FIRST EVER NUMÉRO CINQ TRANSLATION CONTEST
Submissions June 12-30, 2010.
Enter by translating the sample passage below and submitting it as a comment on this post.
The competition is open to anyone. Just sign onto WordPress.com for free and contribute your translation.
Rule #1: Do not submit an entry if you actually speak the language in the sample below. It doesn’t help if you can read the sample and render an accurate translation because the judge can’t read the sample himself. (It goes without saying that you shouldn’t bother using a translation dictionary either.)
That’s the only rule.
Rule #2: Translations must be submitted in English. (Gary Garvin already submitted an entry in Chinese characters via email. This will not fly with the judge.)
Rule #3: Given the confusions we had during the last contest, the judge wishes to specify that there will be an open, ageless category (the Numéro Cinq Shark Class) and an under-16 category (the Numéro Cinq Barracuda Class).
Rule #4: Birth certificate and two pieces of photo ID required to qualify for the Barracuda Class competition (last time certain adult members of the Numéro Cinq community—a disreputable, rebellious, disaffected, and outlaw crowd of ne’er-do-wells and agitators—attempted to have their entries switched to the under-16 category).
Let go of your bourgeois yearning after sense and meaning. Forget certainty. (The judge is returning to his Sufi roots.) Think only of the sound of the words, their rhythms, and what you can invent from them.
As usual with Numéro Cinq contests, wit and arrogance will be appreciated. In fact, wit and arrogance are the only qualities the judge cares about.
Contest open to everyone including employees of Numéro Cinq, their significant others, children, and small pets (mammals only, up to 50 lbs).
First Prize — Instant Worldwide (e)Publication w/ commentary.
Plus honours & laurels.
A single malt Scotch at 9 Maple Avenue with dg or a hot chocolate at Virgil’s with Jonah if you’re in the under-16 Barracuda Class. (You have to get to Saratoga Springs on your own and dg will not put you up.)
Each entry must purport to be a translation of the following passage. Feel free to submit more than one translation.
Ja, er dreigde iets. En hij bleef daar zitten, ziek van angst, làf, zonder geestkracht, zonder moed…. Er dreigde iets en hij voelde het naderen, hem overvallen, met hem strijden op leven en dood, in eene overspanning van wanhoop: hij voelde zich wankelen, nederzinken, hij voelde zich gerukt worden uit de fluweelen zachtheid van zijn leven, neergesmakt worden op straat, zonder dak, zonder iets … Wat behoorde hem toe! Het linnen aan zijn lichaam, de schoenen aan zijne voeten, de ring aan zijn vinger, het was van Frank. Het souper daarginds, zijn bed boven, het was van Frank. Zoo was het geweest een vol jaar lang en als hij ooit weg zoû moeten gaan met alleen het zijne, dan zou hij moeten gaan … naakt, in den winter. En hij kón niet meer zijn, als hij geweest was in Amerika, dienstbaar scharrelend van den eenen dag op den anderen. Zijn lijf en zijne ziel waren beide als geweekt in een bad van lauwe weelde; hij was geworden als eene kasplant, die, gewend aan de vochte warmte der serres, vreest in de open lucht te worden gezet. Want het dreigde, gruwzaam, onbarmhartig: geen seconde was die bedreiging van hem af, en, in de lafheid zijner verweeking, wrong hij er zachtjes zijne witte handen om, en drupten er twee tranen langs zijn strak masker van wanhoop.
This is intriguing. So the idea is to ‘make up’ a translation? I’m not supposed to know what language this is or be using babblefish? This could be a lot of fun (and a fair amount of work) but the single malt Scotch sounds so nice. Maybe Steven Millhauser will host the winner? 🙂 Is the Scotch prize transferable to Montpelier in January? (Or do you have a tab in Slovenia that might still be open?)
Oh, hell, that tab!
I don’t think it should be that much work–you’re not meant to “translate” every single word along the way. But also don’t just go off on a flight of inspiration after the first sentence or so. The humour is in always coming back to the text and finding another surprising word/translation.
I suppose the Scotch could be transferable. I shall discuss it with the board.
Helpful hint: The trick, I think, is to spread the lines on your computer (hit enter a couple of times at the end of each line) and write the translation under each line as you work your way through the text.
Oh, joy! Can’t wait to try this, having left my bourgeois yearning after sense and meaning far behind. I will put my ear to it. More soon.
This reminds my of the time my high school English teacher had us diagram the sentences of Jabberwocky. He was a bit of lech, incidentally. The teacher, that is, although I suppose Lewis Carroll was as well.
What about translations composed by our large pets? I ask only because I happen to have an enormous sheep, probably 300 pounds, who is very fond of inventing translations.
And also fond of Scotch, I imagine.
