeable, and she can scarcely have thought that he did not care for her It was often thus with those whom he met only in this casual way. Being women of character and position they had no false pride and saw that it was worthwhile to take what they could get. Thus without any ill will on either side concerning the future or the past they would enjoy the pleasure of each other's company, and so part. However, if by chance anyone resented this kind of treatment and cooled towards him. Genji was never in the least surprised; for though, as far as feelings went, perfectly constant himself, he had long ago learnt that such constancy was very unusual. The lady in the little house by the road-side was clearly an example of the latter class; she had resented the infrequence of his visits and no longer felt disposed to receive him. 'I.e. as a wagon or Japanese zither, not in the Chinese style. See Part I. p. 158


b) The orange blossoms Translation, Edward G Seidensticker. In Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1977, pp. 215-218.

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


Genji's troubles, which he had brought upon himself, were nothing new. There was already gloom enough in his public and private life, and more seemed to be added each day. Yet there were affairs from which he could not withdraw. Among the old emperor's ladies had been one Reikeiden. She had no children, and after his death her life was sadly straitened It would seem that only Genji remembered her. A chance encounter at court, for such was his nature, had left him with persistent thoughts of her younger sister He paid no great attention to her, however, and it would seem that life was as difficult for her as for her sister. Now, in his own despondency, his thoughts turned more fondly to the girl, a victim if ever there was one of evanescence and hostile change. Taking advantage of a rare break in the early-summer rains, he went to call on her He had no outrunners and his carriage and livery were unobtrusive. As he crossed the Inner River and left the city he passed a small house with tasteful plantings. Inside someone was playing a lively strain on a Japanese koto accompanied by a thirteen-stringed Chinese koto of good quality. The house being just inside the gate, he leaned from his carriage to survey the scene. The fragrance that came on the breeze from a great laurel tree 3 made him think of the Kamo festival. It was a pleasant scene. And yes — he had seen it once before, a very long time ago Would he be remembered? Just then a cuckoo called from a nearby tree, as if to urge him on. He had the carriage turned so that he might alight. Koremitsu, as always, was his messenger "Back at the fence where once it sang so briefly. The cuckoo is impelled to sing again " The women seemed to be near the west veranda of the main building. Having heard the same voices on that earlier occasion, Koremitsu coughed to attract attention and handed in his message. There seemed to be numbers of young women inside and they at first seemed puzzled to know who the sender might be. This was the answer: "It seems to be a cuckoo we knew long ago But alas, under rainy skies we cannot be sure."


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada

Koremitsu saw that the bewilderment was only pretended. "Very well. The wrong trees, the wrong fence".4 And he went out. And so the women were left to nurse their regrets. It would not have been proper to pursue the matter, and that was the end of it. Among women of their station in life, he thought first of the Gosechi dancer, a charming girl, daughter of the assistant viceroy of Kyushu.5 He went on thinking about whatever woman he encountered. A perverse concomitant was that the women he went on thinking about went on thinking about him. The house of the lady he had set out to visit was, as he had expected, lonely and quiet. He first went to Reikeiden's apartments and they talked far into the night The tall trees in the garden were a dark wall in the light of the quarter moon. The scent of orange blossoms drifted in. to call back the past. Though no longer young, Reikeiden was a sensitive, accomplished lady The old emperor had not, it is true, included her among his particular favorites, but he had found her gentle and sympathetic. Memory following memory, Genji was in tears. There came the call of a cuckoo — might it have been the same one? A pleasant thought, that it had come following him. "How did it know?"6 he whispered to himself "It catches the scent of memory, and favors The village where the orange blossoms fall.7 I should come to you often, when I am unable to forget those years. You are a very great comfort, and at the same time 1 feel a new sadness coming over me. People change with the times. There are not many with whom I can exchange memories, and I should imagine that for you there are even fewer." He knew how useless it was to complain about the times, but perhaps he found something in her, an awareness and a sensitivity, that set off a chain of responses in himself. "The orange blossoms at the eaves have brought you To a dwelling quite forgotten by the world." She may not have been one of his father's great loves, but there was no doubt that she was different from the others.

