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Thread: Translations -- validity Re: Great Works

  1. #61
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    The translator in that case was Anthony Burgess so we are in 'how much license can a genius take?' territory.
    If that is Anthony Burgess then Wilde Woman can draw her conclusions. His replaceent of wit for poetry also gives me doubts. The two things are not even remotely the same. Yet license? Sorry... Wit is no poetry. Austen already knew it.

    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    Readability is an aesthetic value, and you destroy that aspect by forcing the reader to read lots of notes. The original did not have lots of notes because the target audience could read it as easily as modern English authors read Amis, say. So the translator's job is impossible - translate for readability and you lose the literal accuracy, translate for accuracy and you lose the readability. I look for translators who are acknowledged by many to maximise readability while keeping to the spirit of the original - Garnett being an example.

    Note - Garnett does not just miss out words, will nilly, just to simplify, she translates the spirit (or at least many people I admire suggest she does - e.g., Maudes, Virginia Woolf, D.H.Lawrence, Middleton Murray, Oxford Guide folks...) That's good enough for me, it may not be good enough for you, but you need to accept there is this other strand of 'spirit translators' who are always going to have a following of significant readers (or is Woolf just one of your lazy people?) You can keep on with your literal translations, but you should get over the fact that there are other kinds of translators out there who are often much more popular (and not because they are being too simple...)
    Readability is not an aesthetic value. As far as I know, nor Virginia Woolf, nor DH Lawrence actually knew Russian, so how can they remotely comment on a translation? The Maudes clearly did know Russian and if Tolstoy approved himself, then I can conceide to them having produced good work. However, Garnett seems to have largely taken any contents out of works and it is the question whether she could capture the smallest hint to something if she worked quickly as is attested.

    Sprit-translation is not translating the meaning of the sentence, but the meaning behind the sentence and being aware that there can be a double, triple, four-fold etc. meaning. That needs to be conveyed, not the meaning of the text in its literal wording. I agree that there are sometimes problems, but it is no reason to turn phrases as I can see Garnett has done. If anything, it is taking the spirit away rather than translating it. Tell me, what is a person without spirit? Dead, I'd say. What is a book without its contents? Dead. There is only a story on the same level as Mills and Boon. It is nothing, it is unintresting, it has no base, it has no source, it is alone.

    The thing is not that everyone absolutely needs to read a work like it is supposed to be read. Of course one can stay with the wonderful story of Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy or Roxane and Cyrano, but, and there is the great danger for any translation, it needs to stay possible to know or to get to know by dedication (or footnotes, whatever you prefer) what is the contents. As such, nor Anthony Burgess, nor Guillemard/Thomas, nor Hooker give that possibility. Again, they turned the piece itself into 'the finest end' and they did not keep 'the finest end' to be accomplished by 'the finest means' which were the words in the play. Cyrano could be speaking about the whole piece there, and then a translator is going to take the opportunity away. The piece becomes a piece that is no more than nice words and that is just what Rostand was trying to say: 'nice words have become the reason for love, love has turned into nice words, but love is more than nice words and it needs a soul to go with it'.

    I'd say the problem is not that people are lazy (although sometimes one wonders considering native English works), but that they do not know any better. They do not have the possibility to learn, because the opportunity is not there.

    Tell me, if someone reads Milton, does he also complain about the footnotes or does it need to be translated?
    Last edited by kiki1982; 04-27-2010 at 06:30 AM.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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    Woolf compared Garnett to major English authors, and declared Garnett superior. This kind of comparative evaluation, when performed by a major literary figure, is surely worth taking into account. Buy I agree you should also take translators into account - the Maude's admired Garnett, Oxford Guide folk (on balance!) admire her, major editors keep on publishing her...

    I think an English person should read Milton, not a translation. But the footnotes should not be excessive I recently bought the Oxford World Classics version, after looking at every version I could find, because it seemed to have *just enough* footnotes. The editors involved are *very* big cheeses so perhaps they did not feel the need to 'show off' their scholarship. Less is more. The RSC Complete Shakespeare is another example of two big cheeses getting the footnotes right. For the common reader, 'getting the footnotes right' seems to me of paramount importance, but very few publishers do this well.