Small pets only. Sorry. Up to 50 pounds tops. If we started letting larger pets enter, there would be no end. Horses, cows, dromedaries, llamas. We have to draw the line. This is for the open competition, of course. If you insist, we could start a special large pet category. On the other hand, the judge’s experience with sheep lead him to seriously doubt your claims as to its intelligence. In the judge’s experience (he lived in Scotland for three years remember), sheep are almost too stupid to live. Running in the Pentland Hills, the judge observed sheep lying on their backs looking up at the sky unable to figure out how to get on their feet again.
Isn’t that a very large sheep? 300 pounds? Have you considered a diet?
You know that famous old shepherd love song? “And I know there’ll never be another ewe.”
Are you sorry you brought up the subject of sheep? 🙂
Thanks for the clarification. I said that my sheep was fond of translations, not that his work was any good. His translations are, in fact, pretty BAAAAAD. (you’re sorry I brought up sheep too, aren’t you.)
It’s true, sheep are about the dumbest animals I can think of. The fatter, the dumber. I don’t blame you for inventing the 50 pound limit even if it was purely to disqualify sheep.
But we keep him around because Peanutbutter makes a heckuva grass-powered lawn-mower.
Whew, I thought you might fight me on this one.
This comment necessitated a small rule change.
See the rule.
This is Gary Garvin’s first entry, sent via email.
This entry necessitated a rule change.
See the rule(s).
“This is the only rule.”
Are there one or two rules? Can we get a clarification? This contest is confusing enough as it is.
I think it’s very biblical to issue absolute but confusing rules.
Just to set the bar high, here is dg’s first translation.
Ja, she dragged her jets. In his belief, the kitten, it’s name was Zeke Van Angst, laughed. Yonder geese cracked, yonder mooed the cows….She dragged the jets into his veranda next to the nattering overflow crowds from the cinema next door, met him striding up the levee in a hoody, and in him felt an over-spinning of wan hope. His veranda was all wonky, one end was sinking; his veranda was crooked, wormy and fluid from the engine feed ran along the levee, near where he’d smacked her up the wormy street–Yonder the yak, yonder my jets…Who would have thought he had hammer toe! His linen was so old it was growing lichens, the best of it had a zillion holes, and he wore a ring on his finger that he got from Frank. His superior daydreams, even with his head in the oven, were because of Frank too. Of course, he hadn’t been to the zoo in a whole year, nor had he eaten mutton with Eileen that whole time, not since winter. And he couldn’t merely go back there since everyone had gone to America to escape the charred land, not for one day or even another would they stay. Since life and time had weakened their zeal for war and, in such a bad time, their willingness to wield the Law, he was loathe even to return to the gasplant where, yes, it had all begun in warm embraces. Wanting, desiring him, she dragged the jets, gruesome, the heart of the bomb: Long seconds Ja spent dragging the jets away from him, laughing her head off at the thought of him forever seeking her, wrong he had always been with his exacting wit and open hands, and interrupting herself, training the jets along the long street, she masked forever the wan hope.
Actually, this sounds a lot like my next novel.
Yeah, it’s always the same. A couple weeks go by free of angst, I’m laughing in hot slanting rays of sunlight, floating through my days in a warm sort of mood… and then it hits again, the longing, that syrupy, aching desire to have him in my arms: I sit down to work and my mind starts flashing to various moments in conversation, in lovemaking, I see his face, hear his voice, feel the electricity of his touch, the moments of delicious nervousness, and utter comfort, and all the things I want to do with him, and share… And my work gets nowhere! It is what it is, and who knows where it’s going, but when the love poems come through over the wire, especially those in Spanish, I just melt. I’m reminded of winter nights, warmish for January, with the window thrown way open and the drops coming down so fat and making that soothing sound on pavement, and the air is so black and freshly-washed, and we’re in my bed again, sniffing each other like puppies and sighing like cats. Just like we were two months before, and two months before that. Goodness it’s hard to forget him when it’s raining in New York City. I left America and went to Paris for awhile, and met a man I liked. After three weeks he was ready to pack his bags and come live by my side… and while he was loving me I was thinking this is good, I’ve got someone new, I’m moving on, letting this old love go. Every moment not thinking about him is a blessing. But back in home I’m the same little ol’ me, wanting and thinking and feeling and all this stuff in my heart can’t seem to be washed away by the rain in springtime. It wasn’t fair to the Parisian so I let him down easy. It’s not a good idea for you to come live here baby, I told him, for I will most certainly fail you. He took it well.
So sheep can make an appearance in the translation (as mutton) but cannot write it. Got it.
