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THE TRANSLATION IMPULSE GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK i would like to reflect in general terms, and specifically in terms of manifesting certain aspects of my own psyche, on the translation impulse itself. Translation, like travel, broadens the mind. It frequently allows one a closer examination of chosen texts than is likely, or even possible, by means of ordinary reading experience. If one reads a text for its meaning, for its entertainment value, or for its beauty, that is one thing; if one peruses it and if one absorbs it with a view to re-creating that text in another language —with all of the idioms, colors, sounds, and constructions available in that other language—such an experience is a different matter entirely. By its very removal from one language and culture to another, if successful , it becomes another thing, another voice, another reality, something that did not exist before. However faithful one might be to the original, the result is bound to be something new. As such, the exercise is complementary to one’s own creative writing. In some cases, let us say Pound’s The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter, a translation or a version can equal or surpass the translator’s own original efforts. The bulk of my translation work has been into Irish. Some of the work—The March Hare, stories by Pádraic Breathnach, and Night Ructions, tales by Dara Ó Conaola—has been from Irish to English. I like to believe that some of the work that has been translated into Irish creates a frisson or electric current, which may give a certain buzz or new life, even, indeed, a new direction or potential to the language, though it must be said that we Irish do not seem to expose ourselves to literature in translation quite as much as certain other cultures seem to do. Languages and literatures need to extend themselves in order to grow, and translation is one of the main devices that can produce that electric energy necessary to growth, whether hybrid or natural. Sometimes the growth can be startling, as when one translates more than texts and words—that is to say when one translates a whole new form into Irish, with THE TRANSLATION IMPULSE 20 the aesthetics and philosophy underlying that form. I intend to continue translating haiku into Irish as a spiritual as well as a literary discipline. My hope is that if it hasn’t done so already, the form will graft itself, so to speak, and become an accepted, established component of the Irishlanguage literary canon and not perceived as something merely fashionable , or flimsy, exotic, gimmicky, cultish, arcane. The translation impulse is, therefore, largely one of finding pleasure, taking pleasure, and, one hopes, sharing pleasure. Let us take a free-style haiku in English by Evan Mahl, published by the Spring Street Haiku Group in New York: the statue of St. Francis covered with wire to keep away the birds It’s quite a good one, I think, combining thoughtful observation with a kind of double take that sharpens our senses. My fairly basic translation— and I’m sure other versions just as good, if not better, could be arrived at— goes simply like this: dealbh Naomh Froinsias clúdaithe le sreang in aghaidh na n-éan The haiku captures more than the visible moment. We are, of course, reminded of the gentle friar on whom the birds of the air alighted, so much at one with nature was he. Oneness with nature is a key concept of the world of zen-haiku and is one of the reasons it has become so popular, worldwide, in our ecologically troubled times. My translation is no more than mún dreoilín san fharraige (a wren’s pee in the sea) compared to such substantial literary translations as Ó Doibhlin ’s Pascal or de Brún’s Homer and Dante, but I hope that it—and hundreds more—will find a niche somewhere. I could have enjoyed the above haiku and left it at that. But my impulse was to share the pleasure with those who may not subscribe to haiku journals and might otherwise not see it at all. The...


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