Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Translation Midwifery

Remember Translation Idol, the poetry translation talent contest I co-organised in May? You can see rather gruesome photos and all the entries at no man's land, by the way, if you click on the link on the right.

Well, last night I got hold of a copy of the literary journal Neue Rundschau, which features the poet Ron Winkler's original poem, seven of the translations, plus Ron's re-translations of all the versions. Rather like he provided the egg, the translators the seed, and his retranslations are the zygotes, growing into strange genetically related beings that are yet different to their parents, often almost unrecognisably so.

It was interesting at the contest itself to see how fruitful misunderstandings and deliberate adaptations can be. The original poem, und später dann Paraboläpfel am Atem, is not a straight-forward text, combining all sorts of cultural references and tricky questions. But then the translators created their very own versions - and Ron reinterpreted these in turn. So Heckler & Koch becomes Lady of Bristol becomes braut. Or nothing at all becomes aye becomes tjaja. Or das infernalische Obst becomes le fruit infernal, zut! becomes daadwerkelijk infernaal vruchten, verfloekt!

I have to admit to not a little pride at helping to bring these poems into the world. I wish them long and happy lives.

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