View Single Post
Unread 08-09-2020, 05:20 PM
AZ Foreman's Avatar
AZ Foreman AZ Foreman is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Washington DC
Posts: 582
Blog Entries: 1

Instead, I practice what scholars of translation have called “mimesis.” Mimesis is an effort to get inside the poet’s head and heart, to come to understand his ideas, his intentions and the way he uses language. Then, having done that, a mimetic translator becomes the poet (metaphorically) and rewrites the poem in his own language. Done well, the poem will retain its rhythm, its poetic imagery and its meaning.
This seems to amount to an innoculation against accusations of "inaccuracy". She tried to freely recast the poem in a way that seemed true to Baudelaire and to her own sense of the poetic. Ok, you do you.

I could find no English words that could reproduce Baudelaire’s economy of expression and his absolutely magical way of describing paradise.
Am I to understand by this that she feels the rest of her translation does equal Baudelaire's French in such respects? Or rather (what seems more likely) that which made the original two lines worth reading (to her) defied attempts to instantiate it in English. I get that. But if you're going to fail, then fail with some grace. No translator is perfect. If one can't do what one wishes one could with a line or passage, then it seems to me that we still owe it to our readers to do SOMETHING worth their attention.

The French words are close enough to English to give you a sense of their meaning and so I left them as written.
The absolutely kindest thing I can say about this is that, if by "a sense of their meaning" she means "some idea of what three or four of the content words mean without knowing their relationship to each other, or what is being said about them" she is correct.

Most of the words, in fact, are not at all close enough to English to be understood. The words lÓ, tout, ne, est, que, et are impenetrable to an Anglophone who does not know French. She seems, in this assesment, to have forgotten that these words even exist or are important to understanding what's going on. It is also by no means a sure thing luxe will be properly processed by someone who does not know French at all. VoluptÚ stands a greater chance of being misunderstood than anything else. "Volupty" is a rare word now, and even "voluptuousness" has come to mean something quite different than it used to.

This to me is rather bankrupt. Translation is the art of failure. This treatment of the refrain, though, is neither translation nor art, but failure plain and simple.

I think she gives the game away here:

nor to do I attempt to rhyme. In my view, translators who do that often sacrifice meaning, rhythm and poetry in their effort to reproduce the words exactly.
It seems clear to me that she thinks that rhyme and other such "formal" properties aren't an essential part of what makes a form-conscious poem (or, at least, this form-conscious poem) worth reading as a poem, or she would not find them so easy to disregard in an English version. Okay. As in religion so in literature: your beliefs are your business.

But I'm not quite sure I understand what she is even saying here, though I will try and assume she, at least, does. Either the sentence is badly phrased, or I am obtuse, or (a distinct possibility) both. What does "reproduce the words exactly" mean here? Clearly it does not mean translating things word-for-word, or even translating them as if they were prose. Otherwise she would not oppose the former, nor suggest in any way that that is what translators who use rhyme are atttempting to. Does she think they are are less concerned with rhythm than she is (for which I see no evidencein her translation)? Or is this an awkward way of saying she thinks "reproducing the words exactly" is most important, but that attempts to use rhyme get in the way of that?

Regardless, her treatment of the refrain is ironic in light of this sentence, because what she does with the refrain seems to me to be "reproducing the words exactly" taken to an extreme. Way past word-for-word and more same-word-for-same-word. The result being not so much translation as simple quotation.

Last edited by AZ Foreman; 08-09-2020 at 09:28 PM.
Reply With Quote