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美國學者Scott Minar:論馬悅然翻譯的藝術

(2012-12-25 21:56:09)
标签:

特朗斯特羅姆

埃斯普馬克

杂谈

分类: 書評
(前言:美國Ohio大學的英國文學教授Scott Minar耶誕節以前寄來的一篇散文,論馬悅然的翻譯藝術。
介紹馬悅然翻譯瑞典詩人特朗斯特羅姆的英文譯作,以及埃斯普馬克,女詩人Ingela Srandberg 的詩作,將傑出的瑞典詩作介紹到英語世界的成就。文中Minar 也比較懂得挪威文的特翁譯者Robin Fulton與馬悅然翻譯的不同視角)
Göran Malmqvist: A Study in Translation

Göran Malmqvist is Chair #5 of The Swedish Academy, a brilliant linguist, and widely recognized translator of Chinese and Swedish literature.  His translations of his friend Tomas Tranströmer’s poems, though few, are among the very best. It is a shame that there are not more of them. He also translates many other poets and fiction writers, including Yang Mu, Kjell Espmark, Ingela Strandberg, and Mo Yan, among others. Professor Malmqvist is eighty-eight years old, but his friends say that he is a virtual wind turbine—inexhaustible in his literary efforts, and I agree.  His own creative work produces what he calls “mini-novels,” in the same category with prose poems or flash fiction here, but as far as I know these have yet to be published in English. In letters and e-mails we exchange, I often find him witty, warm-hearted, and remarkably intelligent. I see him as a colleague and a friend, though we’ve never met in person. The global economy generates this other “commerce” too. In one of his letters to me, Göran tells the story of how The Blue House, his booklet of Tranströmer’s poems in translation, came to be: 
There is quite an interesting little story behind the publication of the booklet “The Blue House.” Sometime in the 1980s my old friend Tomas Tranströmer visited the U.S. on a reading tour. He brought with him three different translations of some of his works, one of them mine and the other two probably by Robert Bly and Robin Fulton. After one of his readings, a young man, the owner of a shoebox publishing house, asked Tomas for permission to publish some of his prose poems. Tomas presented him with the three different translations and suggested that he pick the one he liked best. After his return to Stockholm, Tomas invited me for lunch, told me the story and ended: “Can you imagine, he picked your translation!” I assured Tomas that I had no difficulty whatever to imagine why the young man had picked my translation.

Göran’s last sentence is a shining example of his humor and wry wit. He is, in fact, humble and funny, but also pleased with how he approaches translation—which he finds sometimes overcomplicated by deep knowledge of etymology or a sense of linguistic precision. He wrote to me, “I just pick the word in English that I think sounds best.” Göran Malmqvist seems to be one of those translators who believe that the imperfections of the translator’s art are permanent and that translation is therefore interpretation. I agree. The optimum expectation from this point of view appears to be that one may create a new version of the poem very close to the original—a simulacrum or a likeness—but hardly an identical twin. It is more of a composite perhaps. Given this hypothesis, we should probably admit that the translator is an artist too, or a partner.  If we hesitate to do that out of a love of great literature, I understand. But poetry is a sensitive’s or a seer’s task in addition to being an intellectual one. The translator sees the poem clearly, sees the language beautifully, and then makes the new thing in alignment and inexactitude. It is hard to admit, but it is possible that the translator may even improve the poem. The poem and its translation are not the same. Yet what they are between one another or to one another is a matter of much passionate debate and speculation. 

Translations of Tranströmer’s work into English have been left largely in the hands of Mr. Bly, Mr. Fulton, Ms. Swenson, Mr. Robertson, and a few notable others. All are serious contributions and favored gifts to lovers of Tranströmer’s work. Yet Malmqvist stands out; he simply has no equal. I admit freely that this is a subjective judgment, and I offer it just so. But I also invite readers to study The Blue House, which may be found easily and in its entirety on-line, and compare it to other translations of these four poems by Tranströmer.  What we find in doing this is that Malmqvist’s versions are more energized and have a more active, hermetic, and articulated sense of the surreal. They are less ornamented, and the experience of reading them is more direct—thus my reference to Hermetics. In other words, the art is better. This is not surprising as Malmqvist is a Swede and has dedicated his life to the study of linguistics and translation. His expertise in Chinese language and literature, however, is certainly important here as well. Chinese poetry has structures and starting points often as different from Europe’s as are its culture and its history. But Tranströmer’s work is so idiosyncratic, so filled with numina and space, but equally detailed to his country and culture, that there may be much that a Sinologist like Malmqvist brings to translation of his poems. Finally and most importantly, perhaps, he is Tranströmer’s friend, and friendship may be an invaluable aid to interpretation and translation. 
Consider the differences in opening lines from Göran Malmqvist’s and Robin Fulton’s translations of the poem, “The Blue House,” for example. First, here is Tranströmer’s original in Swedish:
Det är en natt med strålande sol. Jag står i den täta skogen och ser bort mot
mitt hus med sina disblåa väggar. Som om jag vore nyligen död och såg
huset från en ny vinkel.   (13)
Fulton translates this as,
It is a night of the radiant sun. I stand in the dense forest and look away to-
ward my house with its hazy-blue walls. As if I had just died and was see-
ing the house from a new angle. (169)