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


Quietly he went to the west front and looked in on the younger sister. He was a rare visitor and one of unsurpassed good looks, and it would seem that such resentment as had been hers quite faded away His manner as always gentle and persuasive, it is doubtful that he said anything he did not mean. There were no ordinary, common women among those with whom he had had even fleeting affairs, nor were there any among them in whom he could find no merit; and so it was, perhaps, that an easy, casual relationship often proved durable. There were some who changed their minds, and went on to other things, but he saw no point in lamenting what was after all the way of the world The lady behind that earlier fence would seem to have been among the changeable ones. ^Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, more properly a Judas tree. 4 Apparently a reference to a poem or proverb. 5 The episode dangles curiously. The Gosechi dancer appears in the next chapter and is not to be identified with this lady 6 Anonymous, Kokin Rokujo, Zoku Kokka Taikan 33650 We talk of things of old and — how did it know? — The cuckoo calls in a voice known long ago. 7 Anonymous, Kokinshu 1 39: At the scent of orange blossoms, awaiting the fifth Month, One thinks of a scented sleeve of long ago

c) Byn med fallande apelsinblom Translation, Gunilla Lindberg-Wada In Halva vdrldens luteratur 3&4, 1996, pp. 8-9. Stockholm. Genji hade som vanligt bekymmer av privat natur, men nu tillkom ocksa problem for honom i det offentliga livet. Det fanns mycket att oroa sig over och Genji kande sig sa dyster att han heist av allt skulle vilja lamna allt, samtidigt som det trots allt fanns mycket som holl honom kvar. Reikeiden hette en kvinna som tidigare varit hovdam hos kejsar Kiritsubo. Hon var barnlos och hade efter kejsarens bortgang ingen att ty sig till forutom Genji, som tyckte synd om henne och sag till att hon


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada

hade vad hon behovde for sitt dagliga liv. Hennes yngre syster hade Genji en gang haft en flyktig forbindelse med vid hovet och sin vana trogen hade han ingalunda glomt denna kvinna. men han hade sedan egentligen aldrig uppvaktat eller tagit hand om henne, sa det vore inte forvanande om hon kande sig nagot ilia behandlad av honom. I dessa dagar nar Genji hade sa manga dystra saker att grubbla over var det just Reikeidens yngre syster han kom att tanka pa och han greps av en plotslig lust att traffa henne. Nar den regniga majhimlen for en gangs skull klarnade upp gav han sig av. Nar Genji var pa vag att passera Nakagawafloden, i klader som inte skulle vacka uppseende och utan forridare, hordes fran ett litet hus skymt av smakfullt planterade trad hur en skickligt trakterad koto och en koto stamd enligt ostra stilen spelade en livlig melodi tillsammans. Musiken fangade Genjis uppmarksamhet. Huset lag nara porten till gatan och nar han lutade sig ut ur vagnen och kikade in. paminde honom doften fran ett stort Katsuratrad om festivaltiden. Medan Genji betraktade den tilltalande tradgarden sag han att detta var en plats han hade besokt en gang tidigare. Han oroade sig for att kvinnan kanske inte langre skulle komma ihag honom efter den langa tid som forflutit och tvekade vid porten, obeslutsam om huruvida han skulle fortsatta eller stanna. Just i det ogonblicket flog en liten gbk forbi och gol till. Det var som om fageln radde honom till det senare, varfor Genji lat parkera vagnen och skickade in Koremitsu, hans foljeslagare pa dylika utflykter, med en dikt: "Har star jag ater overvaldigad av minnen. den lilla goken som gal pa tradgardshacken, minner om ett flyktigt mote" I vastra delen av vad som sag ut att vara huvudbyggnaden fanns det folk. Da Koremitsu kande igen nagra av rosterna harklade han sig och formedlade Genjis dikt. Kvinnorna verkade unga och det var mojligt att de inte kom ihag Genji. "Den lilla goken, visserligen tycks dess rost bekant for drat. men ack sa svar att sarskilja, i regndiset i maj manad" lod svaret.