Gwen, It’s getting close to the residency so I understand that you’re tense and feeling the need to get sheepish with me. Are you going to enter, or are you just going to coast on your previous successes? 🙂
Sure, it’s drudgery. Like a cow’s life, full of angst, a few laughs, but remarkably cheese-track, remarkably moo-ish, the drudgery is like velvet-hide spattered with mud, and over-plodded not at all strideful, doubtful buoyancy, rather, simply, one overarching soul-bellow: velvet of the warm-belly, the swollen-body, velvet of the six-titted udder, not freewheeling at puddle-tide and not even floating but oh, to udder-make-like, out in the street, remarkable thats, remarkable thises… What a herd-riot that would be! Instead, the lining–up, even the milking-down, the scrubbing and the wet soaking, the vinegar-brightened cowbell with the name “Frank.” Not a super moniker and hardly bovine, the name Frank. Sue would have been a better guess in the long and old order of cow-wording, or going with Eileen sometimes, the Sue-named one, going …well, nevermind, not this winter. Nothing works right now, all the cheese being shipped to America, that far-off scary-land where the tiniest days up-go wandering. All life and all zeal begging and squeaking in that bad lowland; it is the un-udder of the planet, dead, wandered out and lacking hill-warmth, freezing in the wide open light, that un-udder-geist. What is cow drudgery but group-swarm, barn-huddle; not for a second is it bet-raging, getting it off, on, in the lost-head, forever week-working, wrong-shmatteh and shmoes, with their hands-on-ing, able only to be twee, standing there, hiding their cow-bellowing behind masks.
That’s very very good, deeply good. Just the thing. Group-swarm, barn huddle!
Oh-oh. Apologies. I jumped the gun. Or the moon. Or something. It’s not June 15th yet. Am I disqualified?
No, I’ll change the rule. Again!
Yup, it’s a drag. There’s the bleefing zits, the angst, the yonder geese racket, the yonder moodiness… the drag is that holding on to nothing, the falling over and then striding up to bring up the dudes, in an overspanning of whoop-whoop: what a bunch of wankers, of low thinkers, I’d so much like to say some geruky words out of the flowing yak-hide that got up at ten, never say a word on the street, yonder is Zack, yonder he is. Behold, what a toe!!! He’s limning the lichens, from the beautiful to the revolty, he’s a dead ringer for the Vinger, that Frank. He hard supper with the darlings and went to bed with the cows, he was Frank. The zoo was hot and he wasted a full year there; on his way he met a molten gang and he met all the djinni, and then he joined the molten gang… at nighttime, in winter. It was a con: there were no more djini, all the waste was in America; on Thursday he squirreled one of the dogs off with the others. In life and in his zeal his wares were always weekly in a bad, low wield, he was wordy as a gasplant, wending and warming his greenhouses, ready to say the word to you in the open light. Want this drag, grow some, the green second was bedragging on him, in the laughy inner workings, wrong he was about Zack’s thingy with the handle on. interrupting the three training lengths of the strike master of whoop-whoop.
[Bloody, that taxed my language skills, but I think I’ve got the gist of it now.]
I entered before I saw the others: hey, we both had gasplant, I like that! “She masked forever the wan hope” is a very nice conclusion, chapeau. (But I am also quite attached to whoop-whoop.)
I got a kick out of your gasplant, too. Julie saw it as planet, I think. It just goes to prove the vagaries of translation.
Are we limited to one submission?
Absolutely not. Translate as many times as you want.
Yeh, he liked drugs, good ones. Sitting there, paranoid from the LSD, he should have smoked crack instead. The drugs, made everything seem nearer, a bit overwhelming, yet they lightened his mood, taking him on a journey encountering a talking wombat, thrusting through a swamp, ankle deep in mud, sinking. He fooled those backward pricks that tried to flees him of all his dough, making him pay through the nose for all that smack. What the fuck were they thinking? He wasn’t beholden to them. He could line up a line, anywhere. They should have known better that to fuck with him. We was Frank, after all he had survived the Zoo, alone, spending one night with the lions, hooting owls, and the geese, who were molting, leaving shit everywhere he stepped. What more could happen to him? This was America, home of the free and the brave. If he wanted to sniff cocaine, feeling the burn and the bliss, by damn nothing was going to stop him. So he set out into the streets, looking, and in seconds he was surrounded, they had found him, offering up crack, cocaine, smack, ecstasy and a new one called – wanhoop.
ok you can disqulify my submission since I took the low road, seeing that everything related to Dutch, for me, is related to drugs, well everything other than Gouda cheese. Even the sight of a KLM jet lining up to land, fills my car with the evil weed, makes me 18 again. Plus I know one of the words in the piece, “nederzinken” – I love that word. Who doesn’t want to zinkneder every once and awhile?
Sheila, You can’t disqualify yourself. Only the judge can disqualify you, and it’s a long drawn-out process involving the submission of affidavits, notarized copies, letters of reference, proof that you have never committed a felony, your social security number and checking account information, etc. On the face of it, you don’t have a strong case for disqualification. I don’t think it’s worth your while–the years of litigation, the lawyers’ fees, the judge’s bribes. You’ll just have to enter another translation. 🙂
Oboy, I get a chance to do this kind of silliness again? My very first writing teacher, poet Karen Chase of Lenox, MA, used to assign these “false translations,” as she called them,regularly. This was part of her stated agenda to “knock some sense out of you.” I have no idea of the original language(s) of the exercises she assigned me, except that she studiously avoided Italian, it being almost my first language.
oh good – I won’t disqualify myself – since I really don’t want to provide you with my social security number – God only knows what you would do with it. But since this is Dutch, (I think it’s Dutch. It looks like Dutch to me with all is guttural mischievous sounds that rangle out in fits and starts. It’s like the goop that comes up after you clear your throat when you have a real bad sinus infection) maybe I’ll translate this again – this time using another thing the Dutch are known for as muse. Tomorrow I will sit in my window, curtains open and figure out a tantalizing new view of this work, fully exploiting those combinations of consonants.
