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Saturday, April 22, 2017

my students

In my undergraduate translation class my students refer to a "change" or "cambio" when the translator deviates from the original.  Of course, I point out that translation itself is already a change, even at its most literal.  They tend to be literalists, and want translations to adhere closely to the original in all aspects except metrical.  They are adept at finding fault, and are very sensitive to register.  The don't like "girls in heat" for "muchachas amorosas," in Belitt's translation of Neruda's "Caballero solo."

I chose this poem for an in class translation exercise because it has a variety of registers that refer to sex, from vulgarity and clinical language to religious, romantic, and euphemistic discourses.  He uses the verb fornicate (its Spanish cognate rather) to refer to animals, and the adjective preñada, usually used for animals, for humans. Bly objects to Belitt's translation by claiming that Neruda's attitude toward sex is positive in this poem (it's not!) and that Belitt makes it sordid. Belitt does make it sordid, but often in the wrong places.  Even though Neruda's attitude is largely negative, it encompasses a wide range of attitudes and registers, some quite ironically.

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