Monday, 17 March 2008

and then the germans

sunday saw us up early so that we could be hitting the translation masterclass and meting sorlil. as with everyone else we met there wasn't enough time to be talking (sorry about that!) before remembering there was somewhere else to be, someone else to see.

so there's a panel consisting of sandy hutchison, robert alan jamieson, ken cockburn, fitzgerald kusz and helmut haberkamm and the deal is that they're looking at translating each others work and then getting some of the rest of us to show what we've done with the same. myself and sorlil had chosen one of haberkamm's works (no offense to fitz but his was in dialect and i coudn't make head nor tail of it!) which although it was ostensibly in high german proved tricky to capture. much amusement was shown over how we had treated, or missd out, fusabstreifer in the first line. again there was lots of german happening, both high and franconian and even for the non-german speakers (me) you could really here the difference when helmut read the work we'd done first in high german, then as he'd meant it.

what a great exercise it was and i'm sure most of us could have sat for most of the day blethering, rather than the couple of hours we had. i was fascinated, esp after seeing the frisian guys, to get an insight into how another culture deals with its dialects and reflect that back into the scottish context. plus, even in the room the scottish dimension consisted of shetlandic, buckie and lowland scots, each of which has its own rhythms. then there was the pleasure of seeing how, in the case of the haberkamm poem, six different people had addressed the translating it, what strategies they'd used, the choices they'd made. i don't think i've ever been at a better session for getting right into the nuts and bolts of a work. i think this is probably only possible in a translation exercise.

but, almost as it started it was time to finish. i briefly had time to speak to robert alan, who put me onto some more translation stuff, which i promptly forgot, and i got to speak to the woman form the spl who got me into henrik nordbrandt. no time to speak to the others far less any of the audience participants and time pressure meant we couldn't get to ken and robert alan's reading in the afternoon which was a shame. what a brilliant way to spend a morning. stAnza ahould absolutely do more of this in the future.

so here's the poem that was given to us - it's the high german version so not the one that helmut prefers (a view reflected by other german speakers in the audience)


Neue Reifen drauf

nach Bertolt Brecht (vgl. sein Gedicht Der Radwechsel, 1953)

Ich sitz auf der Treppenstufe vorm Haus, dort am Fußabstreifer.
Mein Vater schraubt die Winterreifen ans Auto.
Wo ich herkomme, da mag ich nicht gerade hin.
Wo ich hinwill, da mag ich auch nicht gerade hin.
Das Gescheiteste wäre, ich würde mit anpacken
Und würde mithelfen beim Hinschrauben. Aber
So sitz ich bloß da und halte meinen Mund
Und schau nur und weiß nicht, was ich möchte.
Siehst du, jetzt sind die Reifen auch schon dran.
Mein Vater winkt, ich fahre davon.

by Helmut Haberkamm

Frankn lichd nedd am Meer (Cadolzburg: ars vivendi verlag, 1992).

and this is what i did with it


The Changing of the Wheel

I sit on the steps in front of the house, deflated,
My father changing the wheel.
I am neither here nor there,
One place or another,
Going nowhere and wanting neither.
Helping him, the old man,
Would be the smart thing,
But I’m too busy sitting, saying nothing.
There you are son, all done,
The wheel spinning beautifully under his hands.
I walk past him,
My father waves.
I drive off.

2 comments:

antonia said...

"six different people had addressed the translating it, what strategies they'd used, the choices they'd made. i don't think i've ever been at a better session for getting right into the nuts and bolts of a work. i think this is probably only possible in a translation exercise."

I can't agree more. this is why i also think that translating or any kind of occupation with language is utterly important for philosophy. it's very satisfying, when this happens, when one sees all those different possibilities and how that enrichen one's own idea of the poem and one even learns from the flaws in a very non-damaging way. sounds like you had quite an enjoyable kind of day.

Sorlil said...

yes it was very interesting, I fancy a shot at translating Akhmatova but I dunno if the same trick of using the dictionary would work with russian plus there's the transliteration but I might have a look at it!!