17 July 08 | Chad W. Post

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:

  • Stephen Henighan’s “The Translation Gap” addresses some of the issues related to teaching literature in translation;
  • Robyn Sarah’s “Delivered to Chance” is about the experience of having her poems translated into French;
  • Alberto Manguel has a short piece on “Translating Borges”;
  • Goran Simic’s essay “To Be Exiled Writer . . . Or Not to Be at All” echoes some of the sentiments found in Dubrakva Ugresic’s Nobody’s Home;
  • Sheila Fischman writes about “A Life in Translation”;
  • And Heather Spears writes about “The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Translating Danish into English.”

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 biblioasis@yahoo.com.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély
Reviewed by Jason Newport

To be, or not to be?

Hamlet’s enduring question is one that Szilárd Borbély, acclaimed Hungarian poet, verse-playwright, librettist, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, and, finally, novelist, answered sadly in the negative, through his suicide in 2014, at the. . .

Read More >

A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

Read More >

Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata"
Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata" by Horacio Castellanos Moya; Eugen Ruge
Reviewed by Tim Lebeau

The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .

Read More >

Melancholy
Melancholy by László Földényi
Reviewed by Jason Newport

In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .

Read More >

The Hatred of Music
The Hatred of Music by Pascal Quignard
Reviewed by Jeanne Bonner

Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .

Read More >

Fragile Travelers
Fragile Travelers by Jovanka Živanović
Reviewed by Damian Kelleher

In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .

Read More >

Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei
Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger
Reviewed by Russell Guilbault

Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .

Read More >

Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages
Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages by Kyn Taniya
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

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. . .

Read More >

The Subsidiary
The Subsidiary by Matías Celedón
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

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. . .

Read More >

Thus Bad Begins
Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías
Reviewed by Kristel Thornell

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. . .

Read More >