IPerhaps…the translator’s work is more subtle, more civilized than that of the writer: the translator clearly comes after the writer. Translation is a more advanced stage of civilization. ~ Jorge Luis Borges
In sy artikel “The art of translation” onderskei Vladimir Nabokov drie soorte euwels wanneer dit kom by vertaling: eerstens, ooglopende foute wat toegeskryf kan word aan onkunde of onbesonnenheid; tweedens, die vertaler wat opsetlik woorde of frases weglaat wat hy nie verstaan nie of wat na sy beskeie mening te obskuur vir sy teikenlesers sal wees (”he is as ready to know less than the author as he is to think he knows better”); en ten slotte: “The third, and worst, degree of turpitude is reached when a masterpiece is planished and patted into such a shape, vilely beautified in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and prejudices of a given public.”
Die gebreke van ‘n swak vertaling kom baie duidelik na vore wanneer dit terugvertaal word na die oorspronklike taal, bv. ‘n Russiese vertaling van Shakespeare wat dan aan die hand van die Russiese weergawe weer terug vertaal word in Engels.
Hy onderskei voorts ook drie soorte vertalers: “the scholar who is eager to make the world appreciate the works of an obscure genius as much as he does himself; the well meaning hack; and the professional writer relaxing in the company of a foreign confrere.”
Selfs die egte digter, wanneer dit by vertaling kom, trap alte maklik in slaggate:
Now comes the authentic poet who ... finds relaxation in translating a bit of Lermontov or Verlaine between writing poems of his own. Either he does not know the original language and calmly relies upon the so-called "literal" translation made for him by a far less brilliant but a little more learned person, or else, knowing the language, he lacks the scholar's precision and the professional translator's experience. The main drawback, however, in this case is the fact that the greater his individual talent, the more apt he will be to drown the foreign masterpiece under the sparkling ripples of his own personal style. Instead of dressing up like the real author, he dresses up the author as himself.
As vertaler is J.M. Coetzee verál bekend vir sy skitterende vertaling van Wilma Stockenström se roman Die kremetartekspedisie (The expedition to the baobab tree, Faber & Faber: 1983). ’n Gedugte opdrag wanneer die poëtiese digtheid van Stockenström se prosa & haar sterk ontginning van die idiomatiese in ag geneem word - lg. is sekerlik dié moeilikste om te vertaal.
Coetzee is minder bekend vir sy poësievertalings. Die eerste waarop ek afgekom het, is sy vertaling van Ina Rousseau se bekende gedig “Eden”, een van die ikoniese gedigte in Afrikaans. Sy vertaling het vir die eerste keer in die April 2007 uitgawe van die Amerikaanse Poetry tydskrif verskyn. Coetzee vermy myns insiens die gevare waarteen Nabokov waarsku.
We can deduce now the requirements that a translator must possess in order to be able to give an ideal version of a foreign masterpiece. First of all he must have as much talent, or at least the same kind of talent, as the author he chooses. In this, though only in this, respect Baudelaire and Poe or Joukovsky and Schiller made ideal playmates. Second, he must know thoroughly the two nations and the two languages involved and be perfectly acquainted with all details relating to his author's manner and methods; also, with the social background of words, their fashions, history and period associations. This leads to the third point: while having genius and knowledge he must possess the gift of mimicry and be able to act, as it were, the real author's part by impersonating his tricks of demeanor and speech, his ways and his mind, with the utmost degree of verisimilitude.
Somewhere in Eden, after all this time,
does there still stand, abandoned, like
a ruined city, gates sealed with grisly nails,
the luckless garden?
Is sultry day still followed there
by sultry dusk, sultry night,
where on the branches sallow and purple
the fruit hangs rotting?
Is there still, underground,
spreading like lace among the rocks
a network of unexploited lodes,
onyx and gold?
Through the lush greenery
their wash echoing afar
do there still flow the four glassy streams
of which no mortal drinks?
Somewhere in Eden, after all this time,
does there still stand, like a city in ruins,
forsaken, doomed to slow decay,
the failed garden?
Die tweede ontdekking was sy vertalings van Nederlandse gedigte deur Gerrit Achterberg, Sybren Polet, Hugo Claus, Cees Nooteboom, Hans Faverey & Rutger Kopland, gepubliseer in Landscape with Rowers: Poetry from the Netherlands. Hieronder volg sy vertalings van Hugo Claus se “Tien manieren om P. B. Shelley te zien” & Gerrit Achterberg se “Ballade van de gasfitter”.
Ten ways of Looking at PB Shelley
His body washed up on the sands.
Lay there while the gold retreated
over the mountains.
In his nankeen breeches, in his white socks
in Keats' verses in his inside pocket
only the worms moved.
O wild west wind,
thou breadth of autumn's being.
His face was eaten away
by the creatures of the sea.
His spirit which had eyes
lips and nostrils
saw the dreaming earth
licked at her,
smelled her odors that destroy and preserve at the same time.
Thin as a bone, spastic.
