There are many ways to approach rendering text in a different language. From my perspective, there are three basic approaches: mechanical (computer), translation, and interpretive.
The first is now most often done by running the text through a computer program. The results of such mechanical translations have improved significantly since I first used one in the late ’60s. In many cases, a mechanical rendering is good enough to get the author’s (general) intent across. That is particularly true for factual text such as technical writing.
The second approach to rendering text, translation, is most often done by humans, sometimes with assistance from mechanical translation programs. This style of rendering tends to be fairly close to the original text in terms of the words used. Sometimes when rendering poetry there is a similarity of rhythm and rhyme. However, often there is a better correspondence between the author’s intent and that expressed by the translator since a good translator will attempt to use words that express the translator’s understanding of the author’s intent. That is, there is some interpretive work done.
The third approach in rendering text, interpretive, provides a result that is furthest from the original text as rendered by mechanical translation. Here the translator attempts to understand the author’s intent and to render that understanding in original form. Here the translator’s intuition comes strongly into play and two translators working in this approach will often result in very different translations. On the other hand, if the interpreter/translator has a good grasp of the original author’s style and usage as well as a sense of poetry, a truly poetic and in a certain sense original piece will result.
My approach is generally speaking the latter, that is, interpretive. I do not judge the work of others, especially if I have not discussed a rendition with the translator. In my opinion, it comes down to a matter of taste on the part of the reader.
The renderings below are examples of a poem by Alejandra Pizarnik, original text in Spanish:.
Outside sun, nothing more than a sun, but, men look then sing. I know nothing of the sun, only an angel’s melody and the fiery exhortation of the final breath. I shout ’til dawn when death settles, nude, in my shadow I weep beneath my name I toss kerchiefs at the night as ships thirsting for reality dance with me. I conceal nails to mock my suffering dreams. Outside sun, I, ashen.
Translation: Beto ‘Riginale
20 February 2018
Outside there’s sun. It’s nothing more than a sun but the men watch it and then they sing. I don’t know about the sun. I know about the angel’s melody and the hot sermon of the last wind I cry until dawn when death settles naked in my shadow. I cry beneath my name. I wave handkerchiefs at night and thirsty boats dance with me. I hide nails to mock my sick dreams. Outside there’s sun. I was dressed in ashes.
Outside there is sun. It's just a sun but men look at it and then they sing. I do not know about the sun. I know the melody of the angel and the hot sermon of the last wind. I can scream until dawn When death comes to rest naked in my shadow I cry under my name. I wave handkerchiefs at night and ships thirsty for reality dance with me I hide nails to mock my sick dreams. Outside there is sun. I dress in ashes.
Afuera hay sol. No es más que un sol pero los hombres lo miran y después cantan. Yo no sé del sol. Yo sé la melodía del ángel y el sermón caliente del último viento. Sé gritar hasta el alba cuando la muerte se posa desnuda en mi sombra. Yo lloro debajo de mi nombre. Yo agito pañuelos en la noche y barcos sedientos de realidad bailan conmigo. Yo oculto clavos para escarnecer a mis sueños enfermos. Afuera hay sol. Yo me visto de cenizas.
Poesia completa: Alejandra Pizarnik
© 2000 Myriam Pizarnik
© 2000, 2016 Penguin Random House
Grupo Editorial, S. A. U.
Travessera de Grácia, 47-49