Sunday, November 25, 2007

La Dernière Translation

Not long ago, I read Clifford E. Landers’ book Literary Translation: A Practical Guide. I will write more about the book itself in upcoming posts, but for now, here is a poem included in it:

La Dernière Translation
by Millôr Fernandes
translated by Clifford E. Landers

When an old translator dies
Does his soul, alma, anima,
Free now of its wearisome craft
Of rendering
Go straight to heaven, ao céu,
al cielo, au ciel, zum Himmel,
Or to the hell – Hölle – of the great
Or will a translator be considered
In the minute hierarchy of the divine
Neither fish, nor water, ni posson ni l’eau
Nem água, nem piexe, nichts, assolutamente
What of the essential will this
mere intermediary of semantics, broker
of the universal Babel, discover?
Definitive communication, without words?
Once again the first word?
Will he learn, finally!,
Whether HE speaks Hebrew
Or Latin?
Or will he remain infinitely
In the infine
Until he hears the Voice, Voz, Voix, Voce,
Stimme, Vox,
Of the Supreme Mystery
Coming from beyond
Flying like a birdpássarouccelapájarovogel
Addressing him in…
And giving at last
The translation of Amen?