What does translation involve? Is it only rendering of a text? I think not. The main thing is the negotiation between two cultures. Poetry itself is the berth of estrangement (SF being the other branch) and translation, when it estranges by allowing the ‘foreign’ to have a palpable presence in the text, further makes it new. But does this sacrifice simplicity, transparency and readability? Poetry often asks for the servitude of the self and translation for the capitulating of one voice to another. But can this result in a poem true to its origins, without the necessary connection to the writer’s self and experience?
Vasco Graça Moura was one of the translator-poets that made me realize for the first time that translating was one of the hardest things to do. I know that from personal experience...He also showed me that translation is possible, i.e., rendering a text into a another language is like a puzzle waiting to be cracked, like a math problem. Sometimes all that is needed is inspiration.
In a certain Summer, a long time ago, I'd read so much German poetry and prose that I thought only German utterances would come out of my mouth once I tried to speak something out loud. During that Summer I was reading (and translating) more and more verse at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian's Gardens. I lived in a perfect trance - I don't think anyone ever had such a wonderful youth as I had - of poetry. I discovered many new poets. I'd been reading Hölderlin, Rilke, Benn, Goethe, Eich, Enzensberger, Freiligrath (I still remember almost by heart his "Hamlet": "Deutschland ist Hamlet! - Ernst und stumm in seinen Toren jede Nacht..."), Gleim, Grass, Handke, Heine, Heym, Marti, Kunze, etc. Celan had not been discovered by me yet). I'd always read a great deal of German Poetry, and I was just in the right mood at the time. There were the Gulbenkian Gardens, the sound of the birds, and I was young, and I fancied myself very much in love with my future wife, and this flood of marvelous poetry washing over me was almost unbearable. I was writing in translation reams and reams of verse through it all. It was in one of those German poetry binges that I discovered Vasco Graça Moura's poetry in translation. I bought that book recently at Feira do Livro de Lisboa 2015 ("50 Poemas de Gottfried Benn/50 Poems by Gottfried Benn") and browsing it in 2015 what wonderful memories it brought me. I can still remember reading some of the poems from the book out loud...
This conference comemorating one year of VGM's passing, made me travel back in time. It was wonderful to hear stories from the panelists regarding his take on life, society, literature, etc. Pacheco Pereira's and Eduardo Lourenço's recollections about VGM were the ones I liked the most.
Shakespeare said, "But thy eternal summer shall not fade". That particular Summer will not surely fade in my mind as well...
VGM is no longer physically with us, but his poetry is for all eternity.
Ticiano de Vasco Graça Moura
eu desespero nos museus: há sempre
gente a mais e quadros realmente
bons a menos, mas nos melhores há sempre
uma miraculosa descoberta, passeando
no Louvre, uma vez, de mãos dadas, e a custo
atravessando magotes excitados de turistas,
disse à minha mulher que estava ali, à nossa
frente, uma prova na pintura italiana
do século XVI, a evidência de que só
o ticiano se importava com as mulheres
de maneira ostensiva e radical.
in "Poesia: 1997-2000" by Vasco Graça Moura, Quetzal, 2000
My own attempt at translating this in 2015 looks somethjng like this:
Ticiano von Vasco Graça Moura
In den Museen packt mich die Verzweiflung. Immer
gibt es zu viele Leute und zu wenig wirklich gute
Gemälde. Aber bei den besten gibt es immer tölle
Entdeckungen zu machen. Jüngst, bei einem Bummel
im Louvre, Hand in Hand, und nur mit Mühe
uns einen Weg durch viele eifrige Touristen bahnend,
sprach ich zu meiner Frau: es gebe da vor uns ein Merkmal in der Malerei der Italiener
des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts. Offensichtlich habe sich nur Ticiano für Frauen interessiert
so richting ausgefällig radikal.
The rendering of the poem in its entirety is still in the works...
NB: SF = Speculative Fiction.