Archive | December, 2015

Julien Leyre on translation

29 Dec

Much of continental philosophy actually grows in the gap between Greek semantic and conceptual structure and those of modern European languages. One of the most original and stimulating books I ever read on language is a little-known opus by Italian Professor Lo Piparo, and consists entirely of proposing an alternative translation of a short passage by Aristotle on language, then expanding as commentary the basic assumptions that led to that new translation.

Translation is a radical alternative to debating. In debate, thinking happens collectively, and the debating tradition acknowledges this phenomenon. It relies on the presence of an intellectual opponent – past, present or imaginary – and offers ideas in the form of a contention. Fresh, original thought emerges dialogically between competing contenders. Translation follows a different model, and obeys a different set of values: here, the translator-interpreter is a mediator between an author and an external reader, whose worldviews are assumed to be different. Translators bring across foreign or forgotten thoughts within the conceptual world of their audience.

For all its diplomatic underpinnings, translation is a fantastic bullshit detector. Abstract bureaucratese, vapid thought, loose constructions based on cloud-like associations of words, or sheer ‘sound-good’ rhetorics dissolve under the harsh acid of translation. Translation is the great enemy of sophistry, because sophistry, fake reasonings and paralogics, are often harder to translate, but also because sophistry goes against the core ethics of translation.

Translation is a school of honesty and humility for the mind. It teaches how difficult and resistant language is to the feeling of intellectual power that we may have – and forces us to acknowledge the resistance of the real. A good translation is judged on two criteria: how faithful and generous it is to the original, and how well it fits within the shape of its host language. The two, however, are inseparable in their material expression. The task brings translators a special benefit. By challenging our own inherited, sclerotic intellectual constructs embodied in lazy language, translation forces us to stretch our brains, because foreign ideas don’t spontaneously fit within the shape of our own clichés.

Translation is a remarkable writing exercise. Translators are directly confronted with the resistance of language. Different grammar systems or bodies of vocabulary will not allow an idea to simply come across on its own.

Translation also teaches us how much can – and unfortunately sometimes does – get lost in the process: ideas have to be pared down, folded over, flattened, in order to translate easily. In this regard, translation teaches us to listen and read better.

 

  • Julien Leyre
Advertisements

Henry Fielding, “Tom Jones”

19 Dec

IT is possible, however, that Mr. Allworthy saw enough to render him a little uneasy; for we are not always to conclude that a wise man is not hurt, because he doth not cry out and lament himself, like those of a childish or effeminate temper. But indeed it is possible he might see some faults in the captain without any uneasiness at all; for men of true wisdom and goodness are contented to take persons and things as they are, without complaining of their imperfections, or attempting to amend them. They can see a fault in a friend, a relation, or an acquaintance, without ever mentioning it to the parties themselves, or to any others; and this often without lessening their affection. Indeed, unless great discernment be tempered with this overlooking disposition, we ought never to contract friendship but with a degree of folly which we can deceive: for I hope my friends will pardon me when I declare, I know none of them without a fault; and I should be sorry if I could imagine I had any friend who could not see mine. Forgiveness of this kind we give and demand in turn. It is an exercise of friendship, and perhaps none of the least pleasant. And this forgiveness we must bestow, without desire of amendment. There is, perhaps no surer mark of folly, than an attempt to correct the natural infirmities of those we love. The finest composition of human nature, as well as the finest china, may have a flaw in it; and this, I am afraid, in either case, is equally incurable; though, nevertheless, the pattern may remain of the highest value.

阎连科,《丁庄梦》

19 Dec

我爷沿着胡同往前走,胡同两边各家各户的门框上,家家户户都贴着白对联,新的和旧的,白得刺眼睛,走过去,像穿过一条堆满雪的白胡同。他就沿着胡同走,看见有户未出五符的同胞弟家的大门上,家里不到三十岁的儿子有了热病死掉了,那大门上的白门联就写着了”人走屋空三秋戏,灯灭日落熬夕阳。”还有一家李姓的人,死了新娶不久的儿媳妇,那儿媳妇的热病是从她娘家带来的,并又染给了她的男人了,生了娃儿又染娃儿了,为了他儿孙的热病能好转,那门联上就写了”月落星稀一家黑,但愿来日光明照。”还有下一家的门,那门上除了两条白色的门联纸,纸上却是没有墨的字。爷不明白贴了白门联,却又不写字,就过去看了看,摸了摸,才发现那白门联下竟还有两层白门联。就知道他家热病只少死过三个人,贴那白联已经贴怕了,贴烦了,也就索性只贴门联不写墨字了。

音速 / 商禽

17 Dec

音速 / 商禽
─────────────────────────────────

─悼王迎先

有人從橋上跳下來。
那姿勢零亂而僵直,恰似電影中道具般的身軀,突然,在空中,停格
了二分之一秒,然后才緩緩繼續下降。原來,他被從水面反彈回來的
自己在蹤身時所發出的那一聲淒厲的叫喊托了一下,因而在落水時也
祇有淒楚一響。

一九八七年八月二十八日 中和

Brian Turner: Elegy for Peter Hooper

17 Dec

ELEGY FOR PETER HOOPER

(novelist, poet, teacher, environmentalist)

 

A grey day in Greymouth and a gathering of people

most of whom I’ve never met and won’t again.