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


Kvinnorna ville uppenbarligen ge intryck av att inte kanna Genji, sa Koremitsu gjorde sorti med orden: "Ja, i sa fall Hacken jag planterade..." Djupt inne i kvinnans hjarta blandade sig kanslor av bitterhet och sympati. Vid sadana har tillfallen bor man dock halla sig pa sin kant Koremitsu tyckte ocksa att kvinnan handlade som sig bor i en sadan situation och avstod fran vidare overtalningsforsok "I den har samhallsstallningen var verkligen Gosechi-danserskan fran Tsukushi underbart alsklig" drog sig Genji till minnes. Vilken kvinna det an ma vara, lamnade de honom ingen ro Att Genji hade for vana att aldrig glomma en kvinna han nagon gang traffat, kom att fa till foljd att han sysselsatte tankarna hos mangen kvinna i langt hogre grad an om han lamnat dem at sitt ode. Den plats han varit pa vag till i forsta hand, visade sig vara precis sa odslig och tyst som han hade forestallt sig. Tanken pa systrarnas liv har berorde Genji djupt Under tiden han forst halsade pa hos den aldre system och samtalade med henne om gamla tider djupnade kvallsmorkret och det blev sent. I det begynnande manskenet avtecknade sig de hoga tradens skuggor an morkare och den kara doften fran apelsintradet fordjupades. Den aldre system var visserligen kommen till aren. men som alltid beharskad, elegant och alsklig. "Hon horde inte till kejsar Kiritsubos favoriter, men han tyckte om henne for att hon ar sa late att fa nara kontakt med och behaglig att umgas med" paminde sig Genji Minnena fran forr overskoljde honom och han brast i grat En liten gokfagel, mojligen den som tidigare suttit pa tradgardshacken, gol med samma stamma som da. "Den har nog foljt efter mig" tankte Genji, en vacker tanke. "Hur han nu kunde veta" och liknande, reciterade Genji tyst for sig sjalv och aterupptog samtalet: "Apelsintradets kara doft lockar till sig den lilla goken, till byn dar blommen faller, kommer den for att sjunga. For att samtala om forr och fa litet trost kom jag hit i forsta hand. Har kan man bade glomma sorgen for ett ogonblick och gladjas at nya mmnen. 1 dessa tider har det blivit allt farre manniskor jag kan tala med om gamla tider eller som over huvud taget kommer pa besok Anda har jag ingenting att klaga pa jamfort med hur Ni matte ha det


Gunilla Lindberg-Wada

har, vad betraffar nagot som kan skingra tankarna i sysslolosheten" sade Genji Tiderna fdrandras och varlden ar ju som den ar. Genji kande sig djupt rdrd, dar han satt och begrundade an det ena. an det andra. Hans allvar och skdna gestalt gjorde ett starkt intryck pa omgivningen. "Till ett forfallet hus, gor sig inga gaster besvar. det ar vara blommande apelsintrad, som utgor enda lockelsen" reciterade Reikeiden. "Visserligen kanske hon inte horde till kejsarens favoriter, men nog har hon nagot visst, hon ar inte som vem som heist*' jamfdrde Genji henne i tankarna med andra hovdamer Nar han diskret och liksom i fdrbigaende, pa ett satt som inte skulle vacka uppmarksamhet, halsade pa hos den yngre system i vastra flygeln, var ett sadant besdk dar sa ovanligt och Genjis uppenbarelse av en sadan sallsynt skdnhet att kvinnan utan tvekan glomde varje tillstymmelse till bitterhet hon kan ha kant. Genjis fortroliga attityd mot henne nar de talade om an det ena, an det andra, kan knappast ha varit spelad Aven de kvinnor Genji bara hade en flyktig forbindelse med, var inte vilka som heist. De hade sina goda och daliga sidor, men det fanns alltid nagot hos dem som tilltalade honom och aven denna gang hade de tu en fortrolig och givande stund tillsammans. Att det fanns en del kvinnor som trottnade pa Genjis oregelbundenhet i uppvaktningen och drog sig undan kunde han inte annat an resignera infor "eftersom varlden och manniskorna nu en gang ar som de ar" Den dar kvinnan bakom tradgardshacken horde formodligen till dem som trdttnar och drar sig undan. * * * In my opinion, the examples above show that there is not one perfect method of translating poetic prose either. Here, too, each translation conveys important aspects of the texts in different ways, but omits others However, the problems encountered in the translation of poetic prose are even more complex than in poetry translation, I believe. To illustrate this point, I conclude by presenting some stylistic traits of the text of Genji Monogatan and indicating how they are dealt with in the three translations quoted.

