Saturday, 23 May 2009

morir cada día

In my trips, whenever I am so fortunate to speak the language of the country I am visiting, I like to buy a book from a local writer. If I can't buy it in the original language I buy it in English, even if I know that good translations are extremely difficult to achieve, especially in poetry.

Poetry is made with words, but words are not always subjugated to their meaning. Words can be a playing ground and often rhythm is even more important than the message. Especially in modern poetry.

That is why I find that, in poetry, free (non literal) translations are often much more interesting then literal translations, although extremely risky.

Jorge Luís Borges said once that: "To translate the spirit is so enormous an intention that it could remain innocuous, translating literally so extravagant a precision that it will be risky to practice but it is difficult to renounce one of them".

Our own Mário Cesarinny said that "Free translations demand the most high poetic spirit". As an example, I would classify his free translation of Rimbaud in "Illuminations - une saison en enfer", which I am presently reading, as brilliant.

I found a good example of the problem in a note (by Luisa Fernanda Rodríguez) talking about Borges' essay on the translations of The Arabian Nights. Borges quotes an impressive list of examples which shows how one translator after the other cut, added, deformed and falsified the original to make it conform to his own artistic and moral norms. The list culminates in the literal translation by Enno Littmann, which is, in Borges' words scrupulously exact but inferior to the others because it lacks the richness of literary association. It lacks style.

So, avoiding polemics, I leave you with a poem by a peruvian poet, Blanca Varela, in her own language: castellano. I bought this book in a library in Arequipa, Peru. and it is called "Concerto Animal".

morir cada día un poco más
recortarse las uñas
el pelo
los deseos
aprender a pensar en lo pequeño
y en lo immenso
en las estrellaas más lejanas
e inmóviles
en el cielo
manchado como un animal que huye
en el cielo
espantado por mí

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