Found in translation

kircherbabel.jpgThere’s an interesting and thoughtful discussion about what is lost and what is found when translating poetry on Poetry Foundation website. When it comes to taking sides in this particular quandary, I am personally very much biased towards Kaminsky’s position, and I think he also lays out a very solid case — but it really doesn’t matter all that much what’s your own take in this. It is always nice to hear (or read, in this case) two intelligent people voicing their opinions on the topic they are passionate about.

While talking about translation — here is a talk between Javier Marias and Paul Holdengräber in New York Public Library that opens on the very same topic and then veers off into many others.

And to conclude, below is a deceptively simply poem by Lorca that has defied countless attempts of translation. A brief search on the internet will bring up dozens of different stabs at it, mostly ranging from mediocre to truly atrocious.

Canción del Jinete

Lejana y sola.

Jaca negra, luna grande,
y aceitunas en mi alforja.
Aunque sepa los caminos
yo nunca llegaré a Córdoba.

Por el llano, por el viento,
jaca negra, luna roja.
La muerte me está mirando
desde las torres de Córdoba.

Ay qué camino tan largo!
Ay mi jaca valerosa!
Ay que la muerte me espera,
antes de llegar a Córdoba!

Lejana y sola.

UPDATE 14/03/10: There’s another nice and thoughtful interview on translating Bolaño’s poetry and prose here.


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