Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Translating Myself?

In a review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Translating Myself and Others (TLS, 8/12/22), Polly Barton singles out an essay on the Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci’s Letters From Prison. “She notes that the Italian word traduzione refers not solely to the movement of texts between tongues; it also carries a secondary, bureaucratic meaning, the physical transfer of detained individuals. From this she discovers that the phrase “traduzione ordinaria” (“ordinary translation”), which regularly occurs in Gramsci’s letters, also refers to a specific kind of forced movement.” Lahiri, whose stories appear in The New Yorker, moved to Italy where she learned to write in Italian and translate her own work into English. Her Dove mi trovo became Whereabouts. Beckett, of course, wrote En attendant Godot before translating it into English as Waiting for Godot. Fin de partie became Endgame. Lahiri’s alterego also appears in her stories about life in Rome, where in reality she’s a familiar figure on the Janiculum. You can read Swan’s Way in the versions by F. Scott Moncrieff or Lydia Davis The Brothers Karamazov in the early twentieth century version by Constance Garnett or in the recent translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Stated simply language is rich, full of innuendo and highly personal to every culture. Amour and Amore are not as fungible as the words might suggest. It isn’t always a grammatical designation that even begins to define a sensibility.

read "God Bless Pig Latin America" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "La-La (Means I Love You)" by The Delfonics

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