Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Translation Is Like A Personal Story

Sometimes others' stories impact your own (in ways that seem to demand you stop translating and pause from writing a dissertation to listen). Won't you listen?

In some of Saul Bellow's stories, the protagonists won't read the stories in the newspapers, because they might believe them. And this is exactly why a young rabbi, a rather obscure one at the time, told stories saying, "Only for the ones who have ears to hear, please." So more on that in a moment.

Now, "Free Zimbabwe" is the story "for the next several days . . . for the Lingamish blog," which is a translation of this story:

"Enough is Enough" is the story of several lifetimes for Zimpundit at, which is a translation of this story:

"Sokwanele and Zvakwana both mean 'enough is enough' in the vernacular"; and this is the story of women who cry out for "Dignity. Period!," which is a translation of the stories of terror and tears:

"This Is Zimbabwe" is only a folder of terrible stories within a whole site of folders, a serial volume mapped as

So the young rabbi tells disturbing stories or, rather, stories that disturb the credulity of the stories of the listeners. They are never perfect or accurate translations.

A kid named Matthew hears one in his heart language, and writes it down in a heady language like this (but stay with him a bit because you'll hear it from Jane next in her French):

λλην παραβολν παρθηκεν ατος λγων

μοιθη βασιλεα τν ορανν νθρπ
σπεραντι καλν σπρμα ν τ γρ ατο
ν δ τ καθεδειν τος νθρπους
λθεν ατο χθρς κα πσπειρεν ζιζνια ν μσον το στου κα πλθεν
τε δ βλστησεν χρτος κα καρπν ποησεν
ττε φνη κα τ ζιζνια
προσελθντες δ ο δολοι το οκοδεσπτου
επον ατ
κριε οχ καλν σπρμα σπειρας ν τ σ γρ
πθεν ον χει ζιζνια
δ φη ατος χθρς νθρωπος τοτο ποησεν
ο δ δολοι λγουσιν ατ
θλεις ον πελθντες συλλξωμεν ατ
δ φησιν ο μποτε συλλγοντες τ ζιζνια κριζσητε μα ατος τν στον φετε συναυξνεσθαι μφτερα ως το θερισμο κα ν καιρ το θερισμο
ρ τος θεριστας
συλλξατε πρτον τ ζιζνια κα δσατε ατ ες δσμας πρς τ κατακασαι ατ τν δ στον συναγγετε ες τν ποθκην μου

Luckily enough for us, Jane Stranz of life, laughter, and liturgy tells that this way, with her friends:

Il jetait une autre histoire à côté de leurs histoires personnelles

Le palais royal dans les cieux est comme quelqu’une
Qui plante de bonnes semences dans son jardin
Puis pendant que le people dort
Son ennemi vient planter des graines de mauvaises herbes parmi les semences de fleurs et s’en va
Au moment où les fleurs fleurissent les mauvaises herbes apparaissent aussi
les ouvriers du jardin allait voir la paysagiste lui dire
« Madame, n'avez-vous pas planté des semences de fleurs au jardin?
D'où viennent alors les mauvaises herbes? »
Elle répondait « C'est mon ennemi qui a fait ça. »
« Voulez-vous que l'on abattent les mauvaises herbes? » demandaient les ouvriers.
« Non, en les abattant vous abattrez en même temps les fleurs.
Qu'elles poussent ensemble jusqu'au moment où il faut couper les fleurs pour les bouquets. A ce moment là je dirai aux fleuristes – abattez les mauvaises herbes et mettez les en piles à brûler, mettez les fleurs dans mes vases. »

Now if you've stayed with us long enough so far (and enough is enough), then you might suspect there's an English translation, my story telling, in there some where. There is. It was a day in April when enough is enough, I say.

But don't stop with my story. Pick up a newspaper. Read of the terror, of the horror in someone else's state. Visit Zimbabwe. You don't have to translate perfectly. Listen!


scott gray said...

my master gave a servant a packet of flower seeds, and commanded him, 'i want you to make these seeds flourish in the rich soil i've given you.' but the servant wasn't the sharpest hoe in the tool shed, and he thought that the best way to see these seeds flourish was to pull up all the flowers that were currently flourishing and plant the seed his master had given him in empty soil.

he didn't know that the master was testing him: the best way for these new seeds to flourish was to share the rich soil with the flowers already growing.

and so the new seedlings, which could have lived symbiotically with the old established flowers, died. and the old flowers, which had been pulled up by the roots, died, too.

and now the rich soil is a parched wasteland, where nothing is flourishing.

my master will not be happy when he returns.

J. K. Gayle said...

Hieronymo's mad againe, Scott?

If she answers ἀποθανεῖν θέλω,
won't he eventually say,
"Shantih shantih shantih"?

(but have you pulled her up from the parable, again?)

scott gray said...

you are a fun guy.

i never knew this (puzzle) poem existed.

J. K. Gayle said...

and you are T.S. Eliot before you knew it. (That's a very fun compliment!)

Welcome, then, to The Wasteland. For all of us pretending to be literary types, it's The Garden of Eden. Can you see why I thought you were invoking it? But don't you also see how you really did?

scott gray said...

i am beginning to believe in an emerging/emergent god.

John Hobbins said...

Hey, Kurk. It's good to have you back. Couldn't resist, huh?