Friday, March 15, 2013

Jabberwocky en Espanol

So. I am interested in the translation of fiction and poetry, and for no particular reason recently I was thinking about the poem Jabberwocky, which has a beautiful rhythm and assonance and is made up of  about 3/4 nonsense words.

Apparently it has been widely translated. Here's a webpage with twenty-nine different languages represented (though admittedly two of the languages are Esperanto and Klingon). Also, here are two essays about translating the poem, into French and German and Russian respectively (the first is particularly good).

It's the hardest poem I can think of to faithfully translate, since the mechanics of it are so involved with both the association of words with sounds NEAR the ones used, and the rhythm of a particularly nursery rhyme style of English. I read the Spanish ones, since that's a language I can speak, and El Chacaloco was my favorite, since it seemed to capture the rhythm and whimsy, but it also takes a lot of liberties and creative leaps. Just looking between the versions available... there's almost nothing the same about them. Even the name of the monster (Chacaloco, Galimatazo, Jerigondor, Dragoban (forgive me for not doing he accent marks and n~s correctly, I'm kind of lazy tonight)).

Of course, the obvious application here is made up terms in science fiction and fantasy, which, while not as numerous, rely on a lot of the same mechanics as "'twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe". The word "hobbit" appears to have gotten an occasional workover as it's traveled around the globe.  Often there's a word in your target language that's CLOSE, but doesn't carry all the connotations you want. "Shokujinki", for example is probably easiest to translate as "ghoul", since their main foodstuff is human corpses and they look rotten and monstrous (sometimes), but they're also the souls of dead people who are punished for their specific transgressions, so they're more technically "ghosts" or cursed spirits. Or depending on whether you're trying to hold on to the feel of the original language, do you just use the original word and add a parenthetical note that didn't appear in the original.

I dunno. Case by case, I guess. 

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