Welcome to
  LoginServices | About Albania | Career | Translation Articles | Contact Us
Bullet  Home

Bullet  Services

Bullet  About Albania

Bullet  Resources

Bullet  FAQ

Bullet  Contact Us





A collection of Albanian Grammar e-books


 
Reading my Poetry in Hebrew translation
Posted on Monday, September 17 @ 02:31:48 EDT
Topic: Literature

TranslationLocalizationInterpretationDTP & Printing


 
 
WHILE A PROSE TRANSLATION MAY RECREATE THE original quite faithfully, the intricate nature of poetry makes a language change hazardous and the outcome often uneven. As translator for the University of Iowa Press's Modern Hebrew Poetry (1980) I would upon occasion receive remonstrating letters from Israeli poets. Some of these were truly humbling, as they pointed out my own limitations-I had not spoken Hebrew for some thirty years. A note from the widow of a famous poet chided me for confusing nasog (to retreat) with nagos (to bite). Tricky, those three letter roots of the Hebrew verbs: Ashamti, bagadeti, and I of course apologized.


A different complaint came from another source: "I don't understand why you used casement-window is such a beautiful English word," wrote the poet Manfred Winkler. I had to explain that while there was nothing wrong with window per se, the sound of the word simply would not blend into the fabric of the whole, was, as it were, inorganic. Just recently, when that same Mr. Winkler, as well as his fellow poet Shmu'el Shatal, translated some of my own poems into Hebrew, came the revenge of the words: It was now my turn to send off frantic letters pleading for corrections and changes.

It may seem picayune to quibble about the alphabet, yet accidents happen during the transition into Hebrew that would not occur elsewhere. An example is the similarity of the dalet and the resh, which led to one of my poems, "Elegy for My Father's Generation" [dor] to end up as "Elegy for My Father's Uncle" [dod]. Of course the publisher has to take the blame for that one, but the mistake is understandable; a similar danger exists with the nearly interchangeable samech and final mem.

Difficulties are generated by the differing grammars of English and Hebrew. The Hebrew translator has to decide whether to fuse noun and possessive pronoun. In "When I Slipped" Manfred Winkler offered for "the image/ of your dead" "temunat/ hamet shelkha," whereas he could have opted for "temunat/ metkha." Perhaps he wanted to approximate the "mother lan guage"--yet it comes at a price--a certain tautness is lost. Another such decision is required for verbs and their pronouns: Ve'azavti otkha ("and I left you") vs. ve'azavtikha.

In the same poem a more fundamental issue arose. I had written the piece to a father who had just lost his 21-year-old son to suicide. Winkler, a septuagenarian with the mind-set of a heterosexual lover, initially addressed it to a female, turning it into a love poem. Yet he could hardly be faulted: English first and second person pronouns (as well as third person plural) are gender non-specific. The gender of neither the speaker nor the addressee is spelled out in the original.

When I Slipped (1)
For Tony M.
When I slipped into my
coat sleeves I inter-
rupted your grief-
for me it was time
to leave-- for you
the stream knew no
end Ached to
hug you
squeezed
your arm held your
hurt eyes a moment &
left you w/ the image
of your dead.
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(2) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

A further difficulty occurs due to the lack of a neuter pronoun in Hebrew. When every it is rendered as either he or she, the references tend to become confused and the translation may appear unnecessarily intricate. A painful example occurs in "The Lining," where "Although they/ would never refer to it" becomes "Af al pi shehem/ lo panu af pa'am elav" (although they never turned to him), which throws the meaning of the poem into disarray:

The Lining
Actually Noah
was too busy rounding
them up
Once the flood
began the Mrs.
& 3 sons pulled up
the plank & sailed
w/out him
He followed
the ark in a make-
shift bark 40
days & 40
nights
Although they
would never refer to it
not a meal was par-
taken not a
word was shed that
did not have a lining
of reproach or guilt
This was the ark that
Noah built this was
the flood that would not
cease despite the
plastic branch on
the mantelpiece.
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(3) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

Hebrew does not provide a continuous tense. In "Ima," for the last lines, "I have been gnawing at my/leg these sixty years," the Hebrew must content itself with "Ani kisasti et ragli/kol otan shishim shana" (I gnawed my leg/all those sixty years), which turns the action into a fait accompli:

Ima

The cord never quite uncoiled
The embryo never quite uncurled
The exit from the copse was a trap
I have been gnawing at my
leg these sixty years.
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(4) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

