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translating a short poem or song inside a novel
Thread poster: -angie-

-angie-  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:24
English to Italian
+ ...
Mar 11, 2009

This is just a curiosity since I have never translated anything and I'm new in this field.

What does a translator normally do when he/she finds a piece of poem or a song within a novel?
Does he/she translate it even if it loses its original rhythm, sound and most of all the rhyme?

I mean..if he/she makes every effort in keeping the above mentioned aspects of it, but in the end he/she can't reproduce them...what's the choice at that point? Should we leave the oiginal text and add a foot note with the translation of the content or what else?? which are other possible solutions?


Thanks bunches!


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:24
English to Czech
It depends... Mar 11, 2009

on what is the "role" of the poem in the context of novel.

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-angie-  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:24
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not of great relevance Mar 11, 2009

Le's say it doesn't play a central role.

How would you cope with it?


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:24
English to Czech
still no general rule :) Mar 11, 2009

depends also on the poem - what is more important? The content or form? If the poem is very rhytmical with vague or even absurd content, then I try to preserve rhytm and not take much care about content. If the content is crucial, I concentrate on the content... it is easy... but difficult

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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:24
English to Czech
consider this...:) Mar 11, 2009

There was one man who heard the chime
for which he never had a rhyme
so he just sat and chew the lime
and everything seemed to be so fine
for man who heard that little chime.


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-angie-  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:24
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not sure Mar 11, 2009

hmmm...it doesn't sound so deep as a poem!

should I leave it as it is?


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:24
English to Czech
What do you mean by "deep"? Mar 11, 2009

Do you know Christian Morgenstern? Edward Lear? Lewis Carroll?

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-angie-  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:24
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yep... Mar 11, 2009

yeah, I know who they are and here we are talking about a total different thing.. I can't see what's the point of your answers/questions...
I asked for a suggestion on how or what's the best way to translate a brief poem or song (usually made up by one of the characters of the novel!)...

those you mentioned are writers who intentionally write nonsense..that is their style, it's some way a branch of literary genres..thus all another story.

as I have already said, I'm new in the field of translation and I would like to know how to behave in certain cases, as the one I have explained.


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:24
English to Czech
And what about this? Mar 11, 2009

(My translation, not the "poem" - in Czech it is a crap - does it sound less crappy in English?)

Hands, hands, hands

Stroking you by thousands
but blood to water

Torrents of fingers - dire straits
moons of nails
on Earth

Colourless perils masturbating
orgasm smells like soot

Ash falling to everybody
to whom I am selling you...


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:24
English to Czech
I am just giving you examples... Mar 11, 2009

Because there just IS NO simple answer.

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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:24
English to Czech
Or one more time: Mar 11, 2009

You must pick up what is important - is it mood, moral or what? If it is a poem written by a character of a novel - why the character wrote it? What is his/her audience? On what occasion he/she has written it? etc...

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allp
Poland
Local time: 04:24
English to Polish
+ ...
Several ways to deal with it Mar 12, 2009

Sometimes you can leave poetry/songs in the original, but these are rather special cases. Usually it needs to be translated and there is more than one way to tackle the problem.

1. If a translation into the target language already exists (popular songs, quotations of famous poets etc.), you may use it, giving the name of the translator in a footnote.

2. If there is no existing version and you do not feel up to the task, you may contact the publisher and ask them to find another translator who would (and could) do the poetry bits.

3. If you do feel up to it, just do it And this is what I am doing right now, sweating over traditional Scottish songs. Wish me luck



[Zmieniono 2009-03-12 00:30 GMT]


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Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison
Malaysia
Local time: 10:24
English to Polish
+ ...
I'm in the same boat as you are Mar 12, 2009

I'm having the same problem as you do. I'm translating a novel from Italian into Polish, in which there are fragments of lyrics from Italian and English songs, as well as a song written by one of the characters.
Now, my thinking is - since the writer did not translate the English song lyrics into Italian, why should I translate the Italian lyrics into Polish? So right now I'm leaning towards leaving them as they are, with possible footnotes.
The song written by one of the characters will, on the other hand, be translated into Polish, since it's content is important.
A song from an animated kid's movie, that was originally in English and in the novel is present in it's Italian version, will in my translation be in it's Polish version (same, as in the movie).
If you have a poem, that was written by someone else than the novel's author, it might be worth checking for previous translations.
So, to sum it up - there's no short answer and you'll have to make the decision based on what you think is most important.
And then your editor will have their own opinion, that might, or might not, coincide with yours:)

[Edited at 2009-03-12 01:03 GMT]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:24
English to French
+ ...
What touches you about the poem? Mar 12, 2009

When you read the poem to be translated, what strikes you the most? The clever rhymes? The colourful images it evokes? The feelings it brings out in you?

Poems make for tough material to translate because there is so much to watch out for and you need to balance different elements. But I think that that is impossible. You can't reproduce all aspects of a poem faithfully. So, at some point, you need to set priorities.

I have read some of J.R.R. Tolkien's books translated into French, and I found that the poems were literally butchered by the translator. When I read a Tolkien poem in English (the language Tolkien wrote it in), what strikes me most is the beat and the rhymes, as well as the incredible cultural riches of the words themselves - you can tell he chose them carefully, and he probably used a few etymological dictionaries to find them (for those who don't know him, Tolkien was a professor of linguistics at the University of Cambridge). However, the translator stuck mostly to the meaning of the verses - the result was totally devoid of charm and it was pretty dull, with absolutely no rhymes.

So, I suggest you try to find which element of the poem is the strongest. Make sure you focus on that as you translate. If fthe rhymes are more important than the rest, you can sacrifice a bit of the story for its sake. If you can then also cater to the other aspects of the poem, all the better. But if you have to make a choice, choose the obvious.


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Tetyana Dytyna  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:24
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
two options Mar 12, 2009

number one, if the poem is known (e.g. Shakespeare) and has been translated into your target language, you go and find the existing translation.

number two, if it's something new, ask a colleague of yours who specializes in poetry to translate that, and then in a footnote tell the reader who made the poem's translation.

you probablly should indicate the translator in the first case, too.


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