This is really frigging hard. I spent an hour today translating words and trying to see if they reappear. I think the winner should receive a bottle of Scotch. Who’s with me?
The judge checked our records and finds that you are delinquent in regard to your entry fees for the last two contests. If you pay up, the board will pony up for a bottle of Scotch.
My agent was supposed to send those, but apparently there was a tuition hike and something about airfare to Trieste. I’m not a money guy. I’ll have to verify that these fees were paid. Or perhaps Gwen could spend some of her royalties from previous wins and contribute. I’m just sayin’.
I sent checks out in the mail, along with a single malt. Didn’t you get them?
If you sent them to NY and to the NC moderator, they have disappeared forever. He doesn’t moderate so much as confiscate.
The judge’s dog ate the checks; his cat drank the single malt. It happens.
For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why they were waiting so eagerly for the mail.
Only because I love your mischief can I pull myself up to say this: I will recreate for you the tolling of the passage if I can master my grief at the loss of the dancer who took me to the sculptor’s studio and about whom the passage is written. But how did anyone know?
This sounds very romantic–almost Victorian. Or is it Edwardian Paris? I want to see if you can make it stick. Course, mine was romantic in a grotty dystopian end-of-the-world sort of way…
Ja, er dreigde iets.
Yes, it was wretched stuff (literally “is brownness thrown”: iets = pp. of “throw”; dreigde = brownness, a Dutch familiar word for excrement).
En hij bleef daar zitten, ziek van angst, làf, zonder geestkracht, zonder moed. . . .
And he cranked it out profusely (“bled dark fits”), wracked with angst — laughably! (imperative use of “laugh”) — without pleasure (“goosebumpedness”), without thought (moed = mind) . . . .
Er dreigde iets en hij voelde het naderen, hem overvallen, met hem strijden op leven en dood, in eene overspanning van wanhoop:
It was wretched stuff, and he wrote (voelde = “made vowels for”) those novels, beyond his reach (“above-valleying him” — valley is a verb) making him sick with madness (leven = left, as in left his mental faculties) and dread, with overwhelming desperation (“in an overreaching of faint hope [wanhoop]”):
hij voelde zich wankelen, nederzinken, hij voelde zich gerukt worden uit de fluweelen zachtheid van zijn leven, neergesmakt worden op straat, zonder dak, zonder iets . . .
he wrote such drivel (“weak crafting”), unfailingly (“never sinking”), he wrote so grossly in freewheeling bouts of madness, his writing devoid of sense, without substance, without grace (“made vowels for crude wording in fanciful bird-thrusts [zachtheid] into madness, words stripped of sense, without heft [dak], without thrownness [iets again, here suggesting lightness — Dutch is a strange language]). . . .
Wat behoorde hem toe!
What on earth possessed him? (“What beast [had] his toe!”)
Het linnen aan zijn lichaam, de schoenen aan zijne voeten, de ring aan zijn vinger, het was van Frank.
That lingering odor of his phrasing, the shower (deluge?) of his voice, the rack of his figures (vinger = finger, suggesting part for a whole) — that was Fred.
Het souper daarginds, zijn bed boven, het was van Frank.
That extraordinary gnashing (souper daarginds = super teeth grinding), his verbal halitosis (bed boven = bad breath) — that was Fred.
Zoo was het geweest een vol jaar lang en als hij ooit weg zoû moeten gaan met alleen het zijne, dan zou hij moeten gaan … naakt, in den winter.
No one was a greater violator (“pilot”? vol is also related to the verb for “flight”; or “thief”?) of our beloved tongue (“dear language”), and when he was down to his last sou, he lived on the street (“making alley”), with his last sou, his spirit gone . . . naked in the winter cold.
En hij kón niet meer zijn, als hij geweest was in Amerika, dienstbaar scharrelend van den eenen dag op den anderen.
And he was at the end of the his rope (“knew no way for him”), when he departed (was geweest = was gone-west-ed, or perhaps “deported” vt) to America, to the distant shores where dogs run free (dag op den anderen = dogs off the leash).
Zijn lijf en zijne ziel waren beide als geweekt in een bad van lauwe weelde;
There his life and his work were published in the tabloids (bad van lauwe weelde = bad weekly orifices).
hij was geworden als eene kasplant, die, gewend aan de vochte warmte der serres, vreest in de open lucht te worden gezet.
he was praised (ge worden = gone worded) to the high heavens (gasplant) — yes! — warmly received (warmte der serres = warmth of grasp), now thrust into the open light of words gone wild.