Malmqvist puts the prose poem this way:
    It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.  (5)

Both of these are very good. The literal translation of Tranströmer’s opening words would be “It is a night with radiant sun.” How subtle the differences are in the translators’ choices. Fulton adds “of the” to the literal translation, giving the phrase in English the feel of incantation or formality. Malmqvist, on the other hand removes the indefinite article before “night” changing the clause to “It is night” and bringing an immediacy to the phrasing that he clearly perceives in the original Swedish sentence as a whole. The change to “glaring sunshine” juxtaposed with “night” serves to enhance or amplify the presence of an otherworldly light: It is “glaring” as opposed to “radiant.” He interprets, in other words, that the feel is immediate and not formal in this sentence and that this immediacy is very powerful in presence. My reading of the difference between these two translations is that Fulton’s version seems dreamlike in the best possible way, but Malmqvist’s feels like “lucid dreaming,” which is a thing of even greater power as those who have experienced it will tell us. In a reversal of these choices above, Tranströmer’s phrase “ vore nyligen död” is translated literally by Malmqvist to “were recently dead,” where Fulton changes it to “had just died” emphasizing the process rather than the state of death. Fulton interprets that it is the process in this verb phrase that is emphasized in the sentence. But the use of the familiar English subjunctive verb in “As though I were recently” when welded to the subject complement “dead” makes the phrase graphic and affecting. The use of the past perfect subjunctive variation in “As if I had just died” is an interpretation that seems, albeit in interesting ways, less forceful or striking while at the same time a rephrasing of the original. To look at it another way, in this passage and in general terms, we are talking about a night. To be outside at night is to be immersed in a space, which feels either threatening or comforting, but is certainly compelling and immediate. The northern sun that occupies night’s space is a strange effect. Both versions of this line communicate that well, but Mamlqvist’s is more visceral and immediate, more tactile and less ideational; therefore I would argue it is more hermetic. It conjures what the other incants.
About a year after Göran Malmqvist and I had been exchanging letters and emails, he sent me some poems by a poet who was, up until that time, unknown to me—Ingela Strandberg. Strandberg, who is virtually unknown here, might be described as a fusion of Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop, but with a Swedish sensibility transported half a century forward. These are nature poems as symbolist confessionalism, spare and dark. Like Paul Celan’s work, Strandberg’s poems often ignore what we usually call poetics; and yet at other times they may use them beautifully. This combination is difficult for some readers, unless we are looking for something different, something new. Göran introduced me to Strandberg’s work in this way:
It is with some trepidation that I send you my translation of one of her latest, and as yet unpublished poems. You have until now read only my translations of poetry by Tomas Tranströmer and Kjell Espmark. Ingela’s poetry is located at several light-years’ distance from their poetry. 

Göran is among the foremost admirers of Strandberg’s work, along with Tranströmer and Espmark, and he recognizes its complexity and uniqueness. Where Tranströmer’s lovely, spare verse is transparent and luminous—variegated intricacy in design, outlining an immense heart and a keen eye—Strandberg’s is lengthy and ruminating, sometimes achingly simple and haunted in sorrow; sometimes elegant, poignant, and heartrendingly beautiful. These paradoxically oppositional elements make for a very challenging and gratifying read. Her poems ask for patience and promise that the walk through woods, around the farm, or down a road will come out in a magical place or light, which they do, though not always happy versions of these. About her work, Göran adds,
In her poetry she relentlessly pursues memories of her own past, memories which are inaccessible to her readers and which therefore render her poetry difficult. (One question Chinese journalists never forget to ask me is ‘What is good literature?’ I invariably answer: ‘Good literature is literature that I enjoy reading.’ Literary appreciation is highly subjective. I enjoy reading and translating Ingela’s poetry.)

If parts of this description sound familiar—like those applied to Paul Celan, for example—the similarities are earned. These are inner lives articulated through careful illustration. The usual “depth” is missing, but what replaces it is a lucid dreamscape where suggestions and images are more devastating than facts. It is a remarkable trick and gesture. The technique is not easy. The poem Göran sent to me is titled, interestingly, “I dreamt about Sam Shepard last night.” In it, Strandberg describes a “landscape,” one that belongs to her. She writes,
It is my friend, it blows me around 
itself, shares my boredom and my lewd ways, my
mischievous joy, The sorrow. It cleanses my
sores and blows on them. In periods of de-
cency it leads me to boggy labyrinths
soft as moss, it heals me as much as it 
divides me, reaches me
across the oceans and calls me
till I return home sick of longing to get away.

It is in this landscape I stroll.

One moment wild geese.

A sleeping horse in the fog.