  3. #63
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    As I said, if people do not know better then why would they change it.

    Volkhonsky said she could not even recognise Dostoevsky in Garnett's translation. A similar point was addressed by Nabokov. If those two say that, and they are both Russians and have read his books, then there is a problem.

    So, frankly, if Virginia Woolf praised Garnett, well, was there anything else available? Probably not. So what is her praise worth? She was a good writer, yes, but is her praise worth anything if she couldn't read the original? She couldn't even compare.

    Of course you are right about footnotes. One doesn't have to write another novel doing them. Short is good. Elaborate is for the notes in the back or front, to read afterwards.

    Though the right wording is of paramount importance and that is where most translations faulter.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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    The Oxford Guide account of Dostoevsky translations is available online:

    http://www.jrank.org/literature/page...ostoevsky.html

    Some interesting discussion points:

    Andrew MacAndrew compares his work to that of a conductor performing a classic on an orchestra of outlandish instruments, and speaks of the need to adapt the music to the instruments. Like Magarshack, he tends to anglicize proper names (‘Mr Karamazov’ rather than ‘Dmitry Fyodorovich’).

    McDuff carries literalism the furthest,"the convoluted style might make the reader unfamiliar with Dostoevsky's Russian question the translator's command of English. More seriously, this literalism means that the dialogue is sometimes impossibly odd—and as a result rather dead... Such ‘foreignizing’ fidelity makes for difficult reading."

    And Garnett's domsticating translation is often considered to be more accurate than McDuff's hyper-literal translation! "Garnett's ‘worship you’ is more accurate here than McDuff's ‘pray for you’, and her ‘full of hatred’ is arguably a better translation than ‘wicked’ of the difficult Russian adjective zloy"

    With literal translators like Pevear and Volokhonsky you end up with phrases like, from Demons,: ‘The old woman brings her something from the wing every once in a while for the love of Christ.’ With greater freedom, this is much better rendered by Michael Katz in his Devils: ‘The old woman who lives in the annexe sometimes gives her something to eat out of charity.’

    "While one may criticize the normalizing tendency so well illustrated by Constance Garnett, it does not seem that the literal echoing of the syntactical and stylistic peculiarities of the Russian is enough to convey the life of the text."

  5. #65
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Well, of course the sentence should be sentence in English. That sentence, admittedly, from Demons is not a sentence, it should be turned the right way, though adding a 'who' where there was none in the original I find a little doubtful. There is definitely a Russian word for 'who' and 'which' which is the same, so I don't see why it should be put anywhere if it is not implied in the first place.

    As to the Garnett translation of злой, it is clear: in every internet dictionary there are only things like 'wicked', 'mean' and the like; it can even mean 'ugly', but I suppose more in a psychological way, then. 'Full of hatred' is not even anything like wicked, but just frustrated. That is toning it down rather than naming the child by its name.

    More to the point, it depends why the dialogue 'is impossibly odd', because the dialogue in the original was 'impossibly odd' (which is not unthinkable) or because the translator made it 'impossibly odd'? I'd opt for the first one. Of course sometimes things are odd (at least the example you showed, its Russian original was odd). Kafka's dialogues are odd sometimes, does it mean that I have to make my own or even give it my own meaning? More at home, some dialogues in Wuthering Heights are odd, do we have to translate them and make them easier to understand?
    It does not.
    One, as a translator, is not there to make one's own work, one is there to put another person's work in another language, taking into account all kinds of strange quirks and themes in a book.

