"Cardinal Points" litetrary journal: www.stosvet.net

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Yevgeniy Sokolovskiy


TRANSLATING MANDELSHTAM AND YEVTUSHENKO





OSIP MANDELSHTAM


Have been washing in the yard at night...

Reading this poem by O. Mandelshtam, I was struck by its images. (starscrude and flaring), (white salt upon an axe), the Earth that " " (exhibits sternness) all this captured my imagination.I, too, contemplated the night sky many times and sensed the bareness of existence, but was unable to express myself on paper.The only thing I could do was translate this poem to pay homage to its creator who accomplished that.
Thus, my major responsibility was to preserve the imagery. I tried to convey each image very precisely, making it as powerful as its original counterpart.Having finished the translation, I showed it to my good friend, D. Swartz, whom I consider to be the finest modern American poet.He admitted that he never encountered anything like it in English poetry, especially because of the works vivid imagery!I take it to be the best compliment to the poem and to the translator who was able to preserve its idiosyncrasies.


* * *

Have been washing in the yard at night
Overhead the stars were crude and flaring.
Like white salt upon an axe this light,
Water freezes in the brimful barrel.

Locked are the impenetrable gates,
And, in truth, the Earth exhibits sternness.
There is nothing, after all, as great
As the artists laboring in earnest.

In the barrel a resplendent star
Melts like salt, the freezing water darkens,
Death grows cleaner, hardship twice as hard,
And the Earthappalling in its starkness.

                                                                        1921

Dont make comparisons. A living man...

My favorite line in this poem is the first one: - - Dont make comparisons.Aliving man which carries a great humanistic message.Also, in the third stanza we witness the poets loyalty to his place of exile, Voronezh.As a result, the poet postpones his departure to the symbol of the world culture, the Tuscan hills.These two loves, one for the human being and the other one for Voronezh, expressed with an immense power, fascinated me enough to want to translate this work.
The feeling of love pervades the poem and I had to be able to convey it.I envisioned my poem as a portrait of a human being nearing his end, yet whose heart is filled with love.
Among technical problems, the most difficult one was recreating the alliteration , , , , that I accomplished through the interplay of plain complain.Besides, I had to render as eternal for the lack of an exact equivalent.In general, when I was translating I was afraid to turn into a pianist with a perfect, yet purely mechanical technique.I tried to preserve the special aura of the work, rather than sacrifice it to technical perfection.Is it possible to preserve this aura in the English language at all?I think it is possible, and would have never attempted the translation had I thought otherwise.Whether I was successful or not is now up to the reader to decide.


* * *

Dont make comparisons. A living man
Is plain unique.With loving apprehension,
I witnessed, not complaining, that the plains
Were uniform -and sensed the skys oppression.

I asked my servant-air, to embark
On bringing news or running random errands,
And planned then to depart, and sailed along an arc
Of the imagined, never started travels.

I seek the roads that offer me more sky,
Seized all the while by an apparent yearning
For these Voronezh hills, as I descry
The Tuscan hills that summon me, eternal.

                                                                        1937.Voronezh

YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO


And thus this happens to me now...


I always admired this poem of Yevgeny Yevtushenko since it subtly conveys the disharmony present in human relationships.However, in my translation I tried to preserve not only its meaning, but also its melody, even more so since it was set to music in one of my favorite movies The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!This combination of psychological penetration and musicality truly fascinated and intrigued me.
Quite surprisingly, the first line turned out to be the most difficult one.Being an introduction, it, at the same time, does not reveal anything about what is going on.I was able to adequately translate it using A. Veytsmans brilliant idea to begin the poem with the expression And thus, leaving the message of the next lines hidden.Among my other successes I can mention my precise translation of the difficult "" by instinct rather than by thought, and "" sad connectedness. The reader might notice that I tried to translate precisely, often imitating the very structure of sentences to preserve the intonation and melody of the poem.Meaning and melody governed my translation from beginning to end.


                                                                        To B. Ahmadulina

And thus this happens to me now
My friend would not stop by somehow,
While needlessly I meet with such
Who mean to me, in truth, not much.
And he meets some and is aware
Of the absurdness that is there;
That discord can not be explained
Meanwhile we both remain in pain.
And thus this happens to me now
A wrong one visits me somehow,
She clings to me till she is gone
And steals me from another one.
And that, another one, please tell me,
Whom she possesses to embrace?
If someone steals from her, she shall be
Just as abductive in that case.
She will not start with this, but rather
Shall vacillate indeed a lot,
And choose at last some distant other
By instinct rather than by thought.
Oh, how many ties and friendships
Are tinged with morbidness and tension!
I am indeed already raging!
Oh, someone come and break apart
The sad connectedness of strangers
And join together kindred hearts!

                                                                        1957