Want het dreigde, gruwzaam, onbarmhartig: geen seconde was die bedreiging van hem af, en, in de lafheid zijner verweeking, wrong hij er zachtjes zijne witte handen om, en drupten er twee tranen langs zijn strak masker van wanhoop.
What stuff, what reeking, steamy stuff (“brownness smoking, oozing”): one day he was in the gutter of art, and, in the space of a few weeks, he was applauded everywhere, and translated into three languages, proclaimed now the master of desperation (masker van wanhoop).
My apologies to Holland and all people of Dutch affiliation.
Brilliant, oh yes! Thanks so much for the commentary.
Naked in the winter!
My goal was to be faithful to the given text. The author is obviously a literary critic/hack, popular in his time — ja! — but completely unknown today. Thus we don’t know anything about the quality of Fred’s novels. The language reflects on the critic, not the writer.
Gary – I cannot tell you how often I have wondered what beast had my toe. It is, indeed, enough to occasion wanhoop.
BTW: My favorite moment is the transformation of Frank to Fred. A brave choice.
Well, he sure had your toe when you translated. Yours is a lot more fun. But I wish dg had given us something juicier to translate. Translating hack critics is dreigde iets.
Here is my translation again (sans comment), but I ran it through Google Translate, through six or seven languages (I forget which).
Yes, this is disastrous. He has developed many suffering from fear – interesting! – If you are not satisfied we do not. . . . This is unfortunate, write his / her novel, consumers, madness and fear that he is sick of despair: he, of course, nonsense like this, write: Rafuaidoru right not crazy sense creative content, said Mercy. . . . What on earth do I do? Lingering smell his words, the voice of the soul, to expand its shape – it’s Fred. This extraordinary, bad breath, oral grinding – it’s Fred. And not our language sháraíos best past two years he lived in the street, and he left last year, had their spirit. . . Naked in the winter. End of the rope he went to the far shore in the United States, to free his dog. Life, for his work on the Tabloid, published to high praise – yes! – By now, thank you, focusing on the word light in the wild. What we like, some steamed smell it: One day a few weeks grooves art space, translated into three languages were celebrated throughout the world, now the captain in despair.
On “Google Translate,” there’s a button “Contribute a better translation.” I think we should load Google up.
Incidentally, I did translate a few simple words, just to get my bearings. It didn’t help. But I didn’t translate the whole passage until now. Don’t do this! It will only confuse you more and make the contest utterly pointless. Also, I didn’t read the other entries, for the same reason. Vanhoop was a lucky guess.
Yes, my legs drip blood. In heat I run through the desert, holding my swollen belly, burning with thirst, seeking water, seeking rest… In my legs the pain of dehydration shows, skin flaking, skin puckering when pinched, and then I see water in a tank: it is a mirage, oasis, a sturdy greening tower overflowing with milk and honey, clear flowing refreshment, hydrating nutrition in the sun, there it stands, there I bleed… Perhaps I will cross the border alive! The border guards descend, guards of green and brown uniforms, guards of national security, nothing like my German lover. They are kind, guards like angels, nothing like my German lover. The patrols of the border security warned us all to stay home in our adobe huts eating dust, avoid the sun with its heat… cross, but only in winter.
In heat sans guards I suffer, so close to America, my baby swollen and still kicking against my ribs and heart. Guards breathe on their brothers even as I finally find moisture; running down my thighs in streams, salty, dripping wet against dry heat, signaling a taste of pain and torture that is birth. I feel my legs buckle, weak, failing: the mission was doomed from the start, but, even as the sun consumes both of us, I know the mission that was doomed was my own birth, calm in our adobe hut while my mother screamed and my father paced the floor.
Thank you, Gwen. I was with you from “Yes, my legs drip blood!”
Stand by. The translation contest was just mentioned by VCFA on facebook. Soon we might be inundated with translations or requests for Scotch. Did I mention that my favorite is Talisker?
We haven’t seen a translation from Rich yet. I think the contest should be left open until he writes one.
I’m working on it. I figured I’d come in later this time. Plus, Paris and I haven’t agreed on a theme…she wants to use a formal technique while I favor something less structured. Undoubtedly, she’ll prevail.
Wanhoop, Defined Alternatively; My Close Reading of Rorschach Inkblot #11 (or, Frank Has A New Favorite)
Yes, rain pours down—another gray and angst-ridden day; so once again, we’re skipping tanning at the beach. Our bag with lotion and towels slumps by the door. We thumb through the guide book and try to decide. Where’s a place to go when it’s wet and slippery?
Manarola, we choose. And when we arrive—along a winding road across the tops of mountains and then down to the cleft where rocks meet the surging Mediterranean—we’re glad we did. For the view of wild gray waves and old pink buildings perched on gull-stained rock. For the sheen of green sea on our upturned faces. For the wind that whips our hair into tangled frizz.
