Friday, 20 June 2008

Lost in Translation

I am wondering as I am reading translations of poetry by Jacques Prévert and Georg Trakl how much of the original essence of a poem is lost in translation. In a sense the translator is writing the poetry him/herself just using a set of words gleened fronm the original work. For example when a friend who could read German translated one of Georg Trakl’s poems aloud he translated it word by word and it was very different to the translation in the book. In fact in these translations words have been changed for poetic effect. It makes me wonder if as a reader I would want a direct translation from the German or am I happy to read the artistic interpretation of the author’s work by another poet (in this case Robin Skelton). If I read ten different translations of the same poem done by different translators how different would they be from one another? Would I find myself reading ten completely different poems or would the essence of each poem be essentially the same? For me as a reader I think I might like to see a direct word for word translation as well, just to satisfy my artistic curiosity.

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