Louis Esterhuizen. TLS fokus op Tomas Tranströmer


In navolging van die Nobelprys vir Letterkunde wat enkele weke gelede aan die 80-jarige Sweedse digter Tomas Tranströmer toegeken is, het Times Literary Supplement (TLS) besluit om met verlede week se gereelde rubriek, Poem of the Week,  op Tranströmer se gedig Answers to Letters te fokus. Tranströmer, wie se digtersloopbaan oor bykans ses dekades strek, se gedigte is al in meer as vyftig tale vertaal. Vroeër vanjaar het daar ‘n omvattende bloemlesing met Robert Fulton as vertaler in Engeland verskyn.

Maar terug na die fokus-gedig. Volgens TLS se inleidende paragraaf, die volgende: “What is clear from ‘Answers to Letters’, however, is the way Tranströmer is able to reach deep psychological truths through images that are disarmingly clear and direct, robust enough to survive translation yet sufficiently sensitive to touch those areas of shared human experience beyond words that we ask poetry to help us understand […]The letter in this poem represents this period of panic ‘twenty-six years ago’, a moment the poet has locked away in the bottom drawer of his subconscious and yet which, when revisited, is still real enough to erase the intervening years. One day, in an impossible future, he will deal with all these unanswered letters, these troubled and troubling memories, but in the meantime he accepts that the language out of which we build our lives isolates rather than connects, a mass of ‘endless text’ out of which we can construct questions but which words alone cannot answer.”

‘n Skakel via die bespreking neem jou egter na ‘n hewige debat na iets wat waarskynlyklik van veel groter waarde is as die fokus op Tranströmer se gedig: die hele komplekse (en teenstrydige) aard van vertalings.

In ‘n nogals aggressief bewoorde brief aan die TLS het Fulton te velde getrek teen Robin Robertson, vertaler van Tranströmer se gedigte wat in 2007 in die VSA verskyn het met The Deleted World as titel:

Sir, – Alan Brownjohn’s diplomatic review (January 26) of Robin Robertson’s versions of Tomas Transtromer’s The Deleted World (Enitharmon, Brownjohn’s own publisher) tiptoes round some of the problems of Robertson’s enterprise. An excessively large number of Robertson’s lines are identical to mine in my Transtromer translations (as published by Bloodaxe, and New Directions): elsewhere, wittingly or unwittingly, Robertson makes arbitrary changes to the Swedish, a language he does not seem to understand. His versions are neither dependable translations nor independent imitations: they show a cavalier disregard for Transtromer’s texts and I have yet to see a reviewer able or willing to say so.
Mjughaug terasse 8, N4048 Hafrsfjord, Norway.

Hierop het WS Milne soos volg reageer:

Sir, – Robin Robertson is hardly the first poet to make “arbitrary changes” in his versions from a foreign language (Letters, February 7). The most famous (or perhaps notorious?) case is that of Robert Lowell in his Imitations of 1961. In his introduction to that volume, Lowell quotes Boris Pasternak as saying “that the usual reliable translation gets the literal meaning but misses the tone”. Lowell goes on to argue the case for licence in poetry translation, or in the making of versions “to write alive English”. This is surely what Robertson has done in his Transtromer versions. Lowell knew no Russian but still translated Pasternak; Geoffrey Hill has no Norwegian but still managed to give us a first-class poetic version of Ibsen’s Brand. Lowell’s “cavalier disregard” for his archetypes extended as far, he freely admitted, to cutting the original poems in half, adding stanzas to them, dropping lines, moving lines, moving stanzas, changing images and altering metre and intent. In relying too on lines from Robin Fulton’s translations of Transtromer, Robertson can perhaps take heart again from Lowell’s example of lifting whole passages from other writers, such as Thoreau and Melville, in his “original” poem, “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket”. The crux surely is in getting the tone of Transtromer right, and in making his work come alive on the page for a British audience as poetry, which tasks both Robertson and Fulton, in their different ways, have fully done.
18 Crediton Way, Claygate, Esher, Surrey.

Nou ja, toe. Inderdaad ‘n belangrike gesprek wat rondom dié onderwerp gevoer was. Gaan lees gerus die volledige weergawe van dié debat op TLS se webblad.

Tomas Tranströmer se gedig, Answers to Letters’, volg hieronder.


Answers to Letters

In the bottom drawer of my desk I come across a letter that
first arrived twenty-six years ago. A letter in panic, and it’s
still breathing when it arrives the second time.
A house has five windows: through four of them the day
shines clear and still. The fifth faces a black sky, thunder
and storm. I stand at the fifth window. The letter.
Sometimes an abyss opens between Tuesday and
Wednesday but twenty-six years may be passed in a
moment. Time is not a straight line, it’s more of a
labyrinth, and if you press close to the wall at the right
place you can hear the hurrying steps and voices, you
can hear yourself walking past there on the other side.
Was the letter ever answered? I don’t remember, it was
long ago. The countless thresholds of the sea went on
migrating. The heart went on leaping from second to
second like the toad in the wet grass of an August night.
The unanswered letters pile high up, like cirro-stratus
clouds presaging bad weather. They make the sunbeams
lustreless. One day I will answer. One day when I am dead
and can at last concentrate. Or at least so far away from
here that I can find myself again. When I’m walking,
newly arrived, in the big city, on 125th Street, in the wind
on the street of dancing garbage. I who love to stray off
and vanish in the crowd, a capital T in the mass of the
endless text.

Vertaal deur Robin Fulton.



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3 Kommentare op “Louis Esterhuizen. TLS fokus op Tomas Tranströmer”

  1. Baie dankie, Louis. Ek het matelose plesier gehad aan die debat op TLS se webblad oor vertaling / nabootsing / variasie / plagiaat. Ek waardeer Versindaba se wakkermaak van belangstelling in vertalings en die kuns (wetenskap?) van vertaling. Daar word oor die algemeen te min in Afrikaans vertaal, en nog minder met insig daaroor geskryf.

  2. Louis :

    Daniel, hier is nog ‘n skakel na ‘n interessante artikel oor vertaling: “Choosing the Wrong Casket – Ideology and Inaccuracy in Translation”.

  3. Baie dankie, Louis!