During today’s live webcast I actually wished I had done this last night. So pertinent to the discussion.
OK, Let’s take the plunge. Three PhD’s in Brazil decided to take on Augusto de Campos, noted Brazilian Dickinson translator. What follows is a brief drive by of what they mentioned (and what they missed, IMHO).
The poems were #760 and #448. Let me see if I can pull it into the block here:
OK, that worked.
- A constant Dickinson theme: pain. Calling it an “Element of Blank” doesn’t really translate well. A word is used, “Vazio” which connotes emptiness.
- They pay a lot of attention to Dickinson’s rhyming schemes, often hidden through the use of imperfect rhymes in English, but brought to the forefront in Portuguese, though still, at best, though not always, imperfect (in short, looks like a rhyme but does not sound like one), Dickinson using ABCB, while in translation, ABAB, makes the “pain” more focused and more acute by concentrating it in a tighter rhyme).
- Here is something they miss. Dickinson’s English uses the subjunctive (where it begun-or if there were a time) while in translation the preterite (begun) and the imperfect (it were) are used to express the same uncertainty. Not cool, really, for conveying the uncertainty of pain’s origin. Should have gone straight subjunctive.
- In exchange of just getting the grammar right, they focus on line breaks, or enjambment, as a way to maintain the “syntactical anomaly” of the subjunctive mood, “if there were/a time.
- In line two of verse one, the Brazilian translation abandons “cannot recollect” (which I think has a certain strength, especially in its alliteration) and replaces it with “nao sabe (One does not know), leaving the reader a bit flatter than had they used “recordar, as in nao pode recordar, which provides the slight sound repetition effect of the English original.
- More stuff in the second verse but let me not bore you to tears. Suffice it to say translation of poetry is a tricky proposition. And we are merely amateurs!
- OK. What do y’all think?