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An Empire Reborn

Russia is moving from the servile copying of liberalism to creating the Russian national state and the renaissance of the Russian empire

by Roman Antonovsky

Today’s speech by Vladimir Putin will definitely go down in history.

In fact, this is a manifesto. It is a manifesto of conservative antiglobalism. Evidently, Russia has finally defined its present-day ideology, combining the best that was in the Russian Empire and to some extent – in the USSR.

First of all, Putin has declared our country a stronghold of traditional conservative values where 15o genders, LGBT-propaganda, destigmatization of paedophilia and transsexuality are all out of place. Meanwhile, the left liberals from the U.S. Democratic party are trying to impose the above as the “new normal” on the rest of the world.

Secondly, our President has proclaimed Russia the leader of the global anti-colonial movement. Such was the USSR in the mid-20th century when it helped the nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America to free themselves from the European and American colonialism.

Indeed, the West acknowledged the independence to its former colonies. However, it has de-facto continued to exploit these countries economically and has not shun from applying military force to overthrow the regimes it dislikes.

Thirdly, it is no coincidence why, speaking of Russian national interests, Putin finished his landmark speech with a quote from the work by Ivan Ilyin. Ilyin was the principal ideologist of the Russian Orthodox Imperial national-patriotism. This philosopher’s works that were written at the beginning and in the mid-20th century, are extremely relevant today. Everything he wrote about external and internal enemies, the West and Ukraine fits perfectly into the current agenda. Moreover, apart from warnings about the dangers on the path of the Russian state and its people, his writings contain the working recipes how to overcome both dangers and enemies. Putin quoted Ilyin’s work “For national Russia. The manifesto of the Russian movement”.

Today, the speech of Putin himself has become such manifesto. The speech contained reference to the Bible, Ilyin, and traditional values and indicated that Russia is moving away from the servile copying of the Western liberalism towards creating the Russian national state and the renaissance of the Russian empire, whose interests the rest of the world will have to reckon with. Novorossiya’s comeback to the native harbour is but the beginning of Russia’s gathering its lands and gaining full sovereignty.

Translated from Russian by Julia Shuvalova

More on Russia

Football Fans in Russia Turn to the Front

Russian football fans unite behind the team “RUSSIA”. They make the support of the country and soldiers their priority.

Russia may not be the most potent football power, but its football fans are known for their ability to unite behind their favourite team. Today they unite behind the team “RUSSIA”. Below is an extract from the Russian football fan club CSKA Vandals address to other fan clubs:

“Dear friends, regardless of your club preferences,

Some of you have long followed the event in Donbass and have already made their contribution to the fight, but for some of you the war is only just beginning to get personal. Now that each of us has seen (or may see) their pals, friends, or relatives go to the front, it is high time to stop having vain hopes and thinking that this war is far enough to pass you by. It won’t. It is time to realise your personal responsibility for the guys at the frontline and for the future of our country and to start helping each other, so as to bring closer the end of fighting and the peace. Better later than never.

Many were emotionally driven by fear to flee the country in haste, but we are staying here, in our homeland, with our near and dear, and with you. From now on we stop any football-linked activity and make the support of our brothers and the victory of Russia our sole priority”.

Translated from Russian by Julia Shuvalova

Other posts On Russia.

Ukraine is the New Afghanistan for the USA

The cost of maintaining the war in Afghanistan was the same for the US as is presently the cost of Ukraine.

The pandemic that struck in 2020 now seems far less terrifying than impeding hunger, cold, and a global war. A lot of people throughout the world still hope to somehow escape the conflict by moving elsewhere. But I doubt there is a place on earth where one can confidently hide. So, I believe we’d be better off facing the real circumstances. Here’s a text from another Telegram channel with a brief analysis of America’s plans to make Ukraine the new Afghanistan.

from The Empire of a Smoker TG channel

An interesting fact: the cost of maintaining the war in Afghanistan was the same for the US as is presently the cost of Ukraine.

The US expenditure on sustaining the military contingent in Afghanistan amounted to $42 bln. The cost of maintaining the Afghani government in the form of external assistance was 42% of GDP in 2020, or some $8-9 bln.

Altogether, Afghanistan cost the U.S. $50-52 bln per year.

Notably, Ukraine’s cost is roughly the same: $50-60 bln. Of these, around $30 bln go towards the budget, and the other $20-30 bln – towards the arms supplies.