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


The poetic prose of Genji Monogatari The three texts quoted above are translations of the same original text in Japanese, although there might be some variations depending on which annotated edition the translation is based on The Japanese original is written in a basically laconic, narrative prose style "The story is told", so to speak, in a language supposedly reflecting the spoken language of the women at the imperial court of Japan, in the beginning of the eleventh century The narrative is interspersed with dialogue, in which the poems recited, exchanged and/or alluded to play an important part. There are also passages of soshiji — the narrator's comments on the protagonist and other characters of the story told — in the narrative text In addition to the poems recited, the narrative text, as well as the dialogue, include a great number of allusions to previous poetry, and the whole of or part of some chapters are also by tradition closely connected to certain existing poems. By tradition I mean that of reading and analyzing the text of Genji Monogatari, which has accumulated during approximately 750 years of research and is reflected in today's annotated versions. Allusions to poetry in the chapter of Hana Chiru Sato The title The title of this chapter is attributed to the poem recited by Genji when visiting the elder sister, Reikeiden: "It is the scent of orange-trees that draws the cuckoo to the village of falling flowers." (Waley's translacion, hereafter. W), "It catches the scent of memory, and favors The village where the orange blossoms fall." (Seidensticker's translation, hereafter: S); "Apelsintradets kara doft lockar till sig den lilla goken, till byn dar blommen faller, kommer den for att sjunga." (Lindberg-Wada's translation, hereafter: L).


Gunilla Undberg-Wada

This poem in turn alludes both to a famous contemporary poem, about the cuckoo which sings day after day of unrequited love in the "village of falling flowers/orange blossoms" (hana chiru sato), and to the poem quoted in footnote 7, in Seidensticker's translation: "At the scent of orange blossoms, awaiting the fifth Month, One thinks of a scented sleeve of long ago" (Kokinshu 139)



For a detailed analysis in Swedish of orange blossoms as metaphor in the Japanese literary tradition, see Lindberg-Wada. 1997.

The chapter as a whole: the setting, and the plot of the story By tradition the setting of this chapter and the expectations of how the story will evolve in it are closely connected to the title poem and the poems alluded to in it, the one quoted above in particular (Kokinshu 139). The time of the year is May, when Genji decides to set out for his visit to the two sisters' house: "the rains of the fifth month" (W), "the early-summer rains" (S), "den regniga majhimlen" (L) The scent of orange blossoms permeates the atmosphere of Genji's visit to the elder sister Reikeiden, and enhances the emotive effect of the memories of old evoked in his conversation with her: "The lady herself sat in a room pervaded by the fragrance of orangetrees. [...] Indeed so vivid a picture of those old days soon rose before his mind [hat the tears came into his eyes." (W), "The scent of orange blossoms drifted in. to call back the past. [...] Memory following memory, Genji was in tears." (S). "den kara doften fran apelsintradet fdrdjupades. [...] Minnena fran forr overskoljde honom och han brast i grat " (L). In the first part of the chapter, when Genji hesitates in front of the little house from which he can hear music playing, the little cuckoo flying by seems to urge him to stay: "...for a while he stood hesitating. Just when he was about to drive away, a cuckoo flew by. Somehow its note seemed to be an invitation to him to stay" (W).

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


"Would he be remembered? Just then a cuckoo called from a nearby tree, as if to urge him on." (S) "Han [...] tvekade vid porten, obeslutsam om huruvida han skulle fortsatta eller stanna. Just i det ogonblicket flog en liten gok forbi och gol till. Det var som om fageln radde honom till det senare" (L). Genji in this passage hesitates, unable to get past, just like the cuckoo (hototogisu) in poem no 154 in Kokin Wakashu, which is considered to be alluded to here: 9 q

For a detailed analysis of allusions to Kokm Wakashu poetry in Genji Monogatan. see Lindberg-Wada, 1983.

"Is it the dark of the night? Or has he lost his way? The hototogisu sings. unable to get past my garden"10 ^Translation quoted from Lindberg-Wada. 1983. p. 132.

The dialogue Poetry plays an important part in the dialogue. Even in this short chapter, as many as four poems are recited. In addition two existing poems are alluded to. In W the poems recited do not differ formally from the rest of the text, but the narrative text mentions the word poem in connection with the qutoation. In S and L. the poems have a fixed form, differentiated from the rest of the text. Continuing the scene permeated by the scent of orange blossoms. the cuckoo calls make Genji explicitly allude to a poem, by quoting a line from it: "he sang softly to himself the old song. 'Knows the cuckoo when he sings?' " (W). " 'How did it know?' he whispered to himself" (S), " 'Hur han nu kunde veta' och liknande. reciterade Genji tyst for sig sjalv." (L).

