Apr 16: In which I need the translation to help with the translation

First of all, it's my mom's birthday today, and I know she reads this, so, "Hi, Mom!"

Secondly, it's unfitting that today's reading is from The Inferno (Cantos VIII and IX for you Dante-heads). It might be fitting if my Mom's name was Beatrice, but it isn't. And, also unlike my mom, the translation is antique and hard to follow:

Mine eyes he loosed, and spake: “And now direct
Thy visual nerve along that ancient foam,
There, thickest where the smoke ascends.”
I mean, if you squint you can figure out what's going on, somewhat, but it's difficult. Fortunately, I have Pinsky's translation in my bookshelves (its smooth spine betraying the fact that I've hardly opened it), and he has retranslated it into modern:
Taking his hands from my eyes, he said, "Now look:
There where the very harshest fumes abound,
Across the ancient scum."
Was that so hard? Pity the poor translator: if the past is another country, and translation is by definition another country, then old translations are very far away from us indeed. And it's worth noting that, despite the terrible lowfalutin times in which we live in, one can still translate the "Inferno" and get it published as a nice trade paperback. Somebody should do the same for "Faust." Also, Juvenal.

About the content itself, there's not much to say, but I am amused by the way the Daily Reading Guide sets it up:
The city of Dis, within the gates of Hell, was guarded by monsters and surrounded by a moat filled with the tormented. Dante, protected by Virgil, entered the forbidden city, and viewed sights never before seen by living man.
Never before seen by living man? He made it up! When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, he saw sights never before seen by living man. If I write a scene in which my enemy is in a pit of muck, and is descended upon by unholy demons, and starts biting himself, that's not a "sight" at all. It' s just a fantasy -- or Canto VIII. The "Inferno" must be one of the all-time great monuments to "Oh, they'll pay. They'll all pay" in Western literature.

0 comments: