søndag den 22. januar 2017

I wish I was a babel fish: "Grief is the thing with feathers" vs "Sorg er et væsen med fjer"

Sorg er et væsen med fjer, Max Porter. Den danske oversættelse er et anmeldereksemplar fra forlaget Gyldendal. 


Jeg har før skrevet om min interesse for oversættelse og mit brændende ønske om at være en babelfisk, så jeg altid kunne læse et værk på dets originale sprog. Men det er jeg jo desværre ikke, og jeg mestrer desværre heller ikke flere sprog end dansk og engelsk, og så er man jo nødtvunget til at læse oversatte værker fra tid til anden, hvis man vil nå bredere ud end den dansk- og engelsktalende verden. 


På trods af at jeg drømmer om at kunne læse alle bøger på deres originalsprog, er jeg dybt fascineret af selve oversættelsesprocessen. Hvordan er man sikker på, at det originale værk ikke ophører med at eksistere, når man piller ved det? Jeg elsker sprog, velformulerede sætninger og leg med ord og syntaks, og især disse elementer må være hulens svære at overføre til et andet sprog. Da jeg opdagede, at Grief is the thing with Feathers af Max Porter, den smukkeste roman jeg har læst i 2016, skulle oversættes af danske digter Pia Juul, var jeg derfor ikke i tvivl om, at jeg måtte se nærmere på de to værker. 

Romanen er i virkeligheden både ret kort og forholdsvis enkel, men dens opsætning og form er interessant. Crow, som på sin vis er hovedpersonen i fortællingen, har en udpræget karakteristisk og meget "kraget" personlighed, som jeg ikke var i tvivl om kunne komme ligeså fint til udtryk på dansk som på engelsk, men måden hvorpå denne personlighed kommer til udtryk, var jeg interesseret i at lære. 

Nu har jeg læst begge versioner. Simultant. Jeg har haft en finger i hver bog og læst hver sætnings oversættelse, og jeg er dybt imponeret! Pia Juul går hele tiden så tæt på originalen som overhovedet muligt, og hun gør det med succes, for stemningen er uden tvivl bevaret i den danske oversættelse. 

Somme tider virker oversættelserne lidt tilfældige, for eksempel når Crows mystiske lyde som "lint, flack, tack-pack-nack" oversættes til "vink, link-blink-sink". Andre gange er oversættelsen spot on, når "curled claws" oversættes til "krøllede kløer", og dermed bevarer både alliteration og assonans.  Men selvfølgelig er det ikke altid muligt. Og når et afsnit begynder: "Soft. Slight. Like light..." og oversættes til "Blød. Lillebitte. Som lys..." ligger det bare ikke helt lige så lækkert i munden som det engelske. Og sådan er det nok bare. Til gengæld er der også steder, hvor de danske ord flyder sammen og bliver smukkere end de engelske, eller hvor stemningen står endnu mere klart.

Jeg ved ikke helt hvorfor, men denne korte sekvens som Drengene beskriver efter et skænderi mellem Krage og Far, virker på dansk meget mere stemningsfuld end den tilsvarende engelske: "Krage dukkede op, forpjusket med store øjne. Han lukkede forsigtigt døren bag sig og satte sig hos os ved køkkenbordet" (Engelsk: "Crow emerged, ruffled, wide-eyed. He gently closed the door behind him and joined us at the kitchen table."). Måske er det ordet "forpjusket", som gør forskellen. Udover at være et dejligt ord i sig selv, er der noget fugle-agtigt over det på en mere tydelig måde en "ruffled", og i sammenhæng med de store øjne, kan man næsten mærke den tætte stilhed på sin egen krop, og høre det lydløse bump, når døren bliver lukket. 

Det var en fornøjelse at læse den danske oversættelse, og jeg er sikker på, den er mest hensigtsmæssig at læse, hvis man er en lille smule usikker på sit engelske. Og så var det selvfølgelig også bare enormt interessant at gå på opdagelse og se hvordan Pia Juul har formået at oversætte den. 





ENGLISH BELOW
____________________

I've mentioned it before: my interest in translation and my burning wish to be a babel fish, so that I would always be able to read literature in its original language. But unfortunately I'm not a babel fish, and I don't even master any other languages than Danish and English, which means that I'm forced to read translated literature from time to time. 

Although I dream of reading all books in their original language, I'm deeply fascinated by the process of translating. How can you be sure that the original piece of literature still exists after you've meddled with it? I love language, well-composed sentences and playing with words and syntax, and especially these elements must be pretty damn difficult to transfer to another language. When I found out that Grief is the thing with Feathers by Max Porter, the most beautiful novel I read in 2016, had been translated by Danish poet Pia Juul, I knew I had to have a closer look at the two editions.

The novel is actually both pretty short and straight-forward, but its composition and structure is interesting. Crow, who in a way is the main character, has a very unique, characteristic and very "crow-like" personality, which I had no doubt would be possible to create just as nicely in Danish, but the way in which this would be done intrigued me. 

