20 June 2010
On the road, well, the sea . Here:
Where Iâ€™ve been reminded that my voice in English is as marked as any, not the neutral thing we often find ourselves assuming. This time it happened as I was trying to translate a local poet, Ligio Zanini, not translated before into English to my knowledge. He wrote in the dialect of Rovinj (RuvÃ©igno in his idiom), which is spoken by some six hundred people or so today, a number shrinking all the time. Zanini was quite a master of it, not the simple fisherman he impersonates in much of his verse. Hence the paradox and the challenge: a rustic but simultaneously sophisticated voice, close to the sea, marked by it, a poet using an apparently rough-edged language of expression that few will recognize let alone read or speak.
It jumps off the page at me when I look at it, but when I translate it, people say â€“ and theyâ€™re correct in a way â€“ that itâ€™s a quiet poetry. The ideas, the images are quiet, yes, but not the language, and the sound of the language is of course the first thing to go when you try and translate it. This is an obvious thing to translators, so Iâ€™m hesitant to mention it â€“ maybe it will seem too obvious. (Hold on, Iâ€™m watching a hermit crab. This is where I just saw it a second ago â€“ I promise.)
Iâ€™ll try and get a picture if it comes out again.
The sound of the poetry goes, and so does the look, the thing that I see when I read it. This is sounding obviouser and obviouser, so hereâ€™s an example, a poem about hermit crabs, instead of a picture of one. (Sorry, heâ€™s hiding.)
DÃ³ute cun la pansa
mulisÃ©ina e longa,
cun tante satulÃ©ine
pronte da granpÃ ;
cuâ€™ i uoci â€˜n fora,
cume i pioni,
par rubÃ la casa,
duopo vili divuradi,
e a li narÃ©idule.
câ€™ a sa strassÃ©ina
par la lieca
cun divierse scuorse,
ma dÃ³ute i va sbuside
in stu scardubulier.
Now this is just really cool, evocative, unique, unusual, rich. To anyone who might have ever studied a Romance language, it will be both familiar and strange at the same time. Sarduobule sounds a little like scarred-duo-bully, but you wouldnâ€™t hear that or see it if I translated it as â€œHermit Crabs,â€ nothing like it in fact. And then as I tinker with it, the bookishness of my own â€œneutralâ€ English comes home to me, and thereâ€™s an example. Whoâ€™s word is bookish? My â€œneutralâ€ idiom is marked as middle-class, white, masculine, educated, literary, regional. It donâ€™t use no double negatives (except for ironic effect). It says â€œinclementâ€ rather than â€œblustâ€™ry,â€ â€œthey are allâ€ rather than â€œtheys alls,â€ Donâ€™t leave out no pronouns neither. Terribly (another example) exact (another). Okay Iâ€™ll stop that now.
I see this as a writing challenge, or rather several wrapped together. There are sonic and graphic factors, but I started with voice, and there the challenge seems akin to the kinds of constraints any writer might adopt, of rhyme or meter for instance, or a narrative voice, or what have you. You choose your constraints no less in translation.
Crabbie hasnâ€™t emerged again and Iâ€™m starting to burn, so this post must end here. There are also some ants on this rock, it appears. Movink to ze cafÃ© now, good you sinks, no? I sinks yest.
More from "stu canton de paradÃ©isu" later.