Translation lie

Standard

Another of those times we (or at least I) must accept the lie and limitations of translation. I can look at the Polish original and glean what I think the meaning and ultimate English-language translation should be, but ultimately it could go so many ways. I fed this infernal despair and frustration with translation years ago by immersing myself in language study so that I could create reasonable simulacra of translations. Never ended up particularly happy with these seeming facsimiles or even with comparative studies of existing translations.

Yet, at the same time, I want people to see and read these works, even in translation, because there are so many works in the world that just scream out to be read!

Gratitude (links to a different translation, which might be useful for comparison’s sake)
Wisława Szymborska
I owe a great deal
to those I do not love.

The relief with which I accept
they are dearer to someone else.

The joy that it is not I
who am wolf to their sheep

Peace unto me with them,
and freedom with them unto me,
and that is something that love cannot give
or contrive to take away.

I do not wait for them
from window to door.
patient
almost like a sundial,
I understand
what love does not understand,
I forgive
what love would never forgive.

From meeting to letter
passes not an eternity
but merely a few days or weeks.

Travels with them are always a success,
concerts heard,
cathedrals visited,
landscapes in sharp focus.

And when we are separated
by seven mountains and rivers
they are mountains and rivers
well known from the map.

It is thanks to them
that I live in three dimensions
in a space non-lyrical and non-rhetorical,
with a horizon real because movable.

They themselves do not know
how much they bring in empty hands –

“I owe them nothing,”
love would say
on this open question.

Here’s the original if you’d like to put your skills to work deciphering its code and interpreting its meaning and unveiling it in English as well.

Podziękowanie
Wisława Szymborska

Wiele zawdzięczam
tym, których nie kocham.

Ulgę, z jaką się godzę,
że bliżsi są komu innemu.

Radość, że nie ja jestem
wilkiem ich owieczek.

Pokój mi z nimi
i wolność mi z nimi,
a tego miłość ani dać nie może,
ani brać nie potrafi.

Nie czekam na nich
od okna do drzwi.

Cierpliwa
prawie jak słoneczny zegar,
wybaczam,
miłość nie wybaczyłaby nigdy.

Od spotkania do listu
nie wieczność upływa,
ale po prostu kilka dni albo tygodni.

Podróże z nimi zawsze są udane,
koncerty wysłuchane,
katedry zwiedzone,
krajobrazy wyraźne.

A kiedy nas rozdziela
siedem gór i rzek,
są to góry i rzeki
dobrze znane z mapy.

Ich zasługą,
jeżeli żyję w trzech wymiarach,
w przestrzeni nielirycznej i nieretorycznej
z prawdziwym, bo ruchomym horyzontem.

Sami nie wiedzą,
ile niosą w rękach pustych.
“Nic im nie jestem winna” –
powiedziałaby miłość
na ten otwarty temat.

Image (c) Stephen Donaghy

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