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Письмо N 6

Дата: 2001 February 10
От: Mark Hooker <mthooker@indiana.edu>
Кому: Владимир Свиридов <selim@freemail.ru>
Тема: Южцы и северянники

Dear Dr. Sviridov,

"Рассеянный профессор" is "absent-minded professor" in English. A classic literary stereotype, which I sometimes resemble myself.

I agree that a "literal literary text" is indeed an oxymoron. What I would like to see is a literary text that is somewhat more literal than the ones that currently exist. I don't mind if the text is pretty, so long as the idea is in tact. Giving the Orcs клешни and чешуя instead of когты and fowl jowls is going overboard.

VS> which end of the spectrum is preferable? I tend towards literariness
VS> (soft end of the spectrum) while you do towards literalness (hard end).
VS> Such a choice surely is a matter of one's taste.

Quite well put. I can agree with that.

VS> But perhaps your perception of Gruzberg translation, as keeping more
VS> "englishness", would be far less positive had you possibility to get
VS> into skin of Russian born reader who loves his language and feels its
VS> music

My perception of a well-turned Russian phrase is by definition less refined than yours, because as you note:

VS> (Alas! There are too many Russians now who cannot be considered as
VS> fluent in Russian).

The same can, unfortunately, be said for many Americans. Also, unfortunately for me, many of my Russian language role models were not of the highest literary quality. They were, nonetheless, interesting and intelligent people.

I get the same types of arguments from professional translators into English who dislike my translations as being too literal. At the same time, I get compliments from readers who find them imaginative and refreshing. When I write (original things or translations), I always keep my eye on the intended audience, and cater to what I perceive as their tastes.

VS> Dear Mark, I hope I'll not wound your feelings too deeply with saying:
VS> "it wouldn't"?

That's why I don't work into Russian and get help when I have to write articles in Russian for publication. It was really a loaded question. I never get comments on my подстрочники. I found you comments interesting, because your reactions could be applied to the original text by a native English literary critic as well. For example:

VS> 1) "Велик" is poorly combined with "лязг" since the adjective
VS> expresses size or scale while describing sound demands more specific
VS> characteristic.

VS> 2) "При их встрече". "Встреча" in Russian is coloured positively or
VS> at least neutral. The right word here should bring some negative
VS> charge (e.g. "столкновение")

These are also valid comments about the English original.

VS> 3) "Оружие" is practically never used in plural, and there are no
VS> apparent reasons to do so.

I made it plural because of лязг which is the sound that two metal objects make when they strike one another. All the examples in the dictionary for лязг have plural modifiers. I see now that its power as a collective plural is too strong to make that a viable construction.

VS> 4) "Белая ярость" is not a set expression in Russian and due to this
VS> fact too readily induces undesirable associations with widely known
VS> "белая горячка" (Delirium tremens).

"White fury" is not a set expression in English either. It is idiosyncratic to Tolkien. I had not thought about interference from "белая горячка", but see your point.

VS> 5) "Севернники" is unpronounceable for a Russian.

"Севернники" was built on the model of adjective ending in -Н- + ик, which is used for naming people who have the quality of the adjective. Checking my model, I see that it should not be a double Н, but a single Н. Compare: пленник, пожарник, конник, отпускник карманник, высотник, лучник, where the implied collocation is пленный человек etc. I can easily see the botanical associations in "Конопляник" = "заросли конопли" and in серебряник, both of which are based on the adjective forms: конопляный, серебряный.The effect that I was looking for was северный человек > северник. Tolkien's original North-men is also a little bit strange, but transparent to the reader.

VS> 7) As for "Южцы", this word sounds more naturally for Russian ear,
VS> though it is a neologism in the same degree as "Северянники". But
VS> "Южцы" brings a shade of some humoristic or diminutive meaning.
VS> (this is not due to any rule, but simply my feeling). Whether this
VS> is acceptable for description of Haradrim, only delicate linguistic
VS> intuition can prompt.

I had not counted on the "humoristic or diminutive meaning". I was looking for something that was entirely new, which is why I rejected Южак > Южаки, which sounds somewhat more pejorative to me.