At the restaurant Frank orders spaghetti con vongole—spaghetti with clams—he’s had it in several different restaurants in several different towns. I’d like some too, but even though we’re here, splurging on this European trip, I’m dieting. I order a plate of the local protein: anchovies.
Frank squeezes my hand while we wait.
“You can have a bite of mine,” he says, in commiseration.
“The bread of the sea” the waiter tells me when he sets pale white strips glistening in oil in front of me.
”Bread of the sea?”
”Look,” the waiter merely waves at the steep cliffs rising behind us and below.
I think I understand. In this hardy stretch of coastline (far from America) where there has never been much land available for growing wheat, anchovies are plentiful.
I spear a fillet with my fork, let the glistening yellow drops of marinade fall on my tongue. I moan and then Frank wants a bite. We polish off my anchovies and wipe the oil up with crusts of bread (imported from other regions).
When Frank returns to his cooled bowl of pasta, he twirls the strands rather mournfully with the tines of his fork. “I think I have a new favorite,” he says.
🙂 A Mediterranean twist on the sublime words of x in the language of y. Thanks.
Put those boys of yours to work, dg. We need more translations!
and girls… 🙂
Here’s an entry from a very shy anonymous person who emailed it to me.
Oi, the dredged nets. In the bleeding dark night, the bleakness of angst, the laughable and yet yonder untouchable geschtalt, yonder mood of ease. Here the dredged nets and the night-holding heat are born, here the ovaries swell, having met the stream of life and dread, in the ever-spanning war whoop. Here the fields awaken, the unborn children frolic, here the fields are rich with wooden flowers, holding the sin and sang, the yin and yang, the wooden markets up this street, down that…. What harm beholds the toe! The linen and the lichen, the school totems, both wrung with vinegar, all in the name of Frano. Here was the super tamarind, the unmade bed, the name of Frano. He was too large for even himself to fathom or believe in, here a man who towered over mountains, yes, even in winter. Here was a man that was tall enough to see all the way to America, that barren wasteland of flat days and wandering weeks. Indeed, life was barren of joy and zeal besides the gefilte fish and the baths of laurel weeds; His was a garden of eggplant, and yes, the voice of Gwenda the warm and severe, asleep in the open light of the wooden gazelle. Do you want to hear more, my guzzywam, my heart and barn warmer: three seconds and the man died, suffocated in the wrung bedsheets, snuffed, and in the last remaining weeks those left behind, the zealots chose wrong, writing on the wrong hand, and thus disrupted the wee track lines of hope, striking the mask of the venerable Master of war whoops.
I should call this “Frano & the guzzywam” but also notice Gwenda and “the zealots chose wrong, writing on the wrong hand”–this is good stuff.
Here’s the line by line translation:
Ja, er dreigde iets. En hij bleef daar zitten, ziek van angst, làf, zonder
Oi, the dredged nets. In the bleeding dark night, the bleakness of angst, the laughable and yet yonder
geestkracht, zonder moed…. Er dreigde iets en hij voelde het
untouchable geschtalt, yonder mood of ease. Here the dredged nets and the night-holding heat
naderen, hem overvallen, met hem strijden op leven en dood, in
are born, here the ovaries swell, having met the stream of life and dread, in
eene overspanning van wanhoop: hij voelde zich wankelen,
the ever-spanning war whoop. Here the fields awaken,
nederzinken, hij voelde zich gerukt worden uit de fluweelen
the unborn children frolic, here the fields are rich with wooden flowers,
zachtheid van zijn leven, neergesmakt worden op straat, zonder dak,
holding the sin and sang, the yin and yang, the wooden markets up this street,
zonder iets … Wat behoorde hem toe! Het linnen aan zijn lichaam,
down that…. What harm beholds the toe! The linen and the lichen,
de schoenen aan zijne voeten, de ring aan zijn vinger, het was van
the school totems, both wrung with vinegar, all in the name of
Frank. Het souper daarginds, zijn bed boven, het was van Frank. Zoo
Frano. Here was the super tamarind, the unmade bed, the name of Frano. He was too
was het geweest een vol jaar lang en als hij ooit weg zoû moeten
large for even himself to fathom or believe in,
gaan met alleen het zijne, dan zou hij moeten gaan … naakt, in den
here a man who towered over mountains, yes, even in
winter. En hij kón niet meer zijn, als hij geweest was in Amerika,
winter. Here was a man that was tall enough to see all the way to America,
dienstbaar scharrelend van den eenen dag op den anderen. Zijn lijf
that barren wasteland of flat days and wandering weeks. Indeed, life
en zijne ziel waren beide als geweekt in een bad van lauwe weelde;
was barren of joy and zeal besides the gefilte fish and the baths of laurel weeds;
hij was geworden als eene kasplant, die, gewend aan de vochte
His was a garden of eggplant, and yes, the voice of Gwenda
warmte der serres, vreest in de open lucht te worden gezet. Want het
the warm and severe, asleep in the open light of the wooden gazelle. Do you want
dreigde, gruwzaam, onbarmhartig: geen seconde was die bedreiging
to hear more, my guzzywam, my heart and barn warmer: three seconds and the man died, suffocated in the wrung bedsheets,
van hem af, en, in de lafheid zijner verweeking, wrong hij er zachtjes
snuffed, and in the last remaining weeks of those left behind, the zealots chose wrong,
zijne witte handen om, en drupten er twee tranen langs zijn strak
writing on the wrong hand, and thus disrupted the wee track lines of hope, striking
masker van wanhoop.
the mask of the venerable Master of war whoops.