Gunilla Lindberg-Wada


In S, the poem Genji alludes to is quoted in a footnote: "We talk of things of old and — how did it know? — The cuckoo calls in a voice known long ago " Earlier in the chapter, Koremitsu makes an implicit allusion to an existing poem, on leaving the lady's little house by the river His words seem more or less meaningless unless the poem he alludes to is known. Given in a "word-by-word" translation he says something like: "Very well. The hedge 1 once planted" According to the c o m m e n t a r i e s . Koremitsu is alluding to the old anonymous poem which tells that the flowers have fallen, the twigs of the trees in the garden have intertwined and "the hedge I once planted" has become invisible among the dense vegetation, or s o m e similar poem. In the translations quoted, this translation problem is solved in different ways: "Koremitsu made sure that they were only pretending not to know who their visitor was." (W), ' 'Very well. The wrong trees, the wrong fence.' And he went out " (S)." "Koremitsu gjorde sorti med orden: 'Ja, i sa fall. Hacken jag planterade...' " (L). "Accompanied by a footnote: "Apparently a reference to a poem or proverb."

Are the problems encountered specific, compared to translations between Indo-European languages? This is certainly a question open to discussion. References Bownas, Geoffrey and Thwaite, Anthony, translation and introduction, The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. 1964 Craig McCullough, Helen, translation and annotation, Kokm Wakashu, the First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1985

Japanese Poetry in European Disguise


Dickins, F. V, M B . Hyak nin is'shiu, or stanzas by a century of poets, being Japanese Lyrical Odes, translated into English, with explanatory notes, the text in Japanese and Roman characters, and a full index. London: Smith. Elder, & Co. 65. Cornhill. 1866 Honda. H. H (Heihachiro Honda, Visiting Professor of Japanese Poetry at Harvard University), One Hundred Poems from One Hundred Poets, San Francisco The Hokuseido Press. 1957 li. Haruki ed , Genji monogatari hikiuta sakuin (Index of Poetic Allusion in Genji Monogatari), Kasama sakuin sokan 56. Tokyo: Kasama Shoin, 1977 Lindberg-Wada. Gunilla, Poetic Allusion — Some Aspects of the Role Played by Kokin Wakashuu as a Source of Poetic Allusion in Genji Monogatari, Stockholm. 1983 Lindberg-Wada, Gunilla, "Ono no Komachi". Femx. no 1. 1986, pp 8 6 - 9 9 , Stockholm Lindberg-Wada. Gunilla, translation, "Byn med fallande apelsinblom, Kapitel 11 i Berattelsen om Genji av Murasaki Shikibu". Halva vdrldens litteratur 3&4. 1996, pp 8 - 9 , Stockholm Lindberg-Wada, Gunilla. "Tachibana som metafor i den japanska litterara traditionen", Onentaliska Studier no 9 3 - 9 4 . 1997, pp. 3-30, Stockholm Porter, William N., A Hundred Verses from Old Japan, being a translation of the Hyaku-nin-isshiu, Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.. 1979; first edition 1909 by The Clarendon Press. London Rasplica Rodd, Laurel, with Henkenius. Mary Catherine. Kokinshu, A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern, translation and introduction. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984 Seidensticker, Edward G. translation, Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1976 Takeoke. Masao, Kokin Wakashu zenhyoshaku jo (Kokin WakashO with Complete Annotations, vol 1). Tokyo Ubun shorn, 1976 Wahlund, Per Erik. Japansk poesi, 150 kortdikter i svensk tolknmg. Stockholm Wahlstrbm & Widstrand. 1968 Wahlund, Per Erik & Matsushita, Shozo, Sdngen frdn

Ogura, Stockholm: Alba,

1988 Waley, Arthur, The Tale of Genji. A Novel in Six Parts by Lady Murasaki. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1970 (originally published in 1925) Yamagishi, Tokuhei ed , Genji Monogatari, chapter Hana chiru sato. Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei vol. 14, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1975 (1958)


Margaret Mitsutani SURVIVAL, APPROPRIATION, INTERACTION Discussion of Gunilla Lindberg-Wada's Paper "Japanese Poetry in European Disguise"

1. Genji monogatari and poetic prose I would like to begin with some thoughts on translating poetic prose. Ms. Lindberg-Wada concludes her paper by observing that the problems involved in translating poetic prose "are of an even more complex nature" than those encountered in the translation of poetry itself. I'd like to pick up where she left off, and start by asking why this should be so. The answer, I feel, must have something to do with the nature of poetic prose. What is it that makes us experience a prose style, in any language, as "poetic"? Burton Raffel, who translates both poetry and prose from a wide variety of languages into English, distinguishes the two as follows: 1 Poetry, as compared to prose, places greater emphasis on the sound of language, on its music and rhythm... 2 Poetry, as compared to prose, lays diminished emphasis on literal. linear significance and relies far more on metaphor and other indirect ways of meaning.1 Prose presumably becomes increasingly "poetic" as it takes on these characteristics. In other words, we feel that prose is poetic if it sounds 'Burton Raffel, The Art of Translating Prose (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), p. 6.