    For example: Kafka has a love for a certain word which he doesn't hesitate to use very often (it varies from book to book somtimes). Only that one, despite there being a lot of synonyms, naturally, in German. If one wants to take that aspect away, then fine, one starts to vary, if one does not want to do Kafka short, then one keeps it and repeats over and over again 'by the way' and 'certainly' and 'the land surveyor'. Why? Because it strengthens Kafka's monotonousness that serves not to distract the reader which forces him to think, because there is nothing interesting on the surface (Lowsky).
    If I were not to choose this way, then I would take one of the essential qualities away that Kafka has. It has nothing to do with readability, it has everything to do with being careful what one does.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    As to the Garnett translation of злой, it is clear: in every internet dictionary there are only things like 'wicked', 'mean'... 'Full of hatred' is not even anything like wicked, but just frustrated.
    Might Garnett + Oxford expert be better sources than 'internet dictionaries'? 'Full of hatred' seems much closer to 'wicked' than 'frustrated' to me!

    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    More to the point, it depends why the dialogue 'is impossibly odd', because the dialogue in the original was 'impossibly odd' (which is not unthinkable) or because the translator made it 'impossibly odd'?

    I'd opt for the first one. Of course sometimes things are odd (at least the example you showed, its Russian original was odd). Kafka's dialogues are odd sometimes, does it mean that I have to make my own or even give it my own meaning? More at home, some dialogues in Wuthering Heights are odd, do we have to translate them and make them easier to understand?
    It does not.
    Each translator to his/her own! Let a thousand flowers bloom! But I think Penguin should concentrate on providing the easier to understand translations. University presses can provide the 'impossibly odd' but accurate translations. And Oxford something in between, for undergraduate students.

    I read Penguins most recent translation of Devils recently and found it almost impossibly odd & a pain to read -- e.g., you had to run to the notes in the back to read translations of the *hundreds!* of French phrase every few minutes. I did manage to finish the novel, bit I will not be re-reading it (at least in that awkward translation...)

    There should be the utmost help to the common reader from Penguin. In this case, perhaps, translating the French into English and using pompous English phrasing to indicate the pomposity of the speaker might have done the job. And why not Mr Karamazov? The Penguin introduction could (briefly!) point their readers to the more scholarly translation, which they can turn to if they feel the need to get closer to the Russian.

    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    Kafka has a love for a certain word which he doesn't hesitate to use very often (it varies from book to book somtimes). Only that one, despite there being a lot of synonyms, naturally, in German. If one wants to take that aspect away, then fine, one starts to vary, if one does not want to do Kafka short, then one keeps it and repeats over and over again 'by the way' and 'certainly' and 'the land surveyor'. Why? Because it strengthens Kafka's monotonousness that serves not to distract the reader which forces him to think, because there is nothing interesting on the surface (Lowsky).
    If I were not to choose this way, then I would take one of the essential qualities away that Kafka has. It has nothing to do with readability, it has everything to do with being careful what one does.
    This is a very good point. I agree with you that Kafka's repetition should be used in any translation - he obviously did it for a reason and no 'domesticating' translation would make things clearer to the common reader. It might be slightly more boring, but that price should be paid...

    It is a bigger problem in translating Homer, because of his use of repeated epithets - "rosy-fingered" dawn or "swift-footed" Achilles. Milman Parry explained that the epithet is used to because of the need to stockpile metrically fitting phrases, and because of oral transmission - epithets are aides-memoires. But if you perform a modern translation into prose, aimed at the common reader, should you use the epithets? Both reasons for using epithets are defeated! Only the strict rule 'one must have a literal translation' would lead to maintaining them. But why obey that rule? It seems too strict for all but the most scholarly translation, one aimed at those learning Greek, say. Rieu used epithets very sparingly in his excellent Penguin translation, and I can see why. They become very tedious given the number of times "Achilles" and "dawn" are mentioned! And there's already enough tedium

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    Might Garnett + Oxford expert be better sources than 'internet dictionaries'? 'Full of hatred' seems much closer to 'wicked' than 'frustrated' to me!
    Ok, so most of the dictionaries on the net are not good. The Oxford Russian-English Dictionary, a reprint from 1985 I think, defines злой as follows:

    1 evil; bad; злой гений (zloy geny) evil genious. 2 wicked; malicious; malevolent; vicious; Злая улыбка (zlaya ulybka) malevolent smile; Со злым умыслом (so zlym umyslom) with malicious intent; (leg.) of malice prepense. 3 (short form only) angry; Быть злым (на+а) (byt' zlym (na + Gen)) to be angry (with). 4 (of animals) fierce; savage; "Злая собака" ("zlaya sobaka") 'Beware of the dog!'. 5 dangerous; severe; Злой мороз (zloy moroz) severe frost. 6 (coll.) bad, nasty; Злой кашель (zloy kashel') bad cough. 7 (slang) terrible (= keen, enthusiastic).

