Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Johannes Göransson Interview: Question 5

RK: Translation's always a difficult, tricky and delicate matter. A piece of any language of any complexity simply can't be "brought across" exactly as it is in the original. Since you've translated other writers as well as later-career Aase Berg can you tell us what was particularly and uniquely difficult about translating "With Deer?" What sorts of tough decisions did you encounter and what sorts of compromises did you have to make? And because of such compromises what hasn't come across in the English as much and/or as well as you'd like?

JG: On translation: A lot of people in the US have problems with translations. They're scared that they're not getting the original. But you're never getting the original. No ultimate reading is available. A lot of folks have trouble with translated poems because they sound strange. Of course they do, they are foreign. This foreigness is key I think, because it reveals the artificiality of all language and literature.

Part of what makes Aase's poetry great is the way she makes the Swedish seems foreign, she "minoritizes" it to use Deleuze and Guattari's terminology. The most obvious example she does this is by doing strange neologisms which make the reader aware of how weird the regular compounds words are: marsvin = guinea pigs = (night)mare pigs; nackrosen = water lily but also nude rose (with all of its fetal associations).

People in Sweden always say: Oh, how could you possibly translate Aase Berg, it's impossible. The reason for this is all the intense wordplay and such, but that's precisely what I love about translating Aase Berg. It asks me to rethink English entirely. It refuses to be merely transferred from one language to the next but insists on transforming the English in the process. It is very demanding and very rewarding.

(to see the rest of the interview look in archives--dec 2008-- or, more easily, click on one of the labels, like Johannes Goransson, at the bottom of this post)

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