quinta-feira, dezembro 22, 2016

Re-Imagining Rilke's Metaphor in Portuguese: "O Livro das Imagens" by Rilke, Maria João Costa Pereira



Published 2005.


One of main reasons for having enrolled in German classes was just to be able to read Rilke in the original. That's how much I loved him. I still do. “Das Buch der Bilder” (The book of Images/O Livro das Imagens) was the book that showed me, back in the day, I still had a long road ahead me before I could say I was able to read Rilke in German. Since then I’ve read lots of translations and also the original many times over. The bilingual translation to which I keep coming back is the one I just re-read, Maria João Costa Pereira’s. This is the one that I always have close at hand me (I’m not sure which translation I like best when it comes to English; Stephen Mitchell's translation, which for some reason unknown to me is the most famous Rilke translation is just so uninspired and dull). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. “Understanding” Rilke first-hand, so to speak, needs a strong command of German. There’s no way around it. Those who feel like they have their whole life ahead of them to reflect and ponder and wait for the questions to reveal their true meanings and for the fruit to ripen on the tree-- as opposed to the adult who feel like they have no time to ponder, have already wasted the years as it is, and would really, really like to just grab the fruit and run with it however green and sour it may be. A friend of mine rejects Rilke, saying he’s phony. I don't get that feeling at all. I believe, it’s today's generation of so-called modern poets that strike me as somehow faking it. I think Rilke's spirituality, especially as expressed in “The Book of Images”, “Das Stunden-Buch” (The Book of Hours) and “Geschichte vom lieben Gott” (Stories of God), is rather simple and heartfelt. I have engaged Rilke in reading and writing over more than thirty years, through translations of his work and poems of my own, but none of it has managed to lay him to rest in my soul. The whole-wide world is here to be felt and I’m in the world to feel it. I can feel it because of my awareness of transiency, i.e., because I know death. Death is therefore Rilke’s theme of themes. But for him (and for me) feeling is not enough; Rilke must also say. In saying, the rest of us is given to understand what is to be felt. In this way, the Rilke’s work extends my consciousness. I've always maintained that poetry is, essentially, untranslatable, but it’s also wonderfully democratic. Everyone can have a shot at it, everyone can make of it what they will. Strangely, it offers me the kind of approach I should take to all poetry. I don’t mean that poetry shouldn't or can't be translated. You couldn’t more far from the truth. It's just that what I mean by 'translation' should be understood as “re-working” or “re-imagining”. 


Using the original as a template, the translator should strive to preserve as much of the language as is consistent with the poet's intent, as the translator understands it. Language, any language, but Rilke’s German in particular, comes with an enormous ballast in tow. I’ve said elsewhere, Rilke and Celan have reinvented German, but it’s especially true when it comes to Rilke. In a poem, where the poet has weighed and chosen every word with care, judging its strength, its undercurrents and innuendos and reverberations in that language, to “exactly” re-imagine the poem in another language is, I believe, an impossible task. Maria João Costa Pereira’s definite translation of the “Das Buch der Bilder” had more to do than simply choosing synonyms and preserve the order and sense of the original poem which is what we see all of time when it comes to rendering Rilke into another language. Maria João Costa Pereira was able to imagine how Rilke would have written the poems had he been writing in Portuguese. In effect, by translating Rilke she made new poems. Maria João Costa Pereira’s charged the battery; she did not drain it. To accomplish this, she ripped out the innards of Rilke’s poems and rebuilt them, i.e., the whole, the unity and coherence of text and communication, cannot be re-expressed in a different language without first breaking the poems apart. That’s what Maria João Costa Pereira was divinely able to do. If she were still among us, after all these years, I think this would be the time I’d write to her just to tell her how her rendering of “The Book of Images” into Portuguese changed my life and the way I read and “understand” Rilke in German. 

My favourite poem from the collection: Der Lesende (The Reader), first the portuguese rendering, next the original in German:




"The Book of Images" is imbued with a deep sense of religiosity and spirituality. Every time I re-read Rilke I discover an affluence of images that expands my understanding of the divine beyond cliches that cannot satisfy me. "The Book of Images" is not "Letters to a Young Poet". What I'm able to glimpse from the "Book of Images" is a sense of the Divine with a capital D. For several weeks, I've used Rilke's poems, like Psalms, for morning and evening prayer (e.g., "Die Blinde"/The Blind. "Requiem"). I have found in them an extraordinary sacred release. I've also found that they highlight my churchgoing rather than calling me away from it. I'm quite familiar with Rilke's anti-Christianity "leanings". When I'm reading Rilke the word that comes to mind is instead "spirituality." Death is as important as life, in fact, it's a continuum. In this day and age, reading Rilke is something of an anachronism. Rilke is for me the reward that keeps on giving. The more I read Rilke, the more I've found it hard at first to even understand, let alone put into words, what it was I regard so mesmerizing about him. It’s only in later life, as I’ve come not just to understand myself better, but to mature into the person I didn’t know I would become, that I can sketch some of the reasons. The shift comes from within, i.e., from the unconscious, rather than from the processed conscious. When I tend to over-think something it spoils the effect. I much prefer to be waiting to be changed by events. That's what's at the heart of a(n) creator/artist. The difficulty of dealing with what’s taken in can be what pushes the creator to create in some way – in order to put the baffling stuff back outside again, in one form or another.

Sem comentários: