I’m working on a translation project.
Not an extremely huge one – but one I’ve been dreaming about for some time, and of a sort that makes me quake a little. I know I’ve claimed again and again to have no faith in literary translation, but this… well, this is different.
Theatre. Elizabethan. Complicated…
And it’s not that there aren’t Italian translation already – only none of them would work on a stage. And that’s all there is to it, really: I have no poetic ambitions in this, I (and the actors I’m doing it for) just want to make it stageable.
Not entirely easy, because the blank verse doesn’t translate terribly well to Italian. metrically speaking, there is no exact equivalent. Hendecasyllables might seem like a reasonable choice, but they aren’t really – and besides, they tend to make for awkward playing. Still, prose is absolutely out of the question.
And then there is the eternal dilemma of the theatrical translator: period-sounding language or not? No, of course not, because Renaissance Italian is no good equivalent for Elizabethan English – and if it were, it wouldn’t make my translation exactly stageable… But, on the other hand, contemporary Italian would absolutely do no justice to the original’s rich, complex, varied, burning, occasionally archaic-sounding and somewhat lofty language.
So, to recap: I don’t want a verse translation, but I don’t want prose, either. And I want neither strictly period nor contemporary language… And ain’t it beginning to sound like the Wise Peasant Girl? Neither naked nor clothed, neither walking nor riding…
I don’t feel especially wise, and I’m after no royal bridegroom, either – but I know the exact three things I want in my translation: a reasonable echo of the rhythm of the original, a colour of timelessness, and – most of all – it must sound well on a stage. I want it pulsating and plausible and true and fiery…
I’m aiming high, I know – and it will take a lot of work and some pretty hard choices, and I won’t be finished until it goes through the test of the stage, and I’m quaking a little… But otherwise, where would be the fun?