Surprised in Translation
For Mary Ann Caws—noted translator of surrealist poetry—the most appealing translations are also the oddest; the unexpected, unpredictable, and unmimetic turns that translations take are an endless source of fascination and instruction. Surprised in Translation is a celebration of the occasional and fruitful peculiarity that results from some of the most flavorful translations of well-known authors. These translations, Caws avers, can energize and enliven the voice of the original.
In eight elegant chapters Caws reflects on translations that took her by surprise. Caws shows that the elimination of certain passages from the original—in the case of Stéphane Mallarmé translating Tennyson, Ezra Pound interpreting the troubadours, or Virginia Woolf rendered into French by Clara Malraux, Charles Mauron, and Marguerite Yourcenar—often produces a greater and more coherent art. Alternatively, some translations—such as Yves Bonnefoy’s translations of Shakespeare, Keats, and Yeats into French—require more lines in order to fully capture the many facets of the original. On other occasions, Caws argues, a swerve in meaning—as in Beckett translating himself into French or English—can produce a new text, just as true as the original.
Imbued with Caws’s personal observations on the relationship between translators and the authors they translate, Surprised in Translation will interest a wide range of readers, including students of translation, professional literary translators, and scholars of modern and comparative literature.
I The Salmon and Some Parrots
II Translating Together
III Greeting, Slippage, and Shaping
IV Mallarmé in England and at Home
V Woolf in Translation
VI Pound at Liberty
VII Becket’s Business
VIII Shakespeare, Keats, and Yeats, by Bonnefoy
Coda: Surrealism as Surprise