I can’t remember right now whether it is in a letter or in one of the novels (Villette, maybe?) – but at some point Charlotte Brontë, either directly or through one of her French-studying heroines, bemoans the fact that English has no exact correspondence for the French word éffleurer… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
Imagine a collection of Egyptian papyri excavated at the end of the XIXth Century from the garbage mounds of what had been the City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Oxyrhyncus.
Imagine a variety of documents – from fragments of the Gospels to Thucydides, from plays to marriage certificates… Continue reading
Because I like an artificial deadline just as well as the next writer, I embarked on my own version of NaNoWriMo. More like NaNoReMo, because I intend to wrap up my second draft by the end of the month – and I know there is a thing called NaNoReMo, and it’s not in November, but never mind.
I embarked on it with the best of intentions and, one day in, I took it into my head to behead my novel. To cut the first three chapters, and start nearly two years later.
Oh, it does make sense – but I’m still reeling a little under the shock of the amputation… Besides, the first two days of November are holidays over here – meaning relatives and guests and family dinners, and graves to tend, and precious little time for writing…
Oh well, I told myself, I’m 2200 words behind, what with one thing and another – but never fear. I’m going to recover, starting tomorrow, ain’t I?
And right then the phone rings, and it is a local director asking do I have something small, and Christmassy – with children in it – something they can have ready by the middle of December?
And clearly I have maggots in my head, because instead of telling her that no, I’m sorry, and thank you for thinking of me – but no… what do I do? I hear myself say that why, yes – I have just the thing, only it’s in English, so I’ll need a few days to translate it…
I know, I know. I’m hopeless.
So last night I sat up very, very late, and translated like mad, and will do the same tonight, and try to follow my second-draft road map while sorting through the consequences of the beheading, and hope the local historian doesn’t turn up with his next chapter just now, and rehearse how to say “No. No. No, thank you. No. No. No. No…”
I’ll let you know.
II. Slightly smaller editing job. After months of silence, now they wake up and are, of course, in a hurry. And here’s the (long) new chapter, and can I finish it by Saturday, and when can they send the next?
III. Flu. Or perhaps not quite the flu, but still. I’m just beginning to feel vaguely human again, after three days of fever and cold.
IV. Revision – because yes, there is that, too.
To think that this morning my mother waltzed in, took a good look at her only daughter, and pronounced me in need of a little vacation… But the fact is that, for the next two or three weeks, I’ll barely have time to breathe… So I’m not even sure I’ll post very often or very brightly until, say, the end of October.
You are warned, O Readers: if you find Scribblings lagging behind, you know why.
After some head-scratching, we came to a baffling conclusion: nobody could remember ever seeing or even hearing or reading of any such thing. I’m not saying positively and absolutely that Faustus was never ever staged in the history of Italian theatre – but five well-informed, well-read and well-theatred actors, directors and drama teachers and one Marlowe buff, between the ages of forty and seventy, couldn’t recall one single production…
At the very least, Italian Faustuses must be few and far between.
A little research has yielded, so far, a 1978 tv adaptation called, a little unfortunately, “Il Fausto di Marlowe”, a radio adaptation about the same years, and a 2011 cantata for choir, tenor and orchestra by composer Matteo D’Amico – and nothing else. *
And the last Italian translation seems to be the one by Nemi D’Agostino, back in 1980.
As I said, I’m baffled.
I sort of knew that Marlowe is very little known and even less staged – but somehow I thought to find something more. Something at all, you know.
Which makes our work with Il Palcoscenico di Carta all the more relevant and interesting, if you ask me… But this is not the point. The point is that this made us all want to do it ourselves.
To stage Faustus – or some other Marlowe, come to think of it, but Faustus especially. And not just because nobody else does it, but because it is a great, powerful, deep, unsettling play that bloody well deserves to be staged and known. So we began discussing practicalities, such as a dramatis personae longer than my arm, and the 1604 and 1616 versions, and doubling, and visuals, and cuts perhaps, and would I object greatly to take active part in the thing…
It was mostly idle talk, for today – the sort of what-if games theatre folks will indulge in on a rainy day. And yet…
And yet I wonder if we didn’t put together seeds today. If it’s not something that will grow and bloom into a real project, and if we won’t find ourselves backstage, in some more or less near future, two or three days from first night, and ask each other: “Do you remember that day, when we wondered when was the last Italian Faustus?”
* Unless you want to count Salveti and Trionfo’s 1976 Faust Marlowe Burlesque – a very, very free adaptation mixing up Marlowe, Goethe, Emily Brontë and many others… I don’t want to.
Myla Goldberg’s Bee Season I liked mostly for its use of the sound of language in imagery and as a narrative device. I meant, things like this are just beautiful:
Consonants are the camels of language, proudly carrying their lingual loads. Vowels, however, are a different species, the fish that flash and glisten in the watery depths. Vowels are elastic and inconstant, fickle, and unfaithful.
Having mild synaesthesia, I’ve always associated sounds with colour. The iridescence of vowels I first found in Goldberg’s novel, and I fell in love with it: it was a little revelation, of the finding-words-for-a-hazy-thought variety. It is an idea I always use when trying to teach someone the joys, sorrows and mysteries of English pronunciation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Continue reading
Ah, but I love to translate.
Even things I don’t care a button about. On the one hand, there always is something to learn, some obscure scrap of knowledge to be gleaned, even in the worst cases – but that’s not really it.
It is the joy of the translation itself, the quest for the right turn of phrase, the right word, the right colour, the right mood, the right texture… It is the struggle to convey those things that have no exact match in another language, those shadows and iridescence of words.
And mind, I’m not speaking of fiction or poetry – I seldom translate those. But even when toiling on the dreariest piece of nonfiction, I love the feeling of pieces clicking in place into a picture that will make sense to the final reader. A reader who thinks along different lines, whose brain is wired differently – at least in part.
Why, I even love the search for published translations of cited works… It’s often painstaking, time-consuming work – and yet, running to earth the very paragraph you need out of a five-hundred-page tome has the thrill of a treasure hunt.
For all this, I must confess I haven’t much faith in translation – and almost none in literary translation. I was eighteen when I first discovered that between a book and its translation yawns an abyss. The kind of abyss that separates two worlds, swarming with unwritten, unsaid, untranslatable layers of meaning…
And yet, I keep translating. I keep trying to build bridges over the abyss – full knowing that all I can hope to do is convey bare meaning, and an image of the way meaning is shaped in words Somewhere Else. And savour the differences. And delight in the difficulty. And seek nuances. And, and, and…
Ah, but I do love translating.