VS> 8) "рыцарство" in modern Russian means firstly a way of behavior
VS> (cf "благородство"), and only after that is understood as a military
VS> troops.

The same in English. There is a verse: "In days of old, when men were bold and knighthood was in flower" that uses that meaning and it is the one that most native speakers think of first have. Tolkien's use is indiosyncratic, but transparent (with a little after thought).

VS> 9) The word "лютый" is very negatively coloured in Russian. It is
VS> used in combinations: "лютый зверь", "лютый враг", "лютый
VS> мороз". For "лютовать" Ozhegov's dictionary gives
VS> "зверствовать". So, applying this word to those who stand
VS> for Good is erroneous.

The same in English. We also say "bitter enemy", "bitter cold", however, "to be bitter" does not turn into Ozhegov's "зверствовать", which I missed, so it may be over the top. "To be bitter" is more like "to be very resentful". Perhaps I should have said: озлоблены.

VS> 10) "перед их яростным, как лесной пожар, натиском". "Натиск"
VS> means an action by force, pressure. But forest fire does not press - it
VS> frightens and stings.

You've never fought a forest fire I see.

VS> С громовым лязгом сошлись они. Но светлая ярость северян
VS> пылала ярче, и воинство их со своими длинными копьями было
VS> опытнее и беспощаднее. Их было меньше, но они прошли сквозь
VS> югиптян как раскаленный нож сквозь масло.

1) I like "С громовым лязгом". It has a nice "ring" to it.

2) "светлая ярость" is full of suitable implications of goodness.

3) I did not like "беспощаднее" for the same reasons that you did not like "лютый". It seems a much too negative quality for the good guys. Tolkien hammers on the quality of mercy in his description of the relationship between Frodo and Gollum.

4) I like "югиптян", but would not want to show that to an Egyptian who spoke Russian. That was why I went for something really new in my version. Tolkien's name has absolutely no associations behind it for me.

5) I like the image of "как раскаленный нож сквозь масло" for the same reason that I like Gruzberg's Hobbit jumping out of his skin. It is such an "English" expression. I was tempted to put that in myself, but rejected it because I thought it would never fly for my audience: you.

This was an interesting experiment. I learned a lot.

VS> Yes, I agree, this is an apparent mistake, and not the only mistake
VS> in M&K. But again I stand for exactly the same point: one has firstly
VS> to understand a sense of sentence and then try to translate the sense
VS> exactly - even, may be, in perfectly different wording. This is true
VS> (including "perfectly different wording") even for technical
VS> translations which I mostly deal with. M&K try to express the essence
VS> but make some errors; others try to make no errors but lose the
VS> substance.

I agree on this one as well. I rather believe that our positions are closer than they seem from the dialog that is going on. Perhaps we are suffering from what Churchill termed "two people separated by a common language". No matter how familiar the words seem, there is always that slightest little difference that trips you up. And he was talking about British and American English. We're trying to discuss the fine points of Russia and English, which is a lot harder. You can have an equally intense discussion of style and form between two native speakers. It's like the song about you say tomato and I say tomato, where the sound of the A is different in each repeat.

VS> It seems more naturally to me to associate the envelope (an external
VS> form) rather with literalness and its content (the gist of the matter)
VS> - with literariness.

Sorry. A usage from linguistics, where the envelope is the consonant shape of a word, which is the most stable part. The vowels change all the time. To be literal, the vowels have to be the same.

VS> rereading once more your description of Alexandrova's contribution in
VS> Gruzberg's translation I've been visited by one fun passage: camel is
VS> a well edited horse. In contrast to your opinion I believe that the
VS> text has become even worse after her editing.

I was not referring just to the one phrase under discussion in the article. I agree with you that her changes are for the worse. She does have her moments, but they are few and far between. I would have much preferred Gruzberg less Aleksandrova for the CD-ROM, even with the obvious problems with the original Gruzberg text. I really like your "camel is a well edited horse". I'll have to remember that.

Regards, Mark

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