It is hardly surprising that idioms do not travel well across the language divide. After all, whereas Hebrew has remained relatively stable since Mishnaic times until this past century, English has been in constant flux since the sixteenth century. A certain stiffness, therefore, hovers over the Hebrew versions. In "Abba"the phrase "to intercede on my behalf" is not well served by "kdey lakhasot ala'i" (loosely, "to guard over me"):

Abba

On the cutting edge of
60 I still look for
him in steam-rooms &
dim-lit bars a god
surrogate w/ strong arms
a large heart to intercede
on my behalf.
I have
no prayers no delusions
but I still expect to be
the favorite son.
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(5) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

In "Carefully" the phrase "ne'ekhelet biyedey ha'ash" (literally, eaten at the hands of the moth) for "moth-eaten" gives the insect appendages it does not own. And, in the same poem, "kol davar she'eno mazliakh lehimalet" (whatever does not succeed in escaping) is really not the same as "whatever it does not drive away":

CARE FULLY

we build our life w/
brick & mortar a
vent for anger a
pane for joy an
attic for the past
a basement for gauchery
& a garden to draw on the bee.

SLOWLY

the brick chips
the mortar crumbles
the vent plugs up
the windows smear
the attic's moth-eaten
the basement aflood
& in the garden chemical spray
kills whatever it does not drive away.
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(6) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

Errors or misses do occur. In "Abba" akhzavot (disappointments) is not the same as "delusions" and roils the logic. Again, when Manfred Winkler changes the "thistle of the moon" in "Clouds" into the plural he unnecessarily alters the image:

Clouds (7)

They speed darkly over
the thistle of the
moon nothing catches
nothing holds.
Seeds
of light tumble
from the fallow sky like
rain. I drink.
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(8) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

Shatal appears comfortable in English, yet even he takes a small misstep at the end of "Cracked by Lightning" where, rather than the world "getting by" after God's eye closes, He is consoled by the roses:

Cracked by Lightning (9)

The skull of the sky
God's eye
closes
The world
Sends roses
It will
Get by.
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(10) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

One other hurdle needs to be mentioned. You will notice that in Hebrew the poem "Carefully" sheds its concrete format (the roof and stair shape). Nor are you likely to overlook the disappearance of the gaping distance in "Like the Expanding Universe":

Like the Expanding Universe (11)

we fly apart
from center.
Year after year
the voices grow
fainter.
The day we die,
a black hole in the
black sky someone
light years away
will say:
(unintelligible)
[LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(12) [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

The extra spacing between the third and fourth stanzas enacts the expansion that is the subject of the poem. Why then is that space absent in the Hebrew version? Is Hebrew poetry only a verbal construct and not a visual image as well? Is this an inheritance from the second commandment that makes images suspect? There are differences, linguistic and cultural, evident here.

When all is said and done and despite the hazards and hurdles it is still, from an author's point of view, thrilling to watch one's brain child rise off the page; to find it both the same and altered in its new linguistic attire.

BERNHARD FRANK is the editor of the poetry journal Buckle &. His recent translations will be found in the Antigonish Review and the International Poetry Review (Fall 2000); articles are published in the Explicator and Hamlet Studies. His poems, "I Asked My Students" and "Cain Sits," were published in the Spring 2001 issue.



NOTES
(1.) Reprinted from Arts in Buffalo (April 1990).
(2.) Translated by M. Winkler, Pesipas (Spring 1995).
(3.) Translated by M. Winkler, Iton77 (April 1995).
(4.) Translated by M. Winkler, Iton77 (April 1995).
(5.) Translated by M. Winkler, Iton77 (April 1995).
(6.) Translated by M. Winkler, Pesipas (Spring 1995).
(7.) Reprinted from Pacific Coast Journal (Spring 1993).
(8.) Translated by M. Winkler, Pesipas (Spring 1995).
(9.) Reprinted from American Gothic (Buffalo: Goldengrove Press, 1982)
(10.) Translated by Shmu'el Shatal, Prometheus (October 1999).



by Bernhard Frank





 
· More about Literature
· Articles by Genta


Most read story about Literature:
The Effects of Differences Among Rhetorical Categorizations

Average Score: 0
Votes: 0

Please take a second and vote for this article:

Excellent
Very Good
Good
Regular
Bad


 Printer Friendly Printer Friendly

Associated Topics

Lingustics

"Login" | Login/Create an Account | 0 comments
The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.

No Comments Allowed for Anonymous, please register
Services | About Albania | Career | Resources | Links | Contact Us
Copyright© 2006-2009. Terms & Conditions, Privacy

Translation, Localization and Interpretation ServicesElia Company