Now I've read both editions. Simultaneous. I've had a finger placed in each book and read every sentence and its translation, and I'm deeply impressed. Pia Juul has definitely done her very best to stay close to the original, and she does it with great success as the atmosphere is definitely still intact. 

At times the translations can seem a bit random. When "link, flack, tack-pack-nack" is translated to "vink, link-blink-sink". Other times the translation is spot on, when "curled claws" is translated to "krøllede kløer", where both the alliteration and assonance is preserved. Obviously it's not always possible to translate something perfectly, and when a paragraph begins "Soft. Slight. Like light..." and has been translated to "Blød. Lillebitte. Som lys..." it simply isn't the same. In English the words are soft and lovely on your lips, while the translation seems more rough. And I guess that's just the way it is. On the other hand there are instances where the Danish words actually become more beautiful than the English, and where the atmosphere is even clearer.  

I'm not quite sure why, but there is this short paragraph, where the Boys describe an episode after a fight between Crow and Dad, and it just seems a lot more interesting and beautiful in Danish than in English. There is something about the word "forpjusket", which is used instead of "ruffled" that is a lot more bird-like, and the Danish word in itself is just really lovely. 

It was a pleasure reading the Danish translation and finding out how one of my favourite books has been translated. 

3 kommentarer:

  1. Det er en ret interessant tanke det der med oversættelser: Kan man overhovedet tale om, de to udgaver som værende "den samme tekst," hvad er "tilladt" i en oversættelse - hvor langt kan oversætteren tillade sig at gå i respekt for det originale værk, og er det overhovedet noget, man skal bekymre sig om, hvis ja, hvorfor? Jeg har netop skrevet eksamensopgave om selv samme problemstilling, og ja, det åbnede så bare op for endnu flere uafklarede spørgsmål :) Jeg kan godt forstå, det optager dig! ;)

    SvarSlet
  2. Hi Ida,
    “Never again will a single story be told as though it’s the only one” - wrote John Berger, an English writer. This quotation put Arundathi Roy to her novel "The God of Small Things" at the head. That is a good description what could happen during translation from one language to another. Translating means not only a word by word procedure. The translator must have a deep understanding of both the mentalities of people of the origin language and of the target language. That is really tricky, not an easy job. Translating belletristic can be much harder than translating technical or scientific papers.
    Yes, I also wish I was a Babel fish, too. Max Porter's book resembles a poem and demands while reading in the origin language a lot of attention from the reader. It cannot be translated word by word. The onomatopoeia words are especially difficult. I started to read the book into English and soon notices I were faced with some difficulties. Therefore, I bought the German edition eBook (We also have a good German translation of Uda Strätling and Mathias Göritz, published by Hanser Berlin), and I've read the story in both languages simultaneously. Now I came to a deep understanding. Reading the book in English is wonderfully poetic. You are right, it is one of the best short novels.
    I compared your examples with the German translation. Here we have "TripTrap" translated to "Kluck klock"; "lint, flack, gack-pack-nack" to "Flusen, Flack, Gack-Pack-Sack"; "plinkety plink curled claws whisper" to "klacke-di-klack auf klimpernden Klauen"; "Soft. Slight. Like light." to " Weich. Leicht.Wie Licht"; and
    "Crow emerged ruffled, wide-eyed." to"Krähe tauchte zerzaust und wildäugig auf."
    The first three examples show the onomatopoeia, I can develop a feeling and can hear what is meant. Trip trap, the noise produced by a mouse running over a wooden ground, "klacke-di-klack" can be heard when women are wearing high heels. But "curled claws whisper" is now translated to "klimpernde Klauen". I wouldn't have thought that. Wide-eyed is for me not the same as wild-eyed, what I had put in English for the German word "wildäugig".
    Imagine, the book should have been retranslated into English. I'm convinced, you'll get another story than the origin. Sure, the stories resembling each other, but the retranslated would never be the same as the origin.
    By the way, I've found in Pynchon's novel "Inherent Vice" a real unknown word. Without the German edition, I wouldn't be able to understand it with only the English edition. That word is "Oppos" and signifies a bargain("Schnäppchen" in German). Here is the sentence:
    "There were the expected local couples who couldn't wait to
    have a look at the next OPPOS,..."
    In the German edition this sentence is translated as follows: "Er sah die üblichen ortsansässigen Paare, die es gar nicht erwarten konnten, einen Blick auf die nächsten Schnäppchen zu werfen,..." (translated by Nikolaus Stingl, published by Rowohlt) Perhaps, the word OPPOS can be derived from the opportunities for getting something cheap, but I'm not so sure. I didn't found an explanation of that word on the internet.
    Best regards
    Wolfgang

    SvarSlet
  3. Vildt interessant indlæg!
    Jeg har netop læst bogen på dansk, så det er ret spændende at høre lidt om forskellen fra den engelske version vs. den danske :)

    SvarSlet