So at times I take a bit of pride in my Canadian heritage and think about how cool parts of Canada are, about all the interesting publishers up there, about how nice everyone is, etc. And I make an internal promise to pay more attention to Canadian publications, presses, and the like. But for whatever reason, although I’m living only a small Great Lake away from the largest Canadian city, there’s still a sort of cultural wall between the U.S. and Canada that’s difficult to break through.
A case in point is the new issue of Canadian Notes & Queries which is dedicated to translation. If it wasn’t for Jack Kirchhoff from the Toronto Globe & Mail mailing me a copy, I probably never would’ve come across this.
But this issue—which arrived yesterday with a slew of packages I suspect mail services has been hoarding for weeks—is remarkable and definitely worth spending some time with.
The intro piece by Mike Barnes is cool in part because it’s all about Celine, and tangentially relates to Michael Orthofer’s recent diss of Ralph Manheim’s translations.
The two translation [John Marks’s and Ralph Manheim’s translation of Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night] are so different, line by line, word by word, that it is obviously extremely difficult, requiring much ingenuity, judgement and (presumably) compromise, to render Celine’s language into English. More interestingly, though, the distinctive lineaments of Celine’s creation emerge so unmistakably from both translations that, though made of words, they seem impervious to words. The ideas are too cool not to make it across. (Within limits, obviously; they are immune to the fluctuations of skilled translators doing their level best by the work.) This, and not premature senility or recollected mania, was why I’d felt such ennui reading Manheim’s new translation: I was expecting a revelation, but I’d already had it. Manheim’s new version was more smoothly readable while more sharply particular, grittier, earthier, an improveme in most (not all) ways over Marks’s fifty-year-old, and now a little fusty and clunky by comparison, original. But —
He then goes on to make some line by line comparisons, which are fantastic in the way that Celine’s writing is fantastic, especially when taken totally out of context. First the Manheim, who shies away from nothing, followed in brackets by the Marks.
Upstairs the woman’s ass was still bleeding. [The woman on the third floor was still bleeding profusely.]
The day when those motherfucking wagons would be shattered to the axles . . . [The day those swine and their waggons were smashed to splinters . . .]
. . . the unforgettable depth of her fucking, her way of coming like a continent! [. . . her gift for tremendous delights, for enjoyment to her innermost depth.]
Personally, the Manheim is the one I prefer. Possibly because that’s the one I’m familiar with, the Celine I know, but I think it goes beyond that. Manheim is more direct, vulgar, and vivid. His translation leaps and crackles in a jangly, almost out-of-control way that I find captivating . . .
Anyway, this is so getting away from the issue of CNQ . . . Almost nothing is available online, which is really unfortunate, since so many of the pieces are worth reading:
There’s even more to this issue—including a nice book review section covering translated poetry and books that came out a few years back—but this post is already way, way too long.
This issue can be ordered online (I think, once again, it’s the same old publisher-website problem and the site isn’t very sophisticated) or by contacting the publisher at 519-256-7367 or email@example.com.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .