Category Archive 'Translations'
06 Dec 2017
Smithsonian reports that the Icelandic translation of Dracula amounts to a different book, possibly better and more sexy.
The Icelandic version of Dracula is called Powers of Darkness, and itâ€™s actually a differentâ€”some say betterâ€”version of the classic Bram Stoker tale.
Makt Myrkranna (the bookâ€™s name in Icelandic) was â€œtranslatedâ€ from the English only a few years after Dracula was published on May 26, 1897, skyrocketing to almost-instant fame. Next Friday is still celebrated as World Dracula Day by fans of the book, which has been continuously in print since its first publication, according to Dutch author and historian Hans Corneel de Roos for Lithub. …
The bookâ€™s Icelandic text was unknown to English-speaking aficionados of the Dark Prince until recently, de Roos writes, as no one had bothered to re-translate it back into English. Although Dracula scholars knew about the existence of Powers of Darkness as far back as 1986, they didnâ€™t know it was actually a different story. Then, he writes, â€œliterary researcher Richard Dalby reported on the 1901 Icelandic edition and on its preface, apparently written specifically for it by Stoker himself.â€
The preface was what got English-language scholars interested in the Icelandic book, but still, nobody thought to compare the actual text of Makt Myrkranna to the original Stoker novel, assuming, as Dalby wrote, that it was â€œmerely an abridged translation of Dracula,â€ de Roos writes. Finally in 2014, de Roos writes that he went back to the original text of Powers of Darkness to verify something, and discovered that the Icelandic story diverged from the English original.
As de Roos worked on the translation, patterns emerged: many of the characters had different names, the text was shorter and had a different structure, and it was markedly sexier than the English version, he writes. Itâ€™s also, he writes, better: â€œAlthough Dracula received positive reviews in most newspapers of the day…the original novel can be tedious and meandering….Powers of Darkness, by contrast, is written in a concise, punchy style; each scene adds to the progress of the plot.â€
â€œThe nature of the changes has led de Roos to argue that they could not have been the work of Valdimar alone,â€ according to Iceland Magazine. â€œInstead he has speculated that Valdimar and Stoker must have collaborated in some way. Stoker could, for example, have sent Valdimar an older version of his story.â€
15 Nov 2017
Emily Wilson has recently become the first female, after 60 male predecessors, to have a go at translating The Odyssey into English.
Wyatt Mason demonstrates that her new version has its points.
Throughout her translation of the â€œOdyssey,â€ Wilson has made small but, it turns out, radical changes to the way many key scenes of the epic are presented â€” â€œradicalâ€ in that, in 400 years of versions of the poem, no translator has made the kinds of alterations Wilson has, changes that go to truing a text that, as she says, has through translation accumulated distortions that affect the way even scholars who read Greek discuss the original. These changes seem, at each turn, to ask us to appreciate the gravity of the events that are unfolding, the human cost of differences of mind.
The first of these changes is in the very first line. You might be inclined to suppose that, over the course of nearly half a millennium, we must have reached a consensus on the English equivalent for an old Greek word, polytropos. But to consult Wilsonâ€™s 60 some predecessors, living and dead, is to find that consensus has been hard to come by. Chapman starts things off, in his version, with â€œmany a way/Wound with his wisdomâ€; John Ogilby counters with the terser â€œprudentâ€; Thomas Hobbes evades the word, just calling Odysseus â€œthe man.â€ Quite a range, and weâ€™ve barely started. Thereâ€™s Alexander Popeâ€™s â€œfor wisdomâ€™s various arts renownâ€™dâ€; William Cowperâ€™s â€œFor shrewdness famed/And genius versatileâ€; H.F. Caryâ€™s â€œcraftyâ€; William Sothebyâ€™s â€œby long experience triedâ€; Theodore Buckleyâ€™s â€œfull of resourcesâ€; Henry Alfordâ€™s â€œmuch-versedâ€; Philip Worsleyâ€™s â€œthat heroâ€; the Rev. John Gilesâ€™s â€œof many fortunesâ€; T.S. Norgateâ€™s â€œof many a turnâ€; George Musgraveâ€™s â€œtost to and fro by fateâ€; the Rev. Lovelace Bigge-Witherâ€™s â€œmany-sided-manâ€; George Edgingtonâ€™s â€œdeepâ€; William Cullen Bryantâ€™s â€œsagaciousâ€; Roscoe Monganâ€™s â€œskilled in