On the delicate art of translation

Excepted from Tales of a Misanthrope.

As all itches are inevitably scratched, I endeavor to burden the reading public with yet another translation of Boris Leonidovich Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. This is partly in response to Pasternak’s Sestra moya Zhizn’ having so affected me in my youth and having left upon my better and younger self a prolonged impression.

Translation is a colossal undertaking and is frequently under appreciated. Not only must the translator understand the historical and social realities which underpin the original work, he must so fully respecting the sensibilities of his intended audience, an audience unfamiliar with the cultural exigencies of another set of distinct life-affirming values; furthermore, it is of singular importance to pay close attention to every crease and fold in the fabric of this untidy drop cloth known collectively as language. It is often said that poetry is untranslatable, which only heightens the difficulties one must face when broaching Pasternak, the poet and novelist. Is a true translation even possible?

The question burning on your lips–those lips, pouting slightly, cranberry red, moist and inviting–is probably why now. Why do we need a new translation at this time?

The answer is that I am bored. But rather than dwell on such a grievous admission, let us jump headlong and unguarded into the text of the translation itself, which was incidentally influenced by a previous translation and found by means of crawling dirtily inside a series of caverns under the echoic halls of this great institution, in an underground library, built on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis and modeled after the catacombs in Lima, all in the hope of preserving books and drug paraphernalia collected from Peruvian gangsters over the course of one particularly fine decade.

And as the front and back covers, and a beautifully illustrated frontispiece (apparently replete with fat cherubs dressed in thin raiment) were repurposed as bedding material for the birthing of merry moles (which, after having read said book, interpreted it as a menage a trois featuring small mammals with bad eyesight) the translator’s name is undiscoverable. Only the date, 1968, remains legible, thus situating its publication after the universally-adopted 1957 translation.

Concomitantly, my interest in moles was piqued, and I did some extracurricular research, learning that moles are the most literary of the burrowing animals, evincing high intelligence, especially as compared to rodents, which are dimwitted and generally offput by the humanities.

And now, without further ado, let’s figuratively get our hands and knees dirty, taking care not to inadvertently crush an opium pipe in the damp floor litter, and look at the text, starting with the 1968 translation:

Lara, Babe, pass the suture.

As a craftsman and man of the times, I wanted the new translation to be more hip hop friendly. For example:

Lara, what a ho. Your Adidas walk through hospital tents.

Those who floss twice daily or who curse mainly at inanimate objects, may posit that a worthy translation must obligatorily start with the text in its original language. And here I beg to differ. Too much of the author’s baggage can taint the fledgling manuscript (here I use ‘manuscript’ as a synecdoche). Best to commence from a sensible English translation and then contextualize.

The scene where Zhivago looks across the Suez Canal and is seen by a gangrenous-looking fellow on a motorcycle who yells, “Who are you?”, should be re-situated near a strip mall, thus functioning, metaphorically, as a lament for the death of such commercial spaces. Small detail, but highly important. Besides, what was Zhivago doing in the desert? A felicitous blunder in the original, I suppose, which was finally corrected after several translation passes. There is nothing like the disinfectant of multiple rewrites.

The complete translation is soon to be available for purchase on Amazon. I contacted Jeff Bezos directly. He wrote back saying he was tied up at the moment with a personal matter. Then he launched into a tirade, incoherent at times, about exchanging goods or something peculiar as that. My honest opinion: Jeff has spent too much time in shipping. He ought to work his magic in one of those glass penthouses, the ones with a motorized bar and satin bed sheets. Are you really telling me you can’t find a place for a new translation, I thought to myself, now displaying evidence of an ague fit. Who are you, Jeff Bezos, just a guy who wants to have current events whispered lovingly into his hungry ears by a professional news anchor? (Money does not buy happiness, but rather encourages it, like a desk lamp encourages the hatching of a mysterious egg, brought to your attention by unsupervised children in the community, and where surprise is the key component.)

And here I end this Faustian tale with a direct plea to JB. Please make room for ‘A New translation of Dr. Z’ in one of your sub-zero temperature warehouses. Hasn’t the public had enough of meat dehydrators or those electric bars used to heat bath towels?

And so, there you have it, related to me practically at gunpoint, the first person account of one of my colleagues at the sanatorium, who exudes from every pore the chill sense that his work is not being taken seriously. He maintains that his next English translation, that of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, coincidentally another framing narrative, will be the one to launch his career into the thermosphere–his word–so that he too may join the pantheon of writers who are too mentally unstable to recognize their true worth in society.

 

My Bonnie lies over the ocean

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My Bonnie

 

Moses and the Rio Olympics

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Like a majorette and her baton, a mountain man, living in a remote, montane, thatch-roofed hut, often seen chewing cud, keeps a shotgun at his side. Apart from this being a brilliant literary conceit, it introduces, more or less painfully, the subject of long unkempt beards, touching ever–so-slightly upon the dark penumbra of guns and horrific violence.

Are you with me so far? Good. Let the narrative continue.

