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17th Translation Contest: "The Sounds of Silence" » English to Bulgarian » Entry by Lyubka Stambolieva


Source text in English

Translation by Lyubka Stambolieva (#23701)

A theme of the age, at least in the developed world, is that people crave silence and can find none. The roar of traffic, the ceaseless beep of phones, digital announcements in buses and trains, TV sets blaring even in empty offices, are an endless battery and distraction. The human race is exhausting itself with noise and longs for its opposite—whether in the wilds, on the wide ocean or in some retreat dedicated to stillness and concentration. Alain Corbin, a history professor, writes from his refuge in the Sorbonne, and Erling Kagge, a Norwegian explorer, from his memories of the wastes of Antarctica, where both have tried to escape.

And yet, as Mr Corbin points out in "A History of Silence", there is probably no more noise than there used to be. Before pneumatic tyres, city streets were full of the deafening clang of metal-rimmed wheels and horseshoes on stone. Before voluntary isolation on mobile phones, buses and trains rang with conversation. Newspaper-sellers did not leave their wares in a mute pile, but advertised them at top volume, as did vendors of cherries, violets and fresh mackerel. The theatre and the opera were a chaos of huzzahs and barracking. Even in the countryside, peasants sang as they drudged. They don’t sing now.

What has changed is not so much the level of noise, which previous centuries also complained about, but the level of distraction, which occupies the space that silence might invade. There looms another paradox, because when it does invade—in the depths of a pine forest, in the naked desert, in a suddenly vacated room—it often proves unnerving rather than welcome. Dread creeps in; the ear instinctively fastens on anything, whether fire-hiss or bird call or susurrus of leaves, that will save it from this unknown emptiness. People want silence, but not that much.

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