Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry translation

Today in The Times Online, Jenny Harris, whose translation of Horace won the Stephen Spender Prize in the 18-and-under category, writes about her experience. Her prose shows a mature grasp of the difficulties of translation:

"All translators try to get as close as possible to the experience of reading the original. At one extreme, this involves finding words that mimic the sound of the foreign poem, often with surreal effects, or giving the original words in the original order with scant regard for English syntax. At the other, it produces a poem that feels like it was written in the English tradition, using English verse forms and idioms that the translator feels are equivalent to those the foreign poet used."

Information on How to enter the 2008 Stephen Spender Prize for poetry translation:

Entrants must submit a translation of a poem from any language, modern or Classical, into English, with a commentary of no more than 300 words covering the reason for choosing the poem and the difficulties that they encountered.

There will be three prizes in the Open and 18-and-under categories and one in the 14-and-under category, ranging from £50 to £500. All winning entries will be published in a booklet and selected poems will be printed in The Times.

A charge of £3 will be made for each entry (entrants aged 18 or under are exempted), to arrive no later than May 23, 2008. Results will be published by October 25. Further details and an entry form can be found at the Stephen Spender memorial trust website, or can be obtained from 3, Old Wish Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 4JX.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Aesop's fables

Willis G. Regier at The Chronicle Review writes about the trials and tribulations of finding the best translation of Aesop's fables. No straight-forward task, apparently.

Regier writes that "[n]ine translators dominated Aesop in English over the past 500 years, and new ones are vying for attention. What do the translations show? Most obviously, some Aesops have more Aesop, much more, than others. Some have been much more reprinted, and more popular. And some change the fables: In some editions a lion outwits three bulls, in others four. Animals are altered: A weasel in one translation is a cat in another, toads become frogs, crows become ravens, a bear becomes a tiger, a lion becomes a leopard, and so on."

He goes through the different translations and their various political/social/religious slants and mentions which new translations are available. His vote, however, goes to Laura Gibbs's 2002 translation.