Conclusions

First, the U.S. had made a decision to start their own military operation in Ukraine BEFORE August 31, 2021 when they withdrew from Afghanistan in haste.

Secondly, the U.S. had been staying in Afghanistan for 20 years, hence they have been planning to stay in Ukraine for just as long.

Thirdly, since the Ukrainian economy is totally destroyed, and over 54% of its budget is refilled by external assistance, then the primary business of Ukraine is the war with Russia ((and soon perhaps it will be the only business). This means there will be no negotiations, for the war is now the sole guarantee of Ukraine’s existence.

What this means, is that it is highly unlikely that the war will end tomorrow or in a month. It will last for as long as the U.S. need it, until they reach their goals or lose the opportunity to do so.

Translated from Russian by Julia Shuvalova

Other posts in Ukraine

Mobilization in Russia and Thoughts on the “Flight”

While mobilization is underway, some people chose to flee Russia. The majority’s sentiment towards them is disdain.

Something we have expected from February is now happening. The mobilization has started in Russia last Wednesday, and today the reserve officers have departed for the training centres. A lot of experts were arguing for it since the beginning of the Special Military Operation, but I believe there is time for everything. Now is the time for Russian men to protect the newly-freed territories of Donbass and the Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions.

The new “Flight”

Meanwhile, some people chose to flee Russia back in February, and some are leaving now. If you want to know the sentiment of the majority of Russians towards this “flight”, it is mostly a disdain.

People often confuse the government and the country. Whereas the love and support for the country often mean the approval of the government, the attitude to the government doesn’t equal the attitude to the country, its people and culture. I may dislike the government for some of its (in)actions but my love for my country will not let me seek the revolution.

The effect of globalization and “democratization” has been such that the notions of national pride and patriotism have been mocked for years on end. Yet, as the recent events show, they have not become obsolete or redundant. Having something to be proud of is pertinent to a man. Having a role model is vital for self-development. And love for a country is the same as love for a family. This is what we see in Serbia – and in Italy, following the victory of the Brothers of Italy.

Alas, as we see today, the institute of a family is being destroyed in Europe and America, and love for the country is considered a manifestation of racism. In truth, however, loving the country, one’s family and compatriots is healthy and indicates a high degree of self-awareness and development, for this love prepares you to sacrifice many things for your loved one. Including your love.

Patriots Abroad

The reason why the Russian government is not preventing those fleeing the country from doing so is quite obvious. We don’t need cowards, we don’t need those who may work to destroy the country from within. We want real men, real citizens who love their country and their compatriots.

Someone I studied with at the Lomonosov MSU went to Turkey in February. He studied Art History, so obviously he considers himself a mouthpiece of the Russian “intelligentzia“. Recently he felt the urge to express his attitude to the military operation, Putin, and all of us who have not fled the country. We, he said, are his enemies.

Well, if so, then he and his co-thinkers are better off to be away from the Russian horde. However, I reminded him about the General Denikin who fled Russia in the aftermath of the Civil War but who one of the first to provide financial assistance to the Soviet State during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). The Russian composer Sergey Rachmaninov also donated his concert money to the USSR throughout the war years until his death in 1943. This is what he wrote in letters from 1941-1942:

November 19, 1941: “This is the only way in which I can express my compassion for the sufferings of the people of my homeland”.

March 25, 1942: “From one of the Russians – here is my assistance to the Russian nation in its fight against the enemies. I want to believe, and I do believe, in complete victory”.

Following the victory at Stalingrad, 1943, Rachmaninov addressed Joseph Stalin with a short letter:

“I am now confident that my Motherland will defeat the agressors. I also admire the fact that despite its greatest ordeal the musical culture of fighting Russia, including that of the Russian nation, continues to enthrall the world, it is alive and continues to develop. I am willing to accept that we were probably wrong in the early 1920s when we thought that the Russian art was doomed to be destroyed or degraded”.

Mobilization

So, mobilization is going well. The soldiers are not being sent straight to the front. They first arrive at the training camp and it is not certain that they will actually go to fight. The territories of Donbass and other two regions need the people militia and other male help. The link will take you to a report in Telegram of Moscow reserve soldiers departing for Donbass. As for those “scared patriots” who chose to leave their homeland, we kind-heartedly mock them. They still have not realised that nobody wants them in either Europe or America. But I would also close the boundary, for we want to live, make families and do business with reliable people. I wouldn’t want anyone who chose to run away to ever come back and claim back their workplaces and chairs.

Likewise, there is more than one military operation going on at the moment. There is a lot to do within the country, in Moscow alone, in the spheres of civil life, e.g. education, health service, etc. So, we have all been mobilized, but, as the events of the bygone days show, we will conquer Mars after this Victory. Watch this space (sic!)

Other posts on Ukraine and Russia.

Nabi Khazri – The Garden of Rocks (from A Japanese Notebook)

Ryōan-ji rock garden (Wikipedia)

Nabi Khazri (Nabi Alekper ogly Babaev) is the national poet of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The poem that I translated into English was rendered into Russian by Anatoly Peredreev. The Garden of Rocks is, obviously, the famous Ryōan-ji.

Sit down, take off your shoes,
Don’t say a word
While in the company
Of sand and white rocks,
And let this boundless silence be the ocean –
Immerse yourself in it.

Stay herewith the clouds most serene,
Don’t say a word
Next to the sand and rocks,
And ages set in stone.
May those rocks be isles in the ocean?
Or may they be the clouds most serene?

Can you not see the glow of days finite?
The moss, as green as everlasting life,
Is sparkling with the emerald of spring.
Meanwhile the wind discusses death and life
With the gently touched by sun sakura tree.

Once, like the wind, you’ll fly away in sorrow
And earthly life that you once here led
Will turn into a particle of this white sand
That now lies in silence between the stones.

You’re going… Wait… Eternity is speaking!
Here the sky, forever so blue,
And silence, and infinity are speaking…
Listen to them – for they all speak to you…

Translation © Julia Shuvalova 2011


Russian text

Наби Хазри – Сад камней (из “Японской тетради”)

Разуйся
И в молчанье посиди
Наедине с песком и белым камнем.
И в тишину
Как в океан войди
И растворись в безбрежном океане.
Побудь
В тишайшем мире облаков
Среди камней,
Среди песка
Без слов…
Побудь
С окаменевшими веками…
Не груда ль
Отвердевших облаков,
Не острова ли в океане –
Камни?..
Не свет ли в них
Погаснувших веков?..
Зеленый мох,
Как жизни знак бессмертный,
Весною изумрудною горит,
И ветер
С веткой сакуры рассветной
О жизни и о смерти говорит…
И ты, как ветер, улетишь,
Печальный,
И век земной,
Что был тобой прожит,
Войдет песчинкой
В тот песок хрустальный,
Что меж камней
В безмолвии лежит…
Уходишь ты…
Постой…
Послушай вечность!
Небесный свод
Нетленно-голубой,
И тишина,
И мира бесконечность
С тобою говорят…
С тобой… С тобой…

Авторизованный перевод с азербайджанского Анатолия Передреева.

Julia Shuvalova – Space O

Space O by Julia Shuvalova is a fictional account of David Bowie composing one of his most famous songs, Space Oddity. #bowie75

Space-O-Julia-Shuvalova

I wrote the story “Space O” in Russian in late February 2021, upon learning about a literary contest dedicated to the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight to space. The contest was organized by Litres.Samizdat, a Russian platform for self-published authors, and Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency. It was shortlisted for the final and was eventually published in a separate collection of novellas by other contestants. Apparently, this collection has recently been delivered to the ISS, too.

space o
A cover of the original Russian story

As I was thinking about the subject for my story, I went through some notebooks but I did not find anything that caught my attention. It had to be a short story or a novella. I began to think “outside the box”. I did not want to delve into too many technical aspects of space flights, nor did I want to populate the story with extraterrestrial characters. I wanted something creative, daring, and utterly humane. Suddenly Space Oddity came to mind…, and I wrote this story overnight.

This is obviously a fictional account of David Bowie’s composing one of his most famous songs, but I did some research for the fictional part. All aspects of the first three chapters fell together almost by themselves, I only had to write it all down. Along the way I realized that I walked the same streets in Soho, I lived in Bromley, accessed from Victoria Station, for 2 weeks in 2004, so I was a regular at Victoria Station, too. The pub I depicted was a beer hole I visited once, but it was probably in Greater Manchester where I lived between 2003 and 2010. And I saw many loaders, like “Major Tom”, in my 7 years in England. After I submitted the story for the contest I decided to check when the first British person went to space. Turned out it was a woman, and her mission was mutually financed by the UK and the USSR, and it took place… on May 19th, 1991. 30 years after the first flight. “Majors” had to wait for a long time.

Space O is a story about dreams – and what breaks them. It is about love and poverty – the topics that Robert Burns was very much aware about. It is about inspiration and thirst for life. And it is about the Earth and space – for “the whole space is about Earth.” And on occasion of David Bowie’s 75th birthday I translated the story into English and share it now on this blog.

More on the topic:

60th Anniversary of the first space flight

Most posts about space

Georgy Beregovoy – Spacе Begins on Earth

Extracts from the book by the Russian cosmonaut, the Hero of the Soviet Union Georgy Beregovoy “Space Begins on Earth” (translated from Russian by Julia Shuvalova).

“Aldrin is wrong, perhaps, on one point: the feeling of unity with mankind has nothing mystical about it. It is a natural consequence of man’s going out into Space where he has acutely realised that he innately belongs to Earth. The alien nature of Space makes people understand more deeply and clearly what these are – the Earth and its human inhabitants. Today mankind is no longer a mere mass of people who lived once or are living now; mankind is something that exists nowhere in the entire universe – except on Earth.

It has long been noted that a parasite consumes far more than someone who lives an active life, who is passionate about his work, interesting work. The parasite strives to fill the void of his existence with objects; they are the only things that preoccupy him. The one who leads an active life creates objects rather than consumes them. For him, things are not the end of it all; they are just the interior of life, and their sense lies in a man’s self-expression, in making use of whatever capabilities and opportunities he has got. These people usually give more to the world than take away from it.

The creative mind is great because it aims at what can be achieved and created, not what has been done. It strives to the future instead of sinking into the present.

The life of a man is but a particle of time; the life of mankind is an uninterrupted chain of these particles that to us is the image of Time itself. And just as it is impossible to either stop the time or to turn it back, so the mankind can only move forward. This is why the Space exploration is inevitable unless we want the mankind to disappear along with our, sadly, mortal planet. Earth is but a humanity’s cradle, in the words of Tsiolkovsky, and its real home is an infinite universe, not bound by either time, or space.

We simply have no choice… We may only choose the means to the goal, not the goal itself. And the goal of delving into Space and its exploration has been set by the very nature of rational life.

Each of us follows his own path to reach the goals of his epoch… I have always strived to do as much as I am capable of, and not less – and I hope to continue to do so! Yet even this skill is rather usual, in that anyone may acquire it, given the desire.

Of course, I didn’t want to waste my life on nonsense, I wanted to serve people. And for that, I knew well, I had to give my all, to live so that I had no energy left of what had been given to me.

In physics they say that when a system energy reaches its critical level, a threshold, it inevitably acquires a new, previously inexistant quality. So I, too, have eventually reached my critical threshold beyond which there lay the road to Space”.

And Once Again about Tichborne’s Elegy

Tichborne’s Elegy a well-known poem by a 28-year-old Tudor guy on the eve of his execution for taking part in conspiracy against Elizabeth I

I have never asked English-speaking readers what or how they felt about Chidiock Tichborne’s Elegy. It is a well-known poem, written by a 28-year-old Tudor guy on the eve of his execution for taking part in the Babington conspiracy against Elizabeth I. It is a tearful meditation on the brevity and fatality of life.

The Translator’s Labour’s Lost

I suspect that it is the poem’s melancholy and romantic feel that has made it so popular among contemporary Russian translators. On the web one can find some 5 or 6 variations, all different. Nothing wrong with this, except one thing: the majority of attempts are based around external (=obvious) characteristics of the poem. Translators have found that “Elegy” consists of monosyllabic, Anglo-Saxon words. This obviously makes the poem very unique, and, because we’re reading a Renaissance poem – and Renaissance is well-known for its fascination with symbols and riddles – the monosyllabic words are (mis)taken for an authorial intent. Tichborne was contemplating the brevity of life, and so he used monosyllabic words to emphasise the point.

There are two problems with such interpretation. First, even when we translate prose, we still miss out on certain symbolic features in the destination text. However good we are as translators, losses are sometimes inevitable. In the end, a written text is a rhetorical exercise, and therefore we still want to entertain the reader with our translation. If it closely follows the original text but is cumbersome and distasteful, then the reader will be tired, annoyed, and not at all pleased. This means that we cannot aim for a complete lexical equivalence in translation, but rather we should aim to translate (i.e. negotiate) something else.

