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Monday, August 10, 2020

Nonnus and Romanian

 I translated Book 37 of a Greek epic by Nonnus, for a collective translation that will be published next year. It was a lot of fun to translate. Here is my translator's note:

My version of Book 37 attempts to harness the dynamic exuberance of Nonnus’s verse in my own version of Williams Carlos Williams’s tri-partite line. Nonnus is especially skilled at describing physical movement, as in his quite lengthy and virtuosic account of a chariot race. A literal line-by-line rendering, I decided, would make him sound too clunky, failing to do justice to his gift for conveying kinetic energy. What some might see as the excesses of the Greek original, such as its long-winded and hyperbolic descriptions, provide the gateway for a loose and playful approach to translation. If I have done my job well, Book 37 will be a lot of fun to read in English. 


I have been learning Romanian. Why, you ask?  It is the only major Romance language I cannot read. I can read Spanish, of course. My French reading is very good, at about 85%. I get most of Catalan and Portuguese. My Italian is ok, at about 70%.  But Romanian is still fairly opaque to me. As is often the case, I don't know where this is headed. If I can read Romanian, I'm sure there will be some poet that I will want to translate. 


Leslie B. said...

What? You know Greek? I am impressed

Jonathan said...

No, alas. I re-translated it from a crib. The work is so long that they recruited many of us non-classicists.