I mentioned a couple of times how difficult it is to translate things from one language to another, not because I have done it (not since I was a t Uni) but because I often read books in translation and a couple of times have been a little disappointed – my worst disappointment when I reread one of my favourite books by Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘The Master and Margarita’ translated by someone other than Michael Glenny… it was terrible! Michael Glenny was an amazing translator… his son Misha is a well-known journalist and writer too. Michael Valentine Guybon Glenny was born in London in 1927; he was a man who led a fascinating life, he served in the army, he was probably in British intelligence and he was a travelling salesman for Wedgwood china! He was the most gifted translator of many Russian authors apart from Bulgakov, including Aleksander Solzhenitsyn.
I have been reading quite a fewIcelandic authors too, in translation, obviously! Viktor Arnar Ingolfssón, is one of my favourites and I have read his books by different translators, but the couple I really enjoy are Andrew Cauthery and Björg Árnadóttir; the language just flowed and I was carried along on the narrative without anything seemingly awkward or discordant.
I was at my French conversation class this afternoon, and we were rambling on as we do, and commented on the lovely weather, but were thinking ahead towards autumn and someone quoted Keats’ famous line ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ We wondered how on earth anyone would translate it… and I foolishly said I might give it a go. I had not read it for a long time, and on doing so found it has three verses… well I’m not going to attempt all three, but I will have a go at the first one… and then I will give it to our class leader and see what she makes of my efforts!
John Keats – To AutumnI Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells. II Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep, Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook; Or by a cyder-press, with patient look, Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours. III Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, - While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue; Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft; And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.