Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Richard Lopez responds to my translation post and I then respond on a tangent

Richard Lopez commented, which I'll quote here:

“odelay! tho i'm monolingual the nature of all writing i believe is translation or to use parra's phrase 'rewriting'. as a reader translation was/is still very important to my developing praxis as a writer and my sensibilities as a reader. i don't think it is poetry that gets lost in translation, rather that if we are lucky in our work we find that their might be many sorts of writing in a single piece.

My tangent:


It's interesting to come across a work that you cannot translate or parse, no matter what the original language. I remember the first time I read Sergei Gandlevsky in English, only later hearing a recording of a reading of his in Russian. The latter impressed me because of an almost concrete gesticulation, audible through the sound file, from his reading style. And there seems to be something to that. Whether this quality would be present in Gandlevsky's voice were he reading translations of his own work I cannot really say, but I assume it wouldn’t, because intention changes with language. E.g., The case of Kenny Goldsmith reading in Icelandic. His level of fluency in Icelandic is obvious.

What's funny, and strangely poetic, is that his reading is more of an American take on what Icelandic inflection and what might be called audible intent might be. Laugh reason number one. At best, this changing inflection/intention comes from a lack of understanding of Icelandic rhythm, connotation, diction, etc. If this reading is taken under this interpretation, what does this say about language? Translation? Inflection? How can we translate if we never hear the poem read?

As a teacher who has taught foreigners in the past, this lack of a precise intention, or skewered, detoured or diluted intention, fascinates me. The idea that there's an audible intention present with unspoken (or thoughts)intentions is what seems to make the translation of literary work especially difficult, at least for me.

1 comment:

richard lopez said...

ryan: i respond of sorts on my blog.