September 16, 2006

if a boat is not a boat

I was re-reading some of Yves Bonnefoy's poems, for other reasons, and came upon this interesting essay by Hoyt Rogers on Bonnefoy and translation. The problem discussed begins with the translation of 'boat' as one of Bonnefoy's fundamental metaphors. For he uses barque not bateau, and that makes all the difference.

Bonnefoy says: "The more a translation interprets a poem by making it explicit, the more it reflects the translator, with all his or her differences from the author. But to be truly faithful, we have to be free. And do we have any freedom if we are not entitled, every now and then, to leap ahead of ourselves as we read? To translate does not mean to repeat: it means to be won over; and that only happens when we put our own thoughts to the test as we proceed."