Pedrolo Translation Project

15 Mar


For the past few weeks I have been involved with a digital project initiated by my colleague, Pedro Fernandez Dorado. Inspired by Catalan writer, Manuel de Pedrolo, the project, Temps Obert v 11.1, this week celebrates 50 posts since its inception.

Catalan original with some quick Catalan grammar explanations!

Catalan original with some quick Catalan grammar explanations!

Coincidentally, as well as being St Patrick’s Day here in Ireland, Monday March 17th is also Catalan Poetry on the Internet day. To honour the project, the artist behind its inception and Catalan Poetry on the Internet Day, Fernandez asked each of the six writers involved in Temps Obert v 11.1 if they would translate one of Pedrolo’s poems into their native language (Spanish, English, Swedish, Galician, Catalan and German). We all readily agreed, and so, every day from Monday 17th to Friday 21st, there will be a new translation of Ésser en el món (1949).

I was given the duty of creating the English translation. This translation will be used by the Swedish and German language writers to create their own versions of the text.

As poetry translation is something quite new to me, and because some of us on the Temps Obert project, including myself, have no knowledge of the Catalan language, I thought it would be an interesting side project to record the translation process and post it here.

The Process:

To begin, Fernandez gave me two copies of the poem – the original Catalan version and his draft of the Spanish translation. Having the Spanish version gave me clues about verb tenses and vocabulary, which was an incredible help. I referenced the Catalan version as much as possible, using the Spanish text primarily because of the lack of resources I could easily find on the internet – on some occasions, the Catalan word simply was not translated at all.

First draft with notes.

First draft with notes

I also chose to write the draft with pen and paper rather than online. This was purely a personal preference.

From the two versions of the poem I was given, I was able to draw up a very rough first draft.

The next step involved asking Fernandez for some basic Catalan lessons, especially for areas that involved words where the Spanish translation of a Catalan word was different to what I had found when looking for the English translation – e.g. sorrudes which was either translated as “small minded” (Catalan – English) or “frowning” (Catalan – Spanish – English). Or when the poet appeared to be playing with word meaning e.g. lentament, secreta… in the first stanza or membres carnívors in the third stanza.

While this helped with some areas – vocabulary primarily, but also for identifying prepositions and tenses – it also raised more questions. For example, in the sixth line of the second stanza, we find a l’hora. In Catalan there is also alhóra, which has equivalent differences in Spanish (al mismo tiempo and en el mismo tiempo). However, the poet is apparently infamous for playing with and breaking grammar rules, so how to transmit this in English?

These look angrier than the conversation! Getting to grips with double meanings and reflexive verbs.

Words, words, words. Getting to grips with double meanings and reflective verbs.

By combing through the language more meticulously, and being able to question each others reasons for choosing particular words or for structuring sentences in such a way, we were able to refine both translations

By the end of our session, progress had definitely been made, however, there were still some lines I felt were not coming together, so I took some photos and decided to take a step back from the poem until the following morning.

The original poem is online from today. The Spanish translation will be uploaded tomorrow and the final English language version will be uploaded on Wednesday, 19th March 2014, followed by the Galician, German and Swedish).






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