Does this translation (of a Russian poem) sound natural in English
Thread poster: Oleksiy Markunin

Oleksiy Markunin  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:50
Russian to English
+ ...
Jul 1, 2013

Hello!

My question is mainly addressed to native English speakers, but everybody is welcome with their insight.

There is a poem in Russian http://www.stihi.ru/2013/03/23/6703 (for those who can understand Russian)
There is an official (I guess even published) translation (I'll add only the first part):

***And out of myself I jumped as through a window…
My secret knowledge was
that I could fly.
I saw how days and birds were flying towards me?
And tickling with their wings my soul.
Like millions of chads stray thoughts
Were dropping from above and rested on my palm.


Oh? Lord! How pretty are the clouds!
I felt their bodily shapes
And circled over and over the sea
Admiring one cloud from aside…
And then I did make up my mind,
Ripped up that cloud letting out the feathers
That were drifted by the wind into the sea.
But no, they weren’t drifted –
The wind just stuck them in the sea
And everybody thought they were sails –
Regatta was on people’s lips those days,
you see.
And smiling from above
I flew away…

… in search of answers
To my query about the ability to fly.
I made it to Horizon that put an end to all?
even to my wings –
Now I knew what clouds were stuffed with.
I was afraid of parting with my wings
And cried That’s where the rain comes
from.
But then I did decide to shed my wings,
And out of myself I jumped
As through a window,
And reached Eternity…

It was the first time that I saw white color
Without an admixture of the rainbow.
I felt the vacuum that ran through me like
water, dissolving me…
And suddenly I realized:
I didn’t cast a shadow
As light inside and light around
Had equaled me and Rest.
I was shown the formula of Rest
As a reward for my hard labor.***

I was asked for my opinion as a Russian>English translator, but I'm also curious about ideas of native speakers. My question is - Does this translation sound natural in English? Do you understand at once that it is a translated piece and you stumble when you're reading it?

Thanks in advance!




[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2013-07-31 06:14 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:50
Russian to English
+ ...
It is a poor translation in my opinion Jul 1, 2013

The English version has no rhythm whatsoever, and is too close to the original. No experimentation with the original text can be seen at all -- it is just a quite close translation. I personally do like it.

 

Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Poetic English Jul 1, 2013

I don't understand any Russian, which means that I really couldn't judge the quality of the translation.

I understand the English version, I think that it's quite interesting. Poetic English doesn't always sound natural.

So, all in all. it's very hard to judge, but I think that it's good. However, may be it could be improved, I just can't say, not knowing Russian...


 

Oleksiy Markunin  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:50
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Tatty, Jul 1, 2013

Tatty wrote:

I don't understand any Russian, which means that I really couldn't judge the quality of the translation.


Thanks! I'm first of all interested in English fluency, so I do appreciate your opinion.


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:50
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
I don't like it either Jul 1, 2013

For the same reasons as Lilian, also there are several places where it is not as any English native speaker would have written it. The original Russian poem deserves a better translation.

To Lilian: I love poetry, help to run a poetry group, and have translated some of Vladimir Vysotsky's poems (published in small-circulation magazine). On the Web at http://www.kulichki.com/vv/eng/songs/doughty.html

[Edited at 2013-07-01 20:05 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:50
Russian to English
+ ...
Poetry does not really only have to do with someone's language profeciency Jul 1, 2013

Many highly educated native speakers of English may simply not like poetry, or at least appreciate it, or know anything about it, so they will not really be able to help you. I think you really need opinions of the people who read poetry and love it (are there many of us left?)

 

Oleksiy Markunin  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:50
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Lilian, Jul 1, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

Many highly educated native speakers of English may simply not like poetry, or at least appreciate it, or know anything about it, so they will not really be able to help you. I think you really need opinions of the people who read poetry and love it (are there many of us left?)


Thanks. And I really hoped to find them here..))
I guess the idea is not about "like it" or "not like it".
The idea is about this translation being "English". I hope I'm making myself clear )

The answers so far are pretty what I'm expecting.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:50
Russian to English
+ ...
It is not a very good translation of a poem Jul 1, 2013

It might be in some sort of English, of course. Many more things are allowed in creative writing than in any other type of ordinary writing -- even distorted grammar, or an unusual use of words. A poem even if it does not have rhyme, which many contemporary poems don't, has to have rhythm.

[Edited at 2013-07-01 20:36 GMT]


 

Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Comments Jul 1, 2013

My secret knowledge was... not natural expression
And tickling with their wings my soul... not natural expression

Like millions of chads stray thoughts
Were dropping from above and rested on my palm - these two lines are not properly connected.

How pretty are the clouds - not natural expression

And circled over and over the sea - not connected properly

Overall, the English isn't natural. But there are poems like that. You probably wouldn't find two lines that are properly connected together though.