    Now, there is no evidence that it actually means something like 'full of hatred'. It rather means just 'bad' in all kinds of situations. The only possibility for it being anything less than plain 'bad' is when it changes form to its Intrumental case 'злым'. The basic form Зло means 'evil, harm, disaster, misfortune' you name it. The person злыдень, who also takes his properties from the adjective and its basic form is, guess, a 'wicked person'. And there are a whole load of derivations from the basic form (1 whole page of that dictionary) that refer to bad things: from intrigue and plotting to rogues, bad people, being angry, being in a bad temper etc.

    Is there any evidence at all that it means 'full of hatred'? So the 'expert', has he looked in the dictionary?

    [edit] By the way, we asked a Russian lady we know today about the problem. Like my husband who speaks Russian said before, she said злой (zloy) can only mean one thing and that is 'bad, evil'. 'Full of hatred' is impossible as an interpretation of it as that has its own expression (if you really want to exaggerat the feeling, but it means someting more passive than just 'bad'): Полный ненавистей (polny nenavist'ey) (Adj. 'full' + Instrumental case of 'hatred'). You can see that even the word 'hatred' itself has no connection with the root 'zlo', so in other words, Garnett's fantasy was too great and the 'expert' was severely wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    I read Penguins most recent translation of Devils recently and found it almost impossibly odd & a pain to read -- e.g., you had to run to the notes in the back to read translations of the *hundreds!* of French phrase every few minutes. I did manage to finish the novel, bit I will not be re-reading it (at least in that awkward translation...)
    Yes, well, the question is whether it wouldn't be easier to just learn French and be done with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    And why not Mr Karamazov? The Penguin introduction could (briefly!) point their readers to the more scholarly translation, which they can turn to if they feel the need to get closer to the Russian.
    Please, you're reading a Russian story, not an English one. Besides, there are many more grades of acquaintance in Russian than in English. How to solve that? It is not as if 'Piotr Petrovich' is incomprehensible. You are not going to translate 'samovar' either, because it cannot be. So why do it with names then or forms of address? I looked in a German translation of Austen the otehr day in my bookshop. What do I see? Misters, Sirs, Misses etc. In Dutch it is just the same. So we may conclude that it is actually not so that 'it doesn't work', it is just the fact that there is precedent which needs to be broken.

    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    It is a bigger problem in translating Homer, because of his use of repeated epithets - "rosy-fingered" dawn or "swift-footed" Achilles. Milman Parry explained that the epithet is used to because of the need to stockpile metrically fitting phrases, and because of oral transmission - epithets are aides-memoires. But if you perform a modern translation into prose, aimed at the common reader, should you use the epithets? Both reasons for using epithets are defeated! Only the strict rule 'one must have a literal translation' would lead to maintaining them. But why obey that rule? It seems too strict for all but the most scholarly translation, one aimed at those learning Greek, say. Rieu used epithets very sparingly in his excellent Penguin translation, and I can see why. They become very tedious given the number of times "Achilles" and "dawn" are mentioned! And there's already enough tedium
    I understand what you are saying, but people who read it in Greek also have to read that instead of hearing it. Why then change it? Besides, what is the use of the prose translation if the original was in verse? Then at least leave the lines as they were, although you will lose all the rhythm as those languages are very dense and you need a lot more words to express what's in 5 words of Greek.
    Last edited by kiki1982; 04-30-2010 at 03:29 PM.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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