(In pantomimes he was first choice to play the witch).
A shrill voice. Corns on his feet.
Up to his knees in girls.
And all the time, gibes
about the angels of the rain,
the angels of the lightning
that were meant to descend tonight
over the blue planet.
He hated minced pork,
saints, veneration, the King.
But most of all he hated
one husband and one wife
in their monogamous embrace.
Black rain, fiery hail
over his streaming
There were thorns aplenty,
that he fell into and bled.
But he kept arsenic in his pocket.
For who knows
if you want to survive
the beauty of bendings?
Who knows you would not prefer,
without taking leave, to sink away
into the seaweed, untamed?
Once he set fire to the family butler,
Mr Laker. In Italy
he danced before a flaming bushfire.
Later, in the shade, gray with
cold, after hours like icicles,
he whispered: "Hark, oh, hear
the branches of heaven and ocean
tangled in each other."
He ran screaming from his room,
he had, oh! seen
fat Sussex women
with eyes where nipples should be.
For mostly in his winter bed he saw
a naked child
rise up out of a purple sea.
Oh, lift me as a wave,
a leaf, a cloud.
For breakfast and luncheon he ate bonbons.
Clotted bowels from opium.
Kidneys and bladder damaged.
His accents and rhythms
are blown over the frozen earth.
Echoes of gods and blackbirds
He refused to wear woolen socks.
Butter made him retch.
With Harriet, Mary, Claire, and others
he pushed in a wine-soaked sponge
to block children.
Determined to exile himself to the fringes
of one circle after another,
he sank away amid grand signs, refusals.
When his fragments died
and he was interred as ode and pamphlet,
the Courier wrote: The infidel has drowned;
now he knows whether there is a God or no.
He jiggled the whore of eloquence on his knee.
His infidelism: an antidote
to the coming of winter
on the west wind.
Ballade van de gasfitter
Gij hebt de huizen achterom bereikt.
Aan de voorgevels, tussen de gordijnen,
blijft ge doorlopend uit het niet verschijnen
wanneer ik langs kom en naar binnen kijk.
Al moet ge in 't voorbijgaan weer verdwijnen,
het volgend raam geeft me opnieuw gelijk.
Daar wonen ene Jansen en de zijnen,
alsof ge mij in deze naam ontwijkt.
Maar dat zegt niets. De deuren zijn geduldig;
hebben een bel, een brievenbus, een stoep.
De appelkoopman lokt u met zijn roep.
En valse sleutels zijn er menigvuldig.
Ook kan ik binnen komen, doodonschuldig
en tot uw dienst, gasfitter van beroep.
Dan--op klaarlichte dag bij u aan 't werk,
vermomd als man van de gemeente--gaan
mijn ogen in het rond en zien u staan.
Maar langzaam wordt de zoldering een zerk.
De muren zijn van aarde. Wij beslaan.
De kamer is verzadigd, naar ik merk.
Het kan ook niet. Ik draai de schroeven aan.
Zolang ik mij tot deze taak beperk
blijven we voor elkaar incognito,
terwijl ik bezig ben, gebukt, geknield,
of op mijn buik naga wat er aan scheelt.
En al maar denken: het is beter zo.
Doodzwijgen, door een hamerslag vernield.
Doodstilte, die de hamerslagen heelt.
Ballad of the Gasfitter
You must have made your entry from the rear.
To each house in the row I turn my glance
and in each curtained window catch a glimpse
of You, as out of nothing You appear.
As I move past You seem to slip away.
Yet I am not mistaken, vide the next frame.
One Jansen lives there with his family--
as if You could escape under that name.
The ruse won't work. A door remains a door,
each with its steps, its mailbox, and its bell.
The apple hawker lures you with his call.
A master key is easy to procure.
Indeed I can quite freely step inside
as (at your service) gasfitter by trade.
At your address, by daylight, on the job
disguised in workman's clothing, I wheel round
and behold You standing there. Walls turn to ground,
ceiling slowly becomes a marble slab.
We fade to each other in murky light.
The room is saturated, won't hold more.
This can't go on. I turn the screws down tight.
As long as I devote myself to this chore
we can proceed as we are, incognito--
as long as I stay busy, bend or kneel
or lie flat on my belly trying to feel
what's wrong; thinking to myself, It's better so.
Dead silence by a hammer blow dispelled.
Death hush by which the hammer blows are healed.
Vladimir Nabokov. 'The Art of Translation'. The New Republic Online. Post Date August 8, 1941. Beskikbaar by: http://www.tnr.com/booksarts/story.html?id=13611c89-a67b-4dcf-af0c-78ca60ad1ff9
J.M. Coetzee. Landscape with rowers: poetry from the Netherlands, edited, translated & introduced by J.M. Coetzee. Princeton University Press, 2003
‘Ten ways of Looking at PB Shelley by Hugo Claus ‘. The Guardian, Saturday 24 February 2007. Beskikbaar by: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/feb/24/featuresreviews.guardianreview33
(C) Johann de Lange, 2010