There’s scripture, hymns, eulogies and that undeniable

finality that never fails to reduce me to tears.

 

Time alone will fill the spaces your going’s opened up

like evening shadows stealing into the valleys

of the Grey and the Arahura that you knew and loved.

I’d like to think Westland’s laureate will one day

 

receive his due but doubt it, for writing that conveyed

a love of place, respect for people and other creatures,

and an unwavering faith in the force of patient instruction

has never been sexy in a land where cultural cringing’s

 

enduring. Add to that work which celebrated natural beauty,

advocated continuance and expressed a desire for peace,

and you were always going to be swimming against the tide.

Peter, with your calming goodwill, you were that rare

 

sort of man we call decent if not saintly. At your service

I was awash with memories and regrets

while up and down the Coast and over the mountains

a raw wind blew, and bells tolled wherever I turned.

 

Shingle ground on the shore like pebbles in a crop

and the wind off the Tasman badgered the flax

at the top of the beach where you gathered wood often.

Offshore, pickets of rain were driving into a slowly

 

heaving grey sea. I know you hoped for a longer life

in your green-painted wooden house

on the edge of the forest a kilometre or more

inland at Paroa, a stream talking constantly

 

within metres of your backdoor. Instead a friend

found you dead several days on the floor

under your bed, and it all seemed tragic and unfair,

the stingy absence of dignity or justice that fate

 

decreed for you. Now, asking Where to go from here?

and What more could I have done? – the one a puzzle,

the other futile – I think of the people who admired and maybe

even loved you, too, and never told you so because we seldom do.

 

  • from Taking Off (2001)

莫言:天堂蒜薹之歌

17 Dec

第10章

那个眉眼酷肖高马的孩子怒目直视着她,吼叫着:

“让我出去!让我出去!你不放我出去,你算个什么娘?”

她眼里流着血,推开枣红马驹长方形的冰凉头颅,说:

“孩子,娘想明白啦,你别出来了,你出来干什么?你知道这外边的苦处吗?”

男孩停止了挣扎,问:

“外边是什么样子,你说给我听听。”

她把正用温暖的紫舌舔着她的脸的枣红马驹推开,说:

“孩子,你听到鹦鹉们的叫声了吗,你好好听听?”

男孩竖起了耳朵,认真谛听着。

“这是高直楞家的鹦鹉群,有黄的,有红的,有蓝的,有绿的……五颜六色,色色俱全。它们都生着弯钩嘴,头顶上高挑着一撮翎毛,它们吃肉,喝血,吸脑子。孩子,你敢出来吗?”

男孩好像感到了恐惧,把身体紧缩了起来。

“孩子,你看,那遍地的蒜薹,像一条条毒蛇,盘结在一起,它们吃肉,喝血,吸脑子。孩子,你敢出来吗?”

男孩的手脚盘结起来,眼睛里结了霜花。

“孩子,娘当初也像你一样,想出来见世界,可到了这世界上,吃了些猪狗食,出了些牛马力,挨了些拳打脚踢,你姥爷还把我吊在屋梁上用鞭抽。孩子,你还想出来吗?”

男孩把脖子也缩了进去,整个身体团成了一个球,只有那两只大眼睛还是可怜巴巴地睁着。

“孩子,你爹正被公安局追捕着,你爹家里穷得连耗子都留不住了,你姥爷让车轧死了,你姥姥被抓走了,你两个舅舅分了家,家破人亡,无依无靠,孩子,你还想出来吗?”

男孩闭上了眼睛。

枣红马驹从敞开的窗户里把头伸进来,用温暖的舌头舔着她的手背,马脖子上的铜铃丁丁当当地响着。她用另一只手抚摸着马驹平整的脑门,和它的深深的眼窝。马驹的皮肤光滑凉爽,好像高级的绸缎。她的眼里盈了泪,她看到马驹的眼里也盈出了泪。

男孩又蠕动起来,他眯着眼说:

“娘,我还是想出去看看,我看到了一个圆圆的火球在转动着。”

“孩子,那是太阳。”

“我要看看太阳!”

“孩子,不能看,这是一团火,它把娘的皮肉都烤焦啦。”

“我看到遍野里都是鲜花,我还闻到了它们的香味!”

“孩子,那些花有毒,那香味就是毒气,娘就要被它们毒死了!”

“娘,我想出去,摸摸红马驹的头!”

她抬手打了枣红马驹一巴掌,马驹一愣,从窗户跳出去,嗒嗒地跑走了。

“孩子,没有红马驹,它是个影子!”

男孩闭死了眼,再也不动。

她从墙角上找到一根绳子,拴在门的上框,下端挽成一个圆圆的套,又找来一根小凳子,踏着。她用手摸摸绳套,绳子粗糙扎手,她有些犹豫,想找点油抹在绳上。这时窗外响起枣红马驹的嘶鸣,为了防止男孩再被惊醒,她赶快把头伸进套里去,然后一脚踢飞了凳子。红马驹从窗户里伸进头来,她想伸手再去摸一下那光滑冰凉的马额头,但胳膊抬不起来了。