expedientsâ€; Samuel Henry Butcher and Andrew Langâ€™s â€œso ready at needâ€; Arthur Wayâ€™s â€œof craft-renownâ€; George Palmerâ€™s â€œadventurousâ€; William Morrisâ€™s â€œshiftyâ€; Samuel Butlerâ€™s â€œingeniousâ€; Henry Cotterillâ€™s â€œso wary and wiseâ€; Augustus Murrayâ€™s â€œof many devicesâ€; Francis Caulfeildâ€™s â€œrestlessâ€; Robert Hillerâ€™s â€œcleverâ€; Herbert Batesâ€™s â€œof many changesâ€; T.E. Lawrenceâ€™s â€œvarious-mindedâ€; William Henry Denham Rouseâ€™s â€œnever at a lossâ€; Richmond Lattimoreâ€™s â€œof many waysâ€; Robert Fitzgeraldâ€™s â€œskilled in all ways of contendingâ€; Albert Cookâ€™s â€œof many turnsâ€; Walter Shewringâ€™s â€œof wide-ranging spiritâ€; Allen Mandelbaumâ€™s â€œof many wilesâ€; Robert Faglesâ€™s â€œof twists and turnsâ€; all the way to Stanley Lombardoâ€™s â€œcunning.â€
Of the 60 or so answers to the polytropos question to date, the 36 given above couldnâ€™t be less uniform (the two dozen I omit repeat, with minor variations, earlier solutions); what unites them is that their translators largely ignore the ambiguity built into the word theyâ€™re translating. Most opt for straightforward assertions of Odysseusâ€™s nature, descriptions running from the positive (crafty, sagacious, versatile) to the negative (shifty, restless, cunning). Only Norgate (â€œof many a turnâ€) and Cook (â€œof many turnsâ€) preserve the Greek roots as Wilson describes them â€” poly (â€œmanyâ€), tropos (â€œturnâ€) â€” answers that, if you produced them as a student of classics, much of whose education is spent translating Greek and Latin and being marked correct or incorrect based on your knowledge of the dictionary definitions, would earn you an A. But to the modern English reader who does not know Greek, does â€œa man of many turnsâ€ suggest the doubleness of the original word â€” a man who is either supremely in control of his life or who has lost control of it? Of the existing translations, it seems to me that none get across to a reader without Greek the open question that, in fact, is the opening question of the â€œOdyssey,â€ one embedded in the fifth word in its first line: What sort of man is Odysseus?
â€˜I do think that gender matters. Iâ€™m not going to not say itâ€™s something Iâ€™m grappling with.â€™
â€œI wanted there to be a sense,â€ Wilson told me, that â€œmaybe there is something wrong with this guy. You want to have a sense of anxiety about this character, and that there are going to be layers we see unfolded. We donâ€™t quite know what the layers are yet. So I wanted the reader to be told: be on the lookout for a text thatâ€™s not going to be interpretively straightforward.â€
Here is how Wilsonâ€™s â€œOdysseyâ€ begins. Her fifth word is also her solution to the Greek poemâ€™s fifth word â€” to polytropos:
Tell me about a complicated man. Muse,
tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met,
the pain he suffered in the storms at sea,
and how he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
they ate the Sun Godâ€™s cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.
21 Aug 2012
Elissa Schappell, in Vanity Fair, welcomes the appearance of Mary Jo Bang’s freewheeling and irreverent approach to Dante: Inferno: A New Translation
[T]he only good Hell to be in right now is poet Mary Jo Bangâ€™s innovative, new translation of Danteâ€™s Inferno (Graywolf), illustrated with drawings by Henrik Drescher. Bangâ€™s thrillingly contemporary translation of the first part (the juiciest part) of Alighieriâ€™s 14th-century poem The Divine Comedy is indeed epic. While staying true to Alighieriâ€™s interpretations of religious faith, the bounds of morality, and the soulâ€™s journey toward God, Bangâ€™s sin-soaked voyage through the circles of Hell teems with references to such latter-day personages as John Wayne Gacy, South Parkâ€™s Eric Cartman, Stephen Colbert, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and the Rolling Stones.
Bomb magazine has a not-very-exciting excerpt, consisting of Satan himself at the very bottom of Hell’s abyss. Only the usual Judas, Cassius, and Brutus appear, alas! I had been hoping to find the Archfiend this time munching on Andrew Sullivan, while making a mess of David Frum, Charles Johnson, and John Cole, but I suppose Mary Jo Bang doesn’t personally care about defectors from the political right, and all those guys are alive anyway.
If you want a serious translation of the Inferno, I would recommend the version by John Ciardi.
Via Andrew Sullivan.
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