Thoughts for Thursday - wisdom from Cynthia Ozick

Cross-posted at A Curious Singularity

A bit of inspiration for a Thursday…here are two excerpts from Cynthia Ozick’s “Metaphor & Memory,” which helped further clarify the Chekhov reading on A Curious Singularity.

From A Short Note on “Chekhovian:”

...even when his characters strike us as unwholesome, or exasperating, or enervated, or only perverse (especially then), we feel Chekhov’s patience, his clarity—his meticulous humanity, lacking so much as a grain of malevolence or spite. At bottom Chekhov is a writer who has flung his soul to the side of pity, and sees into the holiness and immaculate fragility of the hidden striver below…He is an interpreter of the underneath life, even when his characters appear to be cut off from inwardness.

From A Translator’s Monologue (Kate at Kate’s Book Blog has been mulling over some fascinating translation questions, which, of course, got me thinking. I think Ozick's points apply to prose as well as poetry.):

Translation is not only feasible, but inescapable—good translation, exact translation, superb translation: the entire carrying over from one language to another, from one society to another. But in order to believe in the real possibility of translation, the translator must believe in certain impossible theses.

The first false idea is the most indispensable. It is simply that the poem is not “translated,” but uncovered…just as the poem already exists, so does the right, faithful, and true translation already exist, needing only to be uncovered. The translated poem is inherent in the new language. It was be hewn out of the new language as…a figure locked in the recalcitrant rock is hewn out and revealed.

...There is another purpose in believing in the false proposition that a translation of a poem pre-exists. It touches on the mutual obligations of translator and poem. Is the translator the poem's tenant or its landlord? If the translator is the poem's tenant, the translator is obligated to the poem for its heat. If the translator is the poet's landlord, the poem is obligated to the translator for its shape. Now at this point one must stop and think sympathetically of the poet...Does the poet want to share ownership of the poem with the translator?

1 comment:

litlove said...

Love the note on character. I think Ozick hits it on the head. Its not about us being judgemental on the characters, it's about us becoming alive to their pain, even the futility and the unnecessariness of it - perhaps particularly that.