This world, as Strandberg describes it and in Malmqvist’s lucid English, is inescapable for the speaker and, therefore, the reader as well.  Strandberg captures what it means to be held by an inner life, where one has been deposited by an awareness of terrible truths—psychologically devastating, emotionally wrenching. The details of these truths do not matter. In the same way that the “knockout” is more impressive than the punch that delivered it, the effect produced by Strandberg’s poems is all the text we need because it is large enough, an impressive verbal landscape and gesture. Göran illustrates this when providing Ingela’s brief but revealing biography, writing that she

lives in a beautiful valley in the southwestern part of Sweden, close to Grimeton (pronounced as if spelled Grimmeton) which once housed a station for transatlantic telegraph traffic that played a great role during World War Two. Ingela Strandberg is a poets’ poet who has remained unrecognized by the ordinary reader, even by readers otherwise well read in contemporary Swedish poetry. Both Tomas Tranströmer and Kjell Espmark think very highly of her poetry and she has three times received prizes from the Swedish Academy. 
Göran’s translation of “I dreamt about Sam Shepard last night” ends by referring to the image of the “sleeping horse in the fog”:
It belongs to the already doomed, the bullet
is already lodged in its heart, perfectly, because
I placed it there myself, no, I take
the bullet out again, I heal the animal’s innocence
with my guilt. The landscape demands it.

I do everything the landscape demands of me.

I dreamt about Sam Shepard last night.
He said: “You can write on the steering wheel.”

We always dream when under way.
This last image is typical of Strandberg’s utterly clarifying obscurity. All of us know what she means by “under way”—life’s journey, the grave, a train, at work in the fields of art perhaps. It may also mean something more mysterious than this: that we are under way without a destination that even we can understand. If Socrates’ prescription for wisdom—“I know that I know nothing”—is right, then Strandberg’s privacy may really be truth. Perhaps the Zen saying about paying closer attention to the moon than to the hand pointing it out is wrong; maybe it is the privacy and human quality of the hand that truly “indicates” the moon. 

Malmqvist’s direct approach to English, “grounded” in many ways one might say, seems to fit Strandberg’s Bergmanesque style very well. If this is verbal cinema, its starkness only illuminates its beauty. Of himself, Göran writes in his letter only this:
Born in 1924, I am a very old man, and a rather conservative old man at that. Both my spoken and my written Swedish retain certain linguistic features that went out of fashion half a century ago, such as subjunctive verb forms and strong inflections of verbs, such as simma/sam/summit instead of simma/simmade/simmat for swim/swam/swum. I must confess
that it took some time before I got accustomed to Ingela’s free-spirited approach to certain linguistic/literary conventions such as punctuation and the division lines in a poem.
Like Göran’s humor in relating the story of The Blue House and his comments to Tranströmer about the publisher’s choice of his translations over others, this admission of his conservative linguistic approach and his difficulty in acclimating to Strandberg’s poetics at the beginning illuminates his mind beautifully. The overall effect of this paragraph illustrates a thinker who is astute, open, and active. What else? His is a lead we may follow the rest of our days. A good interpreter must always remain awake to language and culture, the ideas and the art before him or her. Malmqvist does this swimmingly. He has enriched our lives because of it. 
One question we have to ask about translation, to put it as a fragment, is “Translating what?” or “Translating what exactly?” Are we translating thoughts, sounds, feelings?  Do we attempt to recreate gestures, art, space? Is it tone, levels of diction, poetics, even magic? Poems, certainly Tranströmer’s, often seem overflowing or infused with conjury. And this magic comes from where in translation? Skillful diction and phrasing? Accumulated synergies or luck? The Spheres? Or is it the notion of Hermetics, words as magic, that poets and translators are really looking for? Translation asks and addresses these questions, either implicitly or literally. Yet translators are in a unique position in that they are people who love and manipulate an art that has already been made. It may be that what we are seeking is to translate the “life” or sortilege of the poem into another language, but then we need to know where the life of that poem comes from and resides. Paul Celan’s literary biographer, John Felstiner, for example, engages the Spheres when he translates or rather re-translates Celan’s German versions of Emily Dickinson’s poems back into English. It is a fascinating exercise. The result is an Emily Dickinson poem infused with the verbal energy and poetics of Paul Celan. What is a poem like that? Who made it? It is not equivocation to suggest that these questions and ideas break down at a certain point when thinking about translation as an act and an accomplishment. The linguistic structure and the artistic gesture of a poem are inseparable. But this is the lucky part.  Since they are inseparable, we must translate, therefore, both the energy of the gesture and the words. Whether literal or interpretive, translation must do this in order to honor the original. A translator must be herself or himself a very good reader, which is another way of saying “artist.” 


引用
Works Cited
Tranströmer, Tomas, and Robin Fulton. The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems. New York, NY: 
New Directions Pub., 2006. Print. 
Tranströmer, Tomas, and Göran Malmqvist. The Blue House. Houston, Texas: Thunder City 
Press, 1987. Print. 

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