The shy anonymous person said two very interesting things about the translation: 1) the process of translation prevented her from PLANNING AHEAD–and some of you who are or have been my students know that one of the main difficulties student writers have is that they plan ahead too much, write their stories before they write them, instead of being able to play and invent and alter course along the way (this means that you learn to “trust” that the words you write will link to the next thing and the next); 2) there were certain words in the original sample that kept repeating which gave the translation a rhythm or cadence and helped tie the piece together–another basic principle of composition. E.g. War whoops comes in near the beginning and then at the end.
To the shy, anonymous person: Wow.
First she shrinks away, swimming to the edge of the bowl, she looks back anxiously, yet smiles so sweetly so nicely. She shrinks away darting her tail from side to side, upending the plastic plant which disrupts a fug over filth into the water obscuring the fish from view; her tail flashes through the opaque gunk speckled and carries her deeper and farther way. Low and behold! Frank is licking the bowl with his tongue, which always makes his breath and discolours his mouth scales a sickly burnt orange; anyhow it’s Frank. He laps up the algae, flapping his dorsal fin; good ol’ Frank. Zoo cuddles herself into a corner of the bowl, languishing in a bubble of self-pity; cursing fate for bowling her with such an idiot, such a nit-wit… “Alas such is life,” she blurps to herself. (The thought is understood in the original language without the quotation punctuation used in English.) All the nice fish are in America, not bowled with her, sclaffing from round to round (A peculiarity of the Old Norse language lines insists that bowls have corners and edges but not side. Instead of using the word “sides” the Vikings of what is now south-western Finland, used “round” to describe the edge of a bowl.) Zoo lifts her eyes to the sky where she sees the bowl’s rim and freedom; she wonders while he farts the two fish moving ever so slowly closer together. When she shrinks away he gruwzaams her (untranslatable verb having to do with courtship for domesticated goldfish: circa – 27 BCE) pushing her against the round but in a second he’s forgotten the task and is devouring a new patch of algae, chuckling to himself for having found such a nice tasting bunch. Zoo swims back to her corner and bubbles inside of her wonder, then the net scoops her up to drop her in the bowl with the masked wanhoop…
Something deeply deeply weird about a young man imagining his hero courting a gold fish, licking her bowl, and then seeing her scooped up and fed to a wanhoop. There is a side to you your father has not been aware of prior to this.
I like to think of Zoo as analogous to Nora in A Doll’s House by Ibsen. Frank, to me, seems to represent a more Archie Bunker- like character.
What I’m trying to say is that my translation was an attempt to bring out the original author’s message about women’s rights in the late 19th century and the way they parallel women’s struggles in the 1970’s. But Dad I wouldn’t read any further into it than that.
Worth the wait!
I am still picturing her bubbling inside her wonder.
Yeah, she dreaded ice. In her blamed cold drink, anxiety gained a foothold, while laughter went yonder goose-struck (this phrase is awkward to translate, but is a colloquial expression that means something like “happiness was scattered far and wide in the manner of startled geese). She dreaded ice in her inmost being (literally “green hills within”), and him overall (in this language, all object pronouns are referred to as “him,” and in this case refers to the ice), [dreaded] him most strikingly in life or death [as if it were a life-or-death matter], in a sense this was an overarching phobia: her inmost being loathed crushed ice, drinks over rocks, her inmost being loathed even the word ice appearing on restaurant menus and her life, otherwise a deeply happy and full-filling one, was made hard by the presence of ice . . .
What was a woman to do! The iced lemonade she saw in the café of her choice, its very presence in the same room, made her food taste of vinegar, until she saw Frank. He was eating hot ground-nut soup, and she suddenly felt warm all over (“bed boven” being a local expression that describes the cozy sensation one experiences while lying comfortably in bed in that half-awake, half-asleep state on a winter’s morning): Frank was here. Animal-like was the feeling she had at the thought of the hot soup as it flowed down his strong throat in a nourishing fluid stream going down to his stomach and warming his gut as almost nothing in the world could . . . like nothing else in winter. In her mind was nothing else, but her desire was in America (another untranslate-able expression that connotes the sort of desire that is unattainable, or likely to disappoint deeply when attained), far from her homeland here in the country of tall men. Her life as she knew it—her life as her own—was likely to go bad with this strange feeling; she was sure to become a byword, die, and who would understand it was due to want of warmth, to be embraced openly in this public setting. Again she thought of her ice-hatred, whether iced coffee, iced tea: second-rate lemonade was especially horrid with ice, and, in the busy cacophony of the eatery in lunchtime, her thoughts followed a wrong turn, and she lost focus on all the world except that of her phobia.