Survival, Appropriation, Interaction


musical when read aloud, or breaks with established, linear syntax patterns, suggesting through image and metaphor rather than explaining things literally. Describing English style as poetic, Raffel observes, can either be a way of praising it as "beautiful", or criticizing it as difficult to understand. (As an English writer whose work has been described as "poetic" in both senses, Virginia Woolf comes to mind ) Do the two conditions Raffel outlines for "poetic prose" apply to Genji monogatart, and if so, how? First, let us take the question of sound, or, in Raffel's words, the "music and rhythm" of the language We might begin by noting that the original text was written to be read aloud to the empress by court ladies assigned to be her tutors, of whom Murasaki Shikibu was one, and that it can therefore be thought of as an oral as well as a written text Due to the vast changes that have taken place in the language over the past thousand years or so, the original text is more difficult for most modern Japanese than literature written in English, the foreign language that all Japanese study at school. Nevertheless, when read aloud, the "music and rhythm" of archaic Japanese is still pleasing to the Japanese ear, just as an oral reading of, say, Chaucer might strike a chord with modern English speakers. Perhaps having meaning obscured frees modern listeners to experience the text as pure "music and rhythm" For eleventh century readers/listeners, though, the poems quoted and alluded to in the Genji would have been a far more central part of the text than they are for readers today. How the prose text in which all this poetry is imbedded (which is central for readers of the Genji in translation) would have been regarded in relation to it is difficult for an amateur like me to judge. Which brings us to Raffel's second condition: does the text rely more on "metaphor and indirect ways of meaning" and less on "literal, linear, significance"? The waka poems the characters are constantly exchanging and the allusions to classical poems found throughout the text are certainly used as a means of saying things metaphorically, rather than literally. One wonders, however, if the inclusion of poetry, either quoted or alluded to, in itself makes a text "poetic". 1 am reminded here of An Echo of Heaven, a novel by Oe Kenzaburo which I translated several years ago. Despite the fact that the text contains quotations


Margaret Mitsutani

from and/or allusions to the poetry of Blake, Yeats, Coleridge, and Dante, few Japanese readers would consider Oe's style "poetic" (This is a point I will return to later.) When Raffel speaks of a diminished emphasis on "linear, literal significance" he is referring specifically to a break with conventional syntax patterns, such as we can find in the English prose of Virginia Woolf, Thomas Wolfe, and more recently. Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. The syntax of archaic Japanese definitely "breaks with" that of the modern language in several ways For example, since punctuation as we know it today was virtually unknown in eleventh century Japan, the sentences continue almost indefinitely (in published versions of the text, full stops have been provided for convenience sake). The style, although archaic and difficult for modern readers to understand, is essentially colloquial, giving the reader the sense of a narrator's presence, lurking somewhere in the margins of the text. Again, whether this style would have been regarded as "poetic" by eleventh century readers is a moot point. But for contemporary readers the very strangeness of the text seems to create a poetic impression. Of the many writers who have translated Genji into modern Japanese, the novelist Tanizaki Jun'ichiro adhered most closely to the syntax of the original. The most highly esteemed among modern versions, his translation is also considered the most "poetic" in both senses — "beautiful", and "difficult to read". As a general rule, the more readable a modern Japanese version is, the less poetic it sounds, even if it faithfully reproduces all the waha and poetic allusions contained in the original text. From what I have said so far, 1 believe it is safe to conclude that (I) although it is difficult to determine whether the prose of Genji monogatari would have been considered "poetic" in its own time (2) it seems, to modern readers, to have certain characteristics in common with "poetic" texts in other languages, and that (3) these are the most difficult to reproduce in a foreign language (or, for that matter, in modern Japanese). Although rhythm patterns can sometimes be approximated, the sounds of a language are often impossible to reproduce. Another difficulty in translating poetic prose lies in the fact that, while poetry allows a greater degree of "linguistic anarchy" (Walter Nash's term), there are greater restrictions on prose, which must, to some degree, follow the

