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RE: [xmca] About Nazim Hikmet, Pushkin, and Translation


You have always many contributions.
I will read your post more times and
reflect about these questions... At
this moment the point I focus is only
about the role of the word "retch"... 
My former Russian teacher tell me that
the Russian formalists translates the
Saussurean dyad "Langue/Parole" by
"Iazik/Retch"... In Portuguese this
Pushkin words, in our version of 
"Mishlene i retch", were translated
by "Língua russa"... The option was
for the "Langue" (Iazik) correspondent... 
not for the other... Well... The "parole"
was just the "mistake-maker"... and
Bakhtin, I guess, just saw that "mistakes"
in a new framework too, criticizing 
Saussure. Maybe all this association 
can be once more mistake of mine too,
not only grammatical... But for me 
"Russian Language" is something different 
from "Russian Speech"... at least in Portuguese...


> Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2009 18:25:58 -0700
> From: vaughndogblack@yahoo.com
> Subject: Re: [xmca] About Nazim Hikmet, Pushkin, and Translation
> To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Dear Ulvi (and Achilles, and maybe even Mike, who digs poetry and Chapter Seven):
> Last night after I sent off the snippet of Nazim Hikmet I was feeling a little guilty about the way I cropped it, and it occurred to me that cropping poetry is in a sense (perhaps even in the same sense) as difficult as translating it.
> On p. 252 of (Minick's version of) Thinking and Speech we have a very short snippet of Pushkin:
> Like rosy lips without a smile
> I would not love Russian speech
> Without grammatical errors.
> Here is the original Russian:
> Как уст румяных без улыбки, 
> Без грамматической ошибки 
> Я русской речи не люблю . 
> But what really helps me to understand it is not the original Russian but the original context. It is Eugene Onegin. Tatyana, the Byron-reading daughter of landed gentry, is visited by a tall, supercilious, handsome and Byronic Eugene and promptly infatuated.
> She commits a serious breach of propriety; she puts pen to paper. However,  
> as the daughter of Russian rural landowners, she does not have volitional control of her own language. She knows conventionalized meanings and basic interpersonal communication skills but she cannot express profound meanings which are also deeply personal meanings in her own language.
> She writes in French. Pushkin then slyly ‘translates’ her letter into Russian, explaining that IF Tatyana had actually poured out her heart in Russian it would be full of grammatical errors but that this would merely add to the charm:
> I see another problem looming
> To save the honour of our land
> I must translate―no presuming
> This letter from Tatyana’s hand
> Her Russian was as thin as vapor
> She never read a Russian paper
> Our native speech had never sprung
> Unhesitating from her tongue
> She wrote in French…what a confession!
> What can one do? As said above
> Until this day, a lady’s love
> In Russian never found expression
> Till now our language―proud, God knows―
> Has hardly mastered postal prose
> They should be forced to read in Russian
> I hear you say. But can you see
> A lady―what a grim discussion!
> With The Well Meaner on her knee?
> I ask you, each and every poet!
> The darling objects ?don’t you know it?
> For whom to expiate your crimes
> You’ve made so many secret rhymes
> To whom your hearts are dedicated
> Is it not true that Russian speech
> So sketchily possessed by each
> By all is sweetly mutilated
> And it’s the foreign phrase that trips
> Like native idiom from their lips?
> Protect me from such apparition
> On dance floor or break up of ball
> As bonneted Academician
> Or seminarist in yellow shawl.
> To me unsmiling lips bring terror
> However scarlet; free from error
> Of grammar, Russian language too.
> Now too my cost it may be true
> That generations of new beauties
> Heeding the press will make us look
> More closely at the grammar book
> That verse will turn to useful duties
> On me all this has no effect
> Tradition still keeps my respect…
> No, incorrect and careless chatter
> Words mispronounced, thoughts ill-expressed
> Evoke emotion’s pitter patter
> Now as before, inside my breast
> As Vygotsky remarks, this passage is often seen as frivolous, and the pitter-patter of the translator's rhyme scheme doesn't help much. Nabokov complained:
> What is translation? On a platter
> A poet's pale and glaring head
> A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter
> And profanation of the dead!
> And Nabokov himself translates Onegin into prose. But our translator-poet, Sir Charles Johnstone, emphasizes that versifying lightness is part and and parcel of Pushkin's profundity; it is the emotion  that makes a man write a piece of deathless literature about duelling (in which he rakes his hero over the coals for doing it) and then throws his own life away in a careless duel, the feeling of lived experience according to which poetry is the real stuff of life and breathing lungs and beating heart are (literally) pretexts.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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