Yes, her degraded idiots with their belly fat and acne-pitted faces, laugh through their misery like farting crippled geese, trampled by toddlers … it degrades these nihilists of the Veldt, rope-throated troglodytes who leaven their bread with shit, to even imagine such pompous true-believers. But an obese, genderless cheese-eater cannot be trusted to amputate a toe, much less a full limb, and this is precisely what they seek to do, metaphorically! Beware the metaphors of men who bathe in stew and then eat their own filth! These animals belong in the zoo, not the ruling circles, where the organs of the poor are soaked in diseased saliva and breaded with the dandruff of the powdered wig potentates. This is winter. Bread is scarce, and we cannot makes runes with crusts and call ourselves poets while the elk is starving. We may dismiss the trans-gendered farmer but we cannot turn his plow into sculpture. These are citizens like ourselves. If you can write the word bread while meditating in the Indian manner, and drop the smallest crumbs into the mouths of spiders, then the loaves can be shared by all. This I believe.
I’m racing a deadline (from the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier), and I’m not even sure if I’m posting this damned thing in the right place. It’s 11:25pm. (op straat = upstreet; sorry; couldn’t help it). V.
Yeah, I drugged her. In the [bleep] I was sitting, sick with anxiety, laughing, under goosetracks, under a mood…. I drugged her in her violent and naked hemmed overalls, in her strident and leavened mood, in one overspanning war-whoop: her violent, sick, wanking nervousness: her violent, sick, gross words with the flulike sickness and the evil, niggardly words upstreet, yonder dick, yonder jets… What behooved me to! That linen and silk charm, the shoes and silken veils, the ring on her finger, that was for Frank. That super dagger, silk bed clothes, that was for Frank. He was the guiltiest, one full year long, in all his youth, when we were meeting again with all the zines, then we were meeting again … not in the winter. In the cool night all his guilt was in America, disturbed, sorrowing and the only one up to the anger. There lived a zany jail warden bad as guilt and as bad as the law wields; he was wordy as an eggplant, deadly, with a voice warm but serrated, freest in the open light the words getteth. Wasn’t he drugged, grossly, openhearted: given a second, he was bedraggled and then if and when in the lofty winter weekend, he wrung his jacket sleeve with his hands on it, and dropped her there, straining his lungs through the streaked mask with a war-whoop.
BTW, I did mine w/o reading any of the previous translations. For some reason, my RSS feed didn’t work this time. I have now seen that my war-whoops and eggplant were anticipated by another. Which just goes to show you…
No, he dredged the heights. He was smitten by his belief, sick with angst, laughing, in wonder of geezer crafts, in wonder of doom… He dredged the heights for fondled hope remanned, humming over valleys, I met him striding up and leaving endowed, he’d been spilling over without Wanhoop: he fondled his sick wanker, neverthinking, he fondled sick corrupt words and threw them freewheeling and exact his sin leaving, a green musket of words shot up street, the wonder of darkness, the wonder of height…What behooved him to! He kneeling and sin licking, my shining sins devoted, my ring turned to vinegar by sin, but he was my Frank. Hope recoups his daring and he beds me with sinful benevolence, he is my Frank. So was hope wasted for one full year long he all outweighed by molten ganja but met Aileen hope singed, dancing he molting again…naked in the winter. His beacon nightmare sings all is sweeter in America at the Dien St. Bar with Sharilyn and her weeny dog Hophead Wandering. Sin for Life and Sins for Zeal warnings bidden to tweak inane bad but lawful wheedlers; his were the words it’s an easy taskplan, die, enwind serry give the fucker warmth, veritas in the open set the words aloft. In want of hope his greedy id, gruesome, brokenhearted: gone in a second was he bedridden from then on, nae, in the height of laughter sings weakening, wrong his exacta his hand outwitted by sins, he now drooping so sweet entrained to languish his sin struck by the mask of Wanhoop.
All of you latecomers, thanks for entering. All in a rush, but some terrific stuff.
I guess there are no Barracuda Class entries, right?
Nope. No infants entered this time. Even Jonah failed, despite my threatening to spend his college fund on myself, to step up to the plate. This is a judgement on the younger generation.
In defence of this younger generation, Sarah and Madeleine are still working on a translation together, but admittedly not getting very far very fast because they roll around on my bed in fits of laughter as they translate, which leads to wrestling, and then injury, and then me kicking them out.
I’m going to have to go with Shy Anonymous for this one, unless she is chosen by the judge(s) for the other award, in which case I will go with Claire W’s.
Gwen, enter your vote in the People’s Choice post. I know it’s confusing. It confuses me!