Survival, Appropriation. Interaction


laws of syntax. Translators of Genjx mcmogatari into modern Japanese tend to choose between concentrating on the "poetic" aspects of the text — adhering to the syntax of the original, as Tanizaki did — or turning the tale into a less poetic but more readable, modern-sounding novel'" While the two complete English translations of Genji (I am unfortunately unable to comment on translations into other Indo-European languages) differ widely from each other, both are more readable but seem less poetic than the original. An analogy might be drawn between these translations of Genji and modern Japanese translations of, say, Shakespeare. In both cases, the translations are easier to understand than the original texts, but since increased comprehensibility entails a loss of the "poetry" of the originals, the native reader/listener is left feeling somewhat dissatisfied Despite these difficulties, people in both Europe and Japan continue to translate Genji. The most recent modern Japanese version, a retelling of the story from Genji's point of view,2 was published in 1991; still another 3 is in progress. Royall Tyler of the Japan Center at the Australian National University in Canberra is currently working on what will be the third complete English Genji. 1 will quote a brief sample of Tyler's translation from the "Yugao" (Evening Faces) chapter, along with the same passage from Waley and Seidensticker: It was a morning when mist lay over the garden. After being many times roused Genji at last came out of Rokujo's room, looking very cross and sleepy One of the maids lifted part of the folding-shutter. seeming to invite her mistress to watch the Prince's departure. Rokujo pulled aside the bed-curtains and tossing her hair back over her shoulders looked out into the garden. So many lovely flowers were growing in the borders that Genji halted a while to enjoy them How beautiful he looked standing there, she thought. (Waley) On a morning of heavy mists, insistently aroused by the lady, who was determined that he be on his way, Genji emerged yawning and


Yohen Genji monogatari. translated by Hashimoto Osamu. Tokyo: Chuo-koronsha, 1991. 3 By Setouchi Harumi, a woman writer who became a Buddhist nun some time ago, and is now known as Setouchi Jakucho.


Margaret Mitsutani sighing and looking very sleepy Chujo, one of her women, raised a shutter and pulled a curtain aside as if urging her lady to come forward and see him off. The lady lifted her head from the pillow. He was an incomparably handsome figure as he paused to admire the profusion of flowers below the veranda (Seidensticker) One very misty morning when, in response to insistent urging, the still sleepy Genji was at last taking his leave, though with many sighs, the gentlewoman Chujo raised a lattice shutter and moved her mistress's curtain aside, as though to say. "Madam, do see him off!" The lady lifted her head and looked out: there he was, standing before all the colors of the garden as though he did not wish to miss their beauty. No. there was no one like him. (Tyler)4

Modern editors generally divide this short excerpt into two sentences (in the original text there would have been no full stops at all); for translators trying to track the syntax of the original, 5 the fewer full stops the better. Although this excerpt is too short to base a definite conclusion on, it would seem that with each new translation, a greater effort has been m a d e to move toward the original syntax, with the number of sentences decreasing from Waley's 6, to Seidensticker's 4, and finally to Tyler's 3. Tyler also makes extensive use of alliteration — "misty morning", "still sleepy", "at last taking his leave", "The lady lifted her head and looked out" — making his translation sound somewhat more poetic to the Western ear than the earlier two versions. Since alliteration is a characteristic of English, and not Japanese, poetic prose, we could say that, in this sense, Tyler has "normalized" the text, perhaps making it sound "prettier" than the original. This sort of "normalization", however, is not nearly as obtrusive as what we encounter in Dickins,

"This excerpt is included in Tyler's paper "The Sea Girl and the Shepherdess", in Currents in Japanese Literature: Translations and Transformations, ed. Amy Vladeck Henrich, New York: Columbia University Press. 1997. pp 205-222. 5 I have taken the concept of "tracking syntactic movement" from Raffel, The Art of Translating Prose, pp. 17-43. By tracking syntactic movement. Raffel does not mean reproducing the syntax of the source language in the target language, but rather following the movement of the original author's prose, keeping the length of sentences and punctuation used in the translation generally consistent with the original

