22 January 2008

Another one for future reference

Imani discusses the Summer 2000 issue of the Paris Review and shares Massimo Bacigalupo's solution to the whole "translating poetry" quandary:
Italian, of course, is a language that has long words, so if you’re translating poetry, as I have done with The Prelude, you have to choose whether to break up Wordsworth’s pentameters to keep the lines short or, as I do, maintain a roughly line-to-line correspondence.

In Italy (unlike France) it always has been customary, with poetry, to print the original facing the translation. So a translator should modestly seek to perform a service (we call it “traduzione di servizio“), offering a “guide” to the original rather than “poetry.” At least, I find that the more unambitious the approach the better. Quasi-poets should not use translation as a means of expressing their poetic souls. The closer you look into an original the more poetry you find — even in a translation. When I tackled The Prelude, it took me several years to do. I published some of the sections as I went along in little magazines, and it was amazing how readers were fascinated by what was to them a new poem. This is one of the possibilities of translation — you can reveal a great unknown quantity to a readership that was unaware of it. Quite a responsibility.
It has a eureka quality to it that makes me wonder why I hadn't read much on this (sensibly obvious) approach before. (Of course, come September, I will have no excuse...)

If this back issue hadn't already been sold out, I would have ordered it right away. It's a shame for this stuff to go out of print and not be reproduced online. (Perhaps it's something they're slowly moving towards?)

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