Lost & Found in Translation


Translators are my literary heros.  They work as hard as authors to convey the beauty and meaning. When working with my German and Dutch translators, I realized that their job was actually more difficult and complicated than mine. Translators’ names aren’t on the cover of novels, and sadly, sometimes their names are not listed at all. If you are interested in what goes into a translation, please read Astrid Arz’s essay ‘Moonlight On My Mind’ on the challenges of translating Moonlight in Odessa. http://jskesliencharles.com/odessa-on-my-mind/

Below is a poem by Anna Akhmatova that I used in my novel Moonlight in Odessa. The differences between these versions are stunning. Same poem, a different way of looking at the content, rhythm, and symbols.

He loved three things in life:
Evensong, white peacocks
And old maps of America.
He hated it when children cried,
He hated tea with raspberry jam
And woman’s hysterics.
. . . and I was his wife.
Translation by Judith Hemschemeyer

Three things enchanted him:
white peacocks, evensong,
and faded maps of America.
He couldn’t stand bawling brats,
or raspberry jam with his tea,
or womanish hysteria.
. . . And he was tied to me.
Translation by Stanley Kunitz

He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.
He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.
… And he married me.
Translation by D M Thomas

He loved three things, alive:
white peacocks, songs at eve,
and antique maps of America.
Hated when children cried,
and raspberry jam with tea,
and feminine hysteria.
…and he had married me.
Translation by A.S. Kline

He loved these three things
White peacocks, evening songs,
And worn-out maps of America.
No crying of children,
No raspberry tea,
No women’s hysterics…
I was married to him.
From Russia Now website, no translator listed

He did love three things in this world:
Choir chants at vespers, albino peacocks,
And worn, weathered maps of America.
And he did not love children crying,
Or tea served with raspberries,
Or woman’s hysteria.
…And I was his wife.
From About.com, no translator listed

He loved three things above all else —
White peacocks, evensong
And faded maps of America.
He hated it when children cried,
He hated tea with raspberry jam, and female hysterics
… And I was his wife.
Translation by Diane Feinstein

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