I sallied forth with my manservant Sancho Panza, past windmills and other distractions, to the nearest drugstore, whereupon I came to understand (and you should have seen the rictus of disappointment on Panza’s mouth ) that my favorite brand of disposable razors—Gillette, if you must know—was not to be found, and was directed by Elsa, a neurotic cryptologist who was apparently having trouble finding work in her chosen field, to try the Occam brand since it was, in her words, “as good as a mischievous cipher.”

That’s when my campaign of firebombing various drugstores began in earnest. This was indeed the simplest solution and consequently the most effective way to make a point (everyone is doing it these days.)  Incidentally the Occam razors were not all that bad after all, but it’s was the principle of the thing.

Now, a few words about the Rio Olympics. As a biblical scholar, I’d like to share some of my research with you. Most of you will know that Moses came down from the mount with a bunch of tablets purchased at a high altitude garage sale. Then, when taking the stationary home (they offered him a plastic bag, but environmentally conscious Moses refused), he tripped, a notable contretemps, on a coax cable (fiber-optic cables did not yet exist) and hurt his patella. But my research, using the latest spectroscopic analysis, demonstrates that there were eleven commandments—not the oft-quoted ten.  The last commandment was: Thou shall not take selfies–you can always look like a fool later.  Olympians, diplomats, please take notice.

https://www.101words.org/conrads-keys/

New story published today

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A story about collapsible umbrellas and love…

This flash fiction story is appearing today on the pages of Flash Fiction Magazine.

Are You Crazy?

Don’t stand in my way of the sky

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Most bloggers would probably choose a photograph that in some way encapsulates the meaning and spirit of the post it is perched upon. This is a mistake. Wet-behind-the-ears bloggers–henceforward referred to as greenhorns–may attempt this strategy thinking it is for them a road to riches. I laugh scornfully. Such incompetence in the blogosphere, such bravado on the part of the greenhorn!

 

No, really–here’s the way to do it. Think of your subject. That’s the first thing. Then, let your mind wander to the far reaches of our planetary system. Now stop that. It’s worth doodly-squat and you are wasting your valuable time. Instead, think of your first job. Then think of the first person you encountered while discharging said duty. Was that person sloppily dressed? If yes, think of the object next to them at the time–maybe it was a cantankerous poster of Karl Marx waving a disapproving finger, a floor lamp vaguely in the shape of a giraffe, a full grain leather car seat (if you happened to be in a limousine at the time), or a large storefront window with vistas of dim-witted shoppers in mortal combat. Now you have your photograph.

 

If, per contra, the person was impeccably dressed, then trouble your memory for this: what was the dominant color of their handsome attire? Maybe a red scarf screamed out at you as through you were a bull in a matador’s laird. Maybe it was a yellow polka-dotted necktie as thin as Twiggy, the British model from a bygone era. Now photograph something of that color. Anything.

 

I hope some of this information is helpful to bloggers. It isn’t readily available as most successful bloggers will not disseminate this sort of information to the greenhorn. Consider yourself lucky that someone as magnanimous as myself would willingly, noisily part with a powder keg of trade secrets. But I do it for one reason alone. I do it for the money.

 

‘Don’t stand in my way of the sky’ is the name of a soon-to-be-released single by a nonexistent band.  Don’t look for it in stores.

Actually, it’s my advice to birds, but you already knew that.

And all this makes a perfect segue to “Lemonade Stand,” which you may marvel at now.

Rewriting it fourteen times allowed me to include every possible way the word ‘stand’ might be used in a fictional work. Naturally the editor I was assigned to had to be hospitalized by the tenth draft. I sent flowers, of course, but that’s only because I’m sentimental about things. I’m magnanimous too. Maybe I mentioned that.

Lemonade Stand

Naturally I was going to give this lovely photograph a title, but something distracted me and I plumb forgot. This is quite bad. I mean bloggers have been burned at the stake for less.

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Messy Embrace

Pleasure

Adenium obesum

.

.

Measure4Pleasure

 

secrets

Jatropha podagrica

(pictured is Jatropha podagrica–which, when correctly prepared, can kill a man)
(another obsession in the making)

In case you were asleep and missed these well-kept secrets, here they are…

Cat and Mouse

Tattoo

My Breakfast

A Familiar Story

Pictured is Boophone disticha, of course, which will bloom, according to a Capuchin friar seen skulking in the gardens, in 27 years—and if that seems to be a long time to you, take comfort in the esoteric knowledge that a poison extracted from its leaves can kill a man in a few seconds and that there’s really no reason to wait for it to bloom in order to avail oneself of its distinct properties.

Boophone disticha

Again this blog is drifting into the macabre. But that’s your fault for reading.

Hopefully I’ve done this correctly. It’s been such a long while since I’ve posted something I’ve  forgotten the basics.

I also had to remind myself that this is an educational blog, therefore feeling obliged (no, compelled) to tell you that a group of foxes is a skulk.

https://www.101words.org/a-familiar-story/

Expansion

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Expansion

Expansion of the waist; expansion, what a waste.

 

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