Wednesday, 20 August 2008
NICK LAIRD ON TRANSLATION
Nick Laird wrote well about translation in Saturday's Guardian in the Author, Author slot; a piece I always love to read.
He is living in Italy (and Zadie too, presumably) for the last eighteen months. The part I especially liked was his version on 'versions', which is what those of us who translate are now calling the poems we have translated. True for him, it's the word I find I use most when trying to describe the new poem I have made of an Irish or English language one of my own. But, when translating others, I still call them translations.
Here are Nick's three basic approaches to translation:
a plain prose translation, a kind of paraphrase that tries to stick closely to the original idea
a version that tries to incorporate as many of the linguistic devices as possible from the original language, and adheres as closely as possible to form, rhythm and lexicon etc
a new poem, using the new tricks of the new language, but perhaps incorporating devices from the old poem
I'd have to say that the third kind - a new poem - is my favourite type of translation. I prefer to read or create something like a poem in the target language version, rather than something literal and clunky.
Countering Frost's famous quote, Russian poet Joseph Brodsky said, ‘Poetry is what is gained in translation’. Or at least it should be.