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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Translations Translated by Sharon Sloan
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Translations Translated by Sharon Sloan There are three kinds of translation. The first acquaints us with the foreign country on our own terms; a plain prose translation is best for this purpose. Prose in and of itself serves as the best introduc­tion: it completely neutralizes the formal characteristics of any sort of poetic art and reduces even the most exuberant waves of poetic enthusiasm to still water. The plain prose translation surprises us with foreign splendors in the midst of our national domestic sen­sibility; in our everyday lives, and without our realizing what is happening to us—by lending our lives a nobler air—it genuinely uplifts us. Luther's Bible translation will produce this kind of effect with each reading. Much would have been gained, for instance, if the Nibelungen had been set in good, solid prose at the outset, and labeled as pop­ular literature. Then the brutal, dark, solemn, and strange sense of chivalry would still have spoken to us in its full power. Whether this would still be feasible or even advisable now is best decided by those who have more rigorously dedicated themselves to these mat­ters of antiquity. A second epoch follows, in which the translator endeavors to transport himself into the foreign situation but actually only appro­priates the foreign idea and represents it as his own. I would like to call such an epoch parodistic, in the purest sense of that word. It is most often men of wit who feel drawn to the parodistic. The French make use of this style in the translation of all poetic works: Delille's translations provide hundreds of examples.1 In the same way that the French adapt foreign words to their pronunciation, they adapt feelings, thoughts, even objects; for every foreign fruit there must be a substitute grown in their own soil. Wieland's translations are of this kind;2 he, too, had his own peculiar understanding and taste, which he adapted to antiquity and foreign countries only to the extent that he found it conve­nient. This superb man can be seen as the representative of his time; he exercised an inordinate amount of influence in that, no matter what appealed to him, no matter how he absorbed and passed it on to his contemporaries, it was received by them as something pleasant and enjoyable. Because we cannot linger for very long in either a perfect or an imperfect state but must, after all, undergo one transformation after another, we experienced the third epoch of translation, which is the final and highest of the three. In such periods, the goal of the translation is to achieve perfect identity with the original, so that the one does not exist instead of the other but in the other's place. This kind met with the most resistance in its early stages, be­cause the translator identifies so strongly with the original that he more or less gives up the uniqueness of his own nation, creating this third kind of text for which the taste of the masses has to be developed. At first the public was not at all satisfied with Voss3 (who will never be fully appreciated) until gradually the public's ear accus­tomed itself to this new kind of translation and became comfort­able with it. Now anyone who assesses the extent of what has hap­pened, what versatility has come to the Germans, what rhythmical and metrical advantages are available to the spirited, talented begin­ner, how Ariosto and Tasso, Shakespeare and Calderon have been brought to us two and three times over as Germanized foreigners, may hope that literary history will openly acknowledge who was the first to choose this path in spite of so many and varied obstacles. For the most part, the works of von Hammer indicate a similar treatment of oriental masterpieces;4 he suggests that the translation approximate as closely as possible the external form of the original work. How much more convincing the passages of a translation of Firdusi prove to be when produced by our friend himself compared to those reworked by an adaptor whose examples can be read in the Fundgruben.s Disfiguring a poet in this way is, in our opinion, the saddest mistake a diligent and quite capable translator can make. Since, however, in every literature all of these three epochs are found to repeat and reverse themselves, as well as coexist simulta­neously, a prose translation of the Shahnama and the works of Nizami would still be in order. It could be used for a quick reading, which would open up the essential meaning of the work: we could enjoy the historical, the legendary, the larger ethical issues, and we would gradually become familiar with the attitudes and ways of thinking, until we could at last feel a kinship with them. Think only of the undisputed applause we Germans have at­tributed to such a translation of the Sakuntala,7 whose success we can most definitely ascribe to its plain prose, into which the poem has been dissolved. Now would be the proper time for a new trans­lation of the third type that would not only correspond to the var­ious dialects, rhythms, meters, and prosaic idioms in the original but would also, in a pleasant and familiar manner, renew the poem in all of its distinctiveness for us. Since a manuscript of this eternal work is available in Paris, a German living there could earn undying gratitude for undertaking such a work. Similarly, the English translator of Messenger of the Clouds de-serves every honor, simply because our first acquaintance with this kind of a work is always such a momentous occasion in our lives. But his translation really belongs to the second epoch; using para-phrase and supplementary words, the translation flatters the North-ern ear and senses with its iambic pentameter. I owe a debt of thanks to our own Kosegarten9 for translating a few lines directly from the original source language, which indeed give a totally dif-ferent impression. The Englishman took certain liberties as well, transposing motifs, which the trained aesthetic eye immediately discovers and condemns. 5.Fundgruben Aes Orients, a review of Oriental studies edited by von Hammer. 6.The Book of Kings, the Persian poet Firdusi's long poem. 7.The Sakuntala was written by the Indian dramatist Kalidasa. 8.Kalidasa's Meghaduta, translated by Horace H. Wilson. 9.Ludwig Gotthard Kosegarten, a scholar-author of Goethe's time. The reason why we also call the third epoch the final one can be explained in a few words. A translation that attempts to identify itself with the original ultimately comes close to an interlinear ver-sion and greatly facilitates our understanding of the original. We are led, yes, compelled as it were, back to the source text: the circle, within which the approximation of the foreign and the familiar, the known and the unknown constantly move, is finally complete.
Категория: Классики о переводе | Добавил: Voats (20.09.2011)
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