Monday, February 24, 2014

In translation

I'm dragging my feet on returning my about-to-be-overdue copy of In Translation, edited by Susan Bernofsky and Esther Allen, to the library. It's an excellent, wide-ranging selection and what perhaps strikes me most is how carefully--and excellently--the various essays are placed within the selection. As someone often, or perhaps always, challenged by arrangement, I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness and force of the sequencing. It's not a book to flip randomly through; instead, it should be read beginning to end and perhaps even read again end back to beginning, case made most powerfully in point by Lawrence Venuti's "Translating Jacopone da Todi: Archaic Poetries and Modern Audiences" just preceding Richard Sieburth's "'Ensemble discords': Translating the Music of Sceve's Delie." Venuti's essay is not easy going--written in full academic lingo with all its accumulation, repetition and obtusity, along with a strong dash of grumpiness--but its points on the difficulties (and often impossibilities) of translating archaic poetries illuminate and deepen in forward motion Sieburth's in-depth description/analysis of translating Sceve. While Sieburth's piece alone would still be amazing reading (I'm so grateful he doesn't dumb down his intensely technical, yet deeply felt, read of Sceve--I think I've been waiting for his ideas about Renaissance uses of the caesura for a very long time), it was enriched by the difficult essay preceding. While I didn't quite follow, and was at times actually suspicious, of the respective histories of Skelton, Jacopone and "Rap," perhaps the poignant futility of Venuti's translations prepared me for the dramatic beauty of Sieburth's.

And since you must be asking, "but what is the Renaissance take on the caesura?" here you go:

"This space in between, this respite from pain, this caesura, provides a duration of time--ranging from the shortest of moments to the longest of years--in which the sufferer is promised (erroneously, it turns out) some sort of solace…" (Sieburth, p. 212)

Anyway, I've already renewed the book once, and someone else is waiting for it, but I may have to accumulate the damn fine for a bit. (The NYPL obviously needs to order more than one copy.)

2 Comments:

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