I still quite like it though.


 

Neptunia
Local time: 20:50
Italian to English
it looks like anti-poetry to me Jul 1, 2013

Does the Russian really use the word for chad? As in hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chad from the 2000 US election?

I find this to be a particularly weak part:
"...letting out the feathers
That were drifted by the wind into the sea.
But no, they weren’t drifted –
The wind just stuck them in the sea"

The punctuation also looks to be missing in parts and confusing in others. I really hope it is a bad translation and that the original Russian is significantly different.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 00:20
English to Hindi
+ ...
I liked it Jul 2, 2013

I don't see anything the matter with this translation. Of course, as I don't know Russian, I can't vouch for the accurateness of the translation, but the English sounded quite ok to me. It is in free verse, but there is an internal rhythm to the sentences that I liked. The imageries are all good, especially the one about thoughts falling like chad (I had to look up what the word chad meant, - and my dictionary told me they were waste material produced when you punch paper to make holes in it for the purpose of filing), which quite accurately and creatively expressed the randomness with which thoughts enter our mind.

The English flowed naturally and elegantly; I have seen poems, original ones written in English, that had a worse flow.

I noticed the following flaws:

I saw how days and birds were flying towards me?


The question mark seems wrong there, for this is not a question, but merely a statement of what the poet saw.


Like millions of chads stray thoughts
Were dropping from above and rested on my palm.


I would have used "resting on my palm". But there could be a reason why "rested" was used - possibly the Russian original demanded such as use, but logically and grammatically, "resting" seems more correct to me.

On the whole, reading this poem was a pleasurable experience to me, and could perfectly understand the philosophical progression from mere curiosity to deep understanding of the purpose of life and final death.

I don't know in what context this poem was written, but it seemed to be a poetic description of the journey of a soul leaving body and finding its final destination in the Almighty (Rest in the poem)- the old Hindu/Buddhist concept of the Atma dissolving into Paramatma and achieving nirvana.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
WTF? Jul 2, 2013

Tatty wrote:

My secret knowledge was... not natural expression
And tickling with their wings my soul... not natural expression

Like millions of chads stray thoughts
Were dropping from above and rested on my palm - these two lines are not properly connected.

How pretty are the clouds - not natural expression

And circled over and over the sea - not connected properly

Overall, the English isn't natural. But there are poems like that. You probably wouldn't find two lines that are properly connected together though.

I still quite like it though.


Me too. The use of "chads" which seems to be so out of place in the context was bugging the hell out of me. At first I thought "it has to be a mistake..." but now I realise it's a metaphor with "chads" (the particles created when holes are made in paper or cardboard) as snowflakes. The poem is actually growing on me now...

I mean "Without an admixture of the rainbow"... what's not to like?

[Edited at 2013-07-02 08:06 GMT]


 

Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 21:50
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
Close to the original Jul 2, 2013

The only thing I can say the translation is close enough to the original (choice of words, inversions, metaphors and all) and I am not much impressed with either. But then I guess no opinion is more subjective than an opinion on the quality of a poetic text... ))

P.S. Thank you so much for the link, Jack!
I loved your translations of Vysotsky, with 'Song of reincarnation' and 'He didn't return from the battle' ending up my absolute favourites.

[Edited at 2013-07-02 08:32 GMT]


 

Oleksiy Markunin  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:50
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Guys, Jul 2, 2013

Thank you so much. I appreciate your views.

2 Balasubramaniam - your detailed answer is really awesome.

2 Jack - I think your translation is really nice. Thanks for sharing.


[Edited at 2013-07-02 16:37 GMT]


 

Hannah Geiger  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:50
Member (2009)
English to Czech
+ ...
not your fault Jul 7, 2013

I am currently translating a book in which the author is also an aspiring poet,
so, not very willingly, I am dealing with it, a story within a story, that is.

I say not very willingly, because it is, of course, very difficult to render a poem in another language, and personally I think that it is the imagery to which one has to be faithful first, then the language.

I think that poetry should be given to poets for translation or those wishing to be poets.

That said, I would say that one has to "dissect"t as much as possible. For example, the closest, if not entirely slavish, translation of the second line is: I, and I alone know –

and see what type of a departure do you wish to make from there. To me, the departure towards 'secret knowledge' takes away from the person.

Навстречу мне летели дни и птицы =
- my rusty Russian from communist Czechoslovak schools still suggests to me that the days and birds were flying to meet her, greet her, ... isn't there a feeling of opening oneself to the world, (note the initial jumping out, as if from the window)
just guessing.




And here is a quote about poetry:


….one must have the great patience to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance, and gesture, nameless, and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—not till then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.”
http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/314321-die-aufzeichnungen-des-malte-laurids-brigge





[Edited at 2013-07-07 18:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-07-07 18:21 GMT]


 


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