house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Patient Patient

Surprising news: 'The English Patient' will be re-published in Romania this spring. I translated it fourteen years ago. It took me months - slow, careful, lovely, low-paid work. Fitting words together, reciting aloud, cutting, changing, editing until a sort of music became apparent beyond each sentence. I longed for this languid rhythm, because I had found it in the original prose, and wanted to give it back.

I worked mainly between 5am and baby Nikita's first howl of the day. I worried a huge gray dictionary to shreds. I never called Michael Ondaatje because I was too shy. If I had questions, I went back to reading until the book gave me the answers. Some answers were found in dreams, walks in the park, other books or my own limited experience.

I am re-reading now and my favourite bit remains the song I had to translate:

'We'll bathe at Brighton;
The fish we'll frighten
When we're in.
Your bathing suit so thin
Will make the shellfish grin
Fin to fin.'

This became (with blatant disregard to rhythm or rhyme pattern):

La Brighton amandoi ne vom scalda
Toti pestii impreuna-i vom speria
Cand vom intra.
Costumul tau subtire de-l zareste
Tot racul va surade strengareste
Din cleste-n cleste.

Of course I'd do it differently now. Maybe:

La Brighton amandoi ne vom scalda,
Intrand cu mare zarva vom speria
Vreun peste.
Costumul tau subtire de-l zareste
Tot racul va surade strengareste
Din cleste-n cleste.

Just another kind of imperfection. Luckily, only my Romanian readers will see all of it and since they're both family members, I think I might get away with it!


At 6 February 2011 at 12:02 , Blogger Magnus said...

I remember those pre-dawn hours you'd dissapear into your books and tap away:) A labour of love - to be enjoyed by Rom speakers the world over. Now do one for us anglo-dorks, something we can treasure for ever


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