Collected Poems (1950-2011)/Paolo Totaro
There is a saying 'Translations are like women, the beautiful ones aren't faithful and the faithful ones aren't beautiful.' A clever quip, no doubt, but true. At least about translations. And, in particular, about translations of poetry since words rarely have single exact equivalents in anoth~uage. Rather, each word, apart from its objective denotation, carries myriad\ connotations, subtle feelings which it evokes and it is, in fact, these very feelings, these subtle suggestions which are the essence of poetry. Likewise, irony and parody depend on social context and are thus located firmly in the language of a poem's first conception. This means that achieving equivalents across languages requires particular creativity. The very sounds of the words chosen for a translation must be carefully considered as they too have different connotations across languages. They must create the same soothing or jarring, pleasing or disturbing effect as that rendered in the original text. Of course any translation must always be a balance between beauty and faithfulness - hence the above saying-but given the particular challenges which it poses, can such a balance ever be achieved in the translation of poetry? In fact, many argue that poetry is simply untranslatable. It must be re-written. But if it is re-written, can it truly be said to be a translation or is it a new creation, no longer belonging to the original author?
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