Anna (hellga) wrote,

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On translating poetry

Ne dumaju, ne zhalujus', ne sporju by Marina Cvetaeva. Listening to recording of Potanja singing it really affected me.

Не думаю, не жалуюсь, не спорю.
Не сплю.
Не рвусь
ни к солнцу, ни к луне, ни к морю,
Ни к кораблю.

Не чувствую, как в этих стенах жарко,
Как зелено в саду.
Давно желанного и жданного подарка
Не жду.

Не радует ни утро, ни трамвая
Звенящий бег.
Живу, не видя дня, позабывая
Число и век.

На, кажется, надрезанном канате
Я - маленький плясун.
Я - тень от чьей-то тени. Я - лунатик
Двух темных лун.

I cannot think, complain, nor hassle,
Not even sleep.
Not reach for sun, nor moon, nor sea.
Not even ships.

I notice not the stifling heat,
Nor garden's bloom.
I no longer wait for gifts
I yearned for.

Not even morning's rosy glow
Can bring me joy.
I live through days, forgetting what
Is date and age.

I'm dancing on a rope
That has been torn.
I am a shadow, bewitch'd
By two dark moons.

It's not a very close translation, but it gives the idea. Translating word for word is not always the best idea.


As long as people have been translating poetry, people have been debating, what is more important - form or content. Considering how closely the two are related, the argument becomes a multidimensional quagmire. By no means a professional, I can see the following issues in translation of poetry:
1) the need to keep the general theme of the poem, which expressed equally by verbal and non-verbal means, such as meter, feet, rhyming pattern, and use of figures of speech such as metaphors, allegories, alliterations, etc.
2) the desire to keep the words as close to the original, which is made more difficult when author uses imagery and word play
3) the need for the finished translation to be readable, meaning, a full-fledged poem in its own right, rather than a mesh of loosely connected words.

In order to translate successfully, some balance has to be found to satisfy all three conditions. As a rule, it involves a lot of time and effort, and often a heavy thesaurus use as well.

In addition, all the problems encountered when translating prose are present in poetic translations. I sometimes think that there is a level above which a translator should not go, when you start to feel the foreign language as your own, and cannot translate, because you know every subtle shade of meaning a word can take and cannot find an exact analogue in another speech. It hurts to settle for less. On the other hand, without such skill it's impossible to translate anything but dry, boring documents.

A poet once said, that poetry is born out of pain in the poet's soul. Why would a translation behave differently?
Tags: fanfic, languages, philosophical, чукча читатель
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