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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Untranslatable poem? I don't think so... 
23rd-Jul-2014 11:12 am
Keep Calm
Last week, the Futility Closet wrote about an untranslatable poem, a Portuguese poem by Cassiano Ricardo entitled “Serenata sintética”:

rua
       torta

                 lua
                        morta

                                  tua
                                         porta.

Futility Closet does a good job of explaining what the poem means and why it’s supposedly untranslatable. The explanation isn’t long, and I’d rather send you there than repeat it:
http://www.futilitycloset.com/2014/07/17/an-untranslatable-poem/

As it says, would be hard in Spanish, which is similar to Portuguese, to create a close, literal translation that preserves the tight rhyming scheme, and impossible in English. But translations don’t have to be close and literal. They can be idiomizing and even free. For a difficult translation, rather than word for word, a good technique can be to aim for equivalence, which means the translation would have the same effect on the reader as the original, although it may vary quite a bit from the original.

For example, fairy stories in Spanish end “y fueron felices y comieron perdices,” which literally means “and they were happy and ate partridges.” The equivalent in English is “and they lived happily every after.” The literal translation makes no sense, and the equivalent translation would be the correct translation.

Here’s my equivalent translation of “Succinct Serenade”:

blue
       tune

                   new
                          moon

                                      you
                                             soon.


— Sue Burke
Comments 
23rd-Jul-2014 12:07 pm (UTC)
This is often my problem, though, when reading Portuguese (and Spanish...and French). The idioms in those languages are very un-English. (I was working on a French novel as was reading a section with a lot nautical idioms...and boy, some of that just did NOT make sense. I knew I was looking at an idiom, but had no idea beyond that!)

Also, I would never have picked up the "hint of an amorous affair" from that last segment, tua porta.

Very interesting...and nice translation ;o)
22nd-Aug-2014 11:40 am (UTC) - untranslatable?
Anonymous
And one of the joys of 'equivalents' rather than translations is that you can riff off a theme almost indefinitely: winding road waning moon wanting you g.
22nd-Aug-2014 06:55 pm (UTC) - Re: untranslatable?
Nice!
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