Survival, Appropriation, Interaction


Porter, and Honda, the earliest translators of the Ono no Komachi waka Ms. Lindberg-Wada quotes in her paper. Forcing a classical Japanese waka into the constraints of the rhyme and meter of English verse seems somehow much more of a violation of the original than introducing one characteristic of English poetic prose into a lengthy text like the Genji. Perhaps the translator of prose has a certain advantage over the translator of poetry, simply by virtue of having more space to work in. A text as long and rich as the Genji leaves the translator plenty of room to make choices — both good and bad. To which we might add that, given the difficulty of determining how the work would have been perceived in its own time, translators into foreign languages are free to make the same choices available to Japanese writers creating modern versions of the Genji — either to create a poetic text, as Tyler appears to be doing; to make it sound more colloquial, as Seidensticker did; or to move away from the original to create a "modern novel", as Waley did. This last point seems to me rather important, as it was translation that made it possible to read the Genji as a "'modern*' text. And yet "modern" can mean different things to different translators Waiey's translation (subtitled A Novel in Six Parts) in particular gives us a clear sense of the "modern novel" as he perceived it. The individual episodes in his text are far more dramatic than in Seidensticker's; Waley also tends to tie up loose ends, creating the impression of a more linear progression than actually exists in the original. For instance, in "The Village of Falling Flowers", he identifies the first, unresponsive lady with the Gosechi dancer Genji suddenly remembers as he is driving away. And although his translation was published at a time when writers like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce were experimenting with alternatives to the traditional Western omniscient narrator, with the exception of sojishi — "asides" in which the narrator speaks directly to the reader — Waiey's narrator is consistently omniscient. As I mentioned earlier, the colloquial tone of the style makes readers aware of a narrative presence, lurking somewhere in the margins of the text. This sort of "unfixed" narrative voice, which Seidensticker has attempted to convey through the use of the conditional, "'It would seem...", might be seen as more "modern" than the omniscient narrative Waley uses.


Margaret Mitsutani

In addition, Waley has been both praised and blamed for his use of a Victorian, or perhaps Edwardian, style to convey the atmosphere of this archaic Japanese text. To use an out-of-date style (and Waley's style will become more and more out-of-date as time goes on) to evoke an era in the past is one of many choices available to the translator dealing with a text like the Genji. Because this idiosyncratic style is no longer available to writers today, this is one aspect of Waley's text that readers will probably continue to enjoy for years to come, despite its many inaccuracies that have since been corrected in Seidensticker. Waley's style, however, may also come to evoke the time and place in which he did his translation as much as the archaic atmosphere he was trying to recreate. 2. Modern poetic prose: Higuchi Ichiyo The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once said that "...translation is not the work, but a path toward the work".6 Each new translation of the Genji will provide us with a new "path" that takes us toward the original via a different route. With a work as long and complex as this, the more paths we have to take toward it, the better. But what of shorter, more modern works of poetic prose? 1 would next like to take a brief look at the work of Higuchi Ichiyo (1872-1896), a nineteenth century woman writer whose story Takekurabe (1895-6; the title has been translated as "Comparing Heights", "Growing Up", and "Child's Play") was hailed as the work of a "true poet" by Mori Ogai (1862-1922), one of the most illustrious literary figures of her time. Ichiyo wrote at a time when the Japanese language was in a state of flux. When Japan was opened to the West in 1868, there was still a great distance between the spoken and written languages. During Ichiyo's lifetime a new style that would bridge this gap (called gembun-itchi. or literally, "unification of speech and writing") was becoming established;


"La Miseria y el esplendor de la traduccion" ("The Misery and Splendor of Translation"), trans by Elizabeth Gamble Miller, in Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida. ed. by Rainer Schulte and John Biguenet (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 109.

Survival, Appropriation. Interaction


she belonged to the last generation of writers who could choose from a variety of "pre-modern" styles. Her earliest stories were heavily influenced by the style of Genji mo and other works by Heian women writers, but for Takekurabe, still her most widely read story, she found another model: the fast-paced, rhythmical style of the humorist Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693). The story is about children living near the licensed quarter in Tokyo; in the following passage, for which I give three translations (including my own unpublished one), Ichiyo pokes fun at the m e n returning h o m e the morning after: They fly impatiently up at night, and they leave sadly in the morning, carrying away memories of dawn farewells. Here a hat pulled low over the eyes, there a face deep in a scarf— it would be best not to look too closely. The delicious smart of her farewell slap sinks to his very bones, and that foolish smile makes one a little too uncomfortable Take care when you get to Sakamoto; you might be run down by the vegetable carts. To the corner of the Mishima Shrine it is well named the Street of the Lunatics Carefully composed features somehow fall into disorder and — one has to admit it — he has the look of having been an easy victim for the ladies He may be worth something over there, say the town wives who see him pass, but I wouldn't give two cents for him this morning. (Seidensticker)7 In the evening they rush into the quarter, at dawn they leave less cheerfully. It's a lonely ride home, with only dreams of the night before to keep a man company. Getaways are under cover. A hat pulled low, a towel around the face. More than one of these gentlemen would rather that you didn't look To watch them will only make you feel uneasy. That smirk of theirs — not half-pleased with themselves as the sting of their lady's farewell slap sinks in.