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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roberta Quance, a while back, sent me her fine version of María Victoria Atencia's poems. This is her translation of one poem:


The hermits of Saint Jerome

The wounding light of the South, unkind to acanthuses,
comes to a halt as daylight reaches the door.
For an instant I am blinded as I step through the dark;
then the cool order of silence accepts me.
Beneath the ancient stone, of prayerful inscription,
a rumour of ashes quickens at my feet.

Here is my version:

Stretching through the day, the South's piercing light, contrary to the acanthus, halts at the door


I go blind an instant in the dark transit and the order of silence welcomes me with its cold


Beneath the ancient stone, praying in inscriptions, a murmur of ashes heartens with my steps

The original goes like this:


Los jerónimos

Por el día extendido hasta la puerta cesa
la hiriente luz del sur, contraria a los acantos.
Enceguezco un instante en el tránsito oscuro
y el orden del silencio me acoge con su frío.
Bajo la piedra oscura, orante en inscripciones,
un rumor de cenizas alienta con mis pasos.

Melissa Dinverno has spoken of "versioning" in the textual editing of Lorca. The idea is not to present one definitive text, but several, with a less fixed idea of what the text should be. In my first Lorca book I spoke of this in relation to translation. I would rather have more than one translation of a text: that is the advantage of translation: in German we can have only one version of a Rilke poem (unless he left us different versions himself), but in English we can have multiple Rilkes.

Here are some of the things I thought I needed for my translation:

There are places where Quance's version seems unnecessarily wordy. She has light and daylight, and a passive voice "I am blinded." She has "comes to a halt."

Preserve the paradox of "welcomes me with its cold." We think of welcomes as warm, not cold. Keep the parallelism of "con su frío / con mis pasos."

Quance in her introduction talks about the importance of the concept of transience / the transitory in Atencia's poetry. I thought it valuable to translate this concept with a cognate. I also thought the sound of acanthuses is ugly in English, but I wanted to keep the cognate of "contrario."

I thought the fluidity of the lines would be better served by less punctuation, and by three lines rather than six.

I used a present participle because "orante" is a word derived from a Latin particle.

I am not happy with the last line of my translation. Alentar is a transitive verb, but it is not clear who the subject or object is in the Spanish original. I've reproduced that effect, but a reader might think that this is translationese. Quance's line "a rumour of ashes quickens at my feet" is quite beautiful. Alentar means encourage. I looked in a thesaurus and found the verb hearten. Alentar comes from aliento (breath) and I like the fact that hearten derives from heart.

Neither of us is rigid about preserving the number of nouns, since I don't like the sound of acanthuses.


1 comment:

Leslie said...

I like the long lines!!!