13 June 2012

ARC BLOG: GS Smith on Translating


GS Smith on Translating

Posted by Sarah, 4th June 2012

To tie with the launch of As I Said, I spoke with Gerry Smith on his approach to translating Lev Loseff's poetry.
SH: In the Translator's preface to As I Said, you write "I hope this translation will encourage others to tackle it". What do you think can be gained by multiple translations of one work?
GS: My approach to translation from Russian has been influenced in particular by my professional academic interest in the history and theory of verse form; in 1996 I translated the best guide to this subject, M.L.Gasparov’s A History of European Versification. Because of this background I realise that there are many alternatives to the strict-form approach that I favour, even though it lengthens the odds against precise semantic equivalence. My commitment to strict form is not primarily academic: my literary/aesthetic awareness was formed in childhood by years of exposure to Anglican metrical hymns and psalms, and I then moved on to classic American song lyrics; ever since I have felt that to be authentic, verbal art needs to be fashioned in the way they are. To me, free verse is elitist and alien, and always has a feel of arbitrariness and self-indulgence.

12 June 2012

Pushkin Places / Пушкинские места

Pushkin Places

Morning and evening, dressing and undressing,
never not viewed.
Where did they find to do their secret trysting—
Garden? Or wood?
Beneath a bush, in full view of a mousehole,
like gypsies do?
Or maybe in a carriage with the blinds down?
Just how, if so?
It’s full of people, is this so-called wasteland!
Think you’re alone—
in the garden there’s a yokel idly swatting,
down by the stream there’s women doing washing,
in the parlour darling nanny’s always watching—
curse the old crone!
Oh, where to find those far-sequestered purlieus,
by night or day?
So you can get the hairpins, pantaloons, and
the skirt away?
Where ever won’t your measured bliss be spooked by
a sudden knock,
and then those vulgar sniggers of collusion
the servants make?
Rural retreat—I think that was your comment?
Friend, I retort:
Is this the reason why that wondrous moment
was oh so short?

(Translation © G.S. Smith 2012)

Пушкинские места

День, вечер, одеванье, раздеванье —
всë на виду.
Где назначались тайные свиданья —
в лесу? в саду?
Под кустиком в виду мышиной норки?
à la gitane?
В коляске, натянув на окна шторки?
но как же там?
Как многолюден этот край пустынный!
Укрылся — глядь,
в саду мужик гуляет с хворостиной,
на речке бабы заняты холстиной,
голубка дряхлая с утра торчит в гостиной,
не дремлет, блядь.
О где найти пределы потaенны
на день? на ночь?
Где шпильки вынуть? скинуть панталоны?
где юбку прочь?
Где не спугнет размеренного счастья
внезапный стук
и хамская ухмылька соучастья
на рожах слуг?
Деревня, говоришь, уедеиненье?
Нет, брат, шалишь.
Не оттого ли чудное мгновенье
мгновенье лишь?