Russian is my native language, which I know in depth, and yet even I would struggle to provide monosyllabic equivalents to all the English monosyllabic words in Tichborne’s Elegy. And even if I did manage to find them all, the result would hardly possess much literary merit because I wouldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

The second problem with putting too much emphasis on monosyllabic words in Tichborne’s poem is that we’re clearly trying to add to what is already contained in the poem. For some reason we are not satisfied with the fact that “Elegy” is about the fatality and shortness of one’s life, so we think we must find that which would further stress this. Let’s not think about the poem; let’s look at what I’ve just said. “We think we must find that which would further stress this“; “let’s not think about the poem“; “let’s look at what I’ve just said“. Correct me if I’m wrong but the majority of words in those phrases are monosyllabic. Because I am the living and breathing author of those phrases, I certainly declare that I didn’t plan to use monosyllabic words to stress my point. The point is very simple: there are many monosyllabic words in the English language, and a lot of them happened to be used in Tichborne’s “Elegy. Rather than assuming that Tichborne conspired (excuse the pun) to use monosyllabic words in his final poem, one should better look at this as a kind of linguistic peculiarity. It certainly adds to the poem’s feel; but, as far as I am concerned, it cannot be viewed as the poem’s most distinct feature, let alone it cannot dictate how we translate the poem.

As far as the Anglo-Saxon origin of the words goes, again I personally believe we’re walking a useless extra mile in trying to establish the uniqueness of the poem. I think so purely because I am careful of not infusing the poem with my knowledge. This is the biggest disservice I can do to myself as translator and to my readers. The question on these occasions must not be “do I know these words are Anglo-Saxon?” but “did Tichborne know these words were Anglo-Saxon?” I bet the historic origin or the etymology of the words didn’t matter to him in the hours before the execution. Someone may think differently but the question to ask is: would the origin of the words matter to you in Tichborne’s circumstances?

Tichborne’s Elegy Intent

I argued in a short essay in Russian about the complications of translating “Elegy” that it is actually a very easy poem to translate, thanks to the Russian lyrical tradition. Mysticism, melancholy, romantic troubles, forlorn love is what often distinguishes Russian poetry. Tichborne’s “Elegy” could easily be written by a Romanticist poet like Lermontov, should he have found himself in prison awaiting execution. Given Lermontov’s caliber as a poet, his poem would well exceed Tichborne’s in literary merit, but in tone and mood it could be very similar.

Last but not least, the misfortunes of translators who tried to translate “Elegy” have entirely to do with the problem of identifying the context and the intent of the poem. I have already pointed out to the problem of context: we’re placing the poem in the context of the language, whereas we must place it in the context of its own time. The themes of Tichborne’s poem are the brevity of life, fatality, death, and the inevitability of punishment, however unjust and cruel. These very themes were widely discussed not only in contemporary literature, but were explored by painters. In my Russian text I compared the colours of “Elegy” to the palette of Tintoretto’s “Marriage at Cana”: the colours are rich but dim, as if covered by the ‘frost of cares‘. There is a similar kind of melancholy and sadness in Michelangelo’s sonnets, and the whole topic of brevity of life was labeled vanitas in both painting and literature. Seen in this context, Elegy” is a bridge between Renaissance exuberance and lust for life and Baroque melancholy, presented in a rather beautiful and peculiar lyrical form.

chidiock-tichborne-elegy
The text of Tichborne’s Elegy

Tichborne’s intent is quite easy to comprehend. It is known that he was practising poetry, so, in addition to writing a letter to his darling wife, what could be a better way to bid farewell to this earthy life? And the poem’s intent has to do with the context in which we should read it. Again, this is not the context of the language, but of the time. Tichborne wasn’t teaching us a lesson in the English language; he wasn’t trying to tell us how many monosyllabic words there were in the English language, let alone how many of them were Anglo-Saxon. Instead, he suddenly found himself in a prison cell, and, given that he travelled to the Continent and obviously had the chance to view the works of Italian painters, all the images of vanitas, hour-clocks, and hovering deathly shadows rushed into his mind. If, like Dostoevsky in the 19th c, Tichborne had been suddenly pardoned in 1586, “Elegy” could become a stepping stone for a poetic talent. Instead, it became the last and only manifestation of any literary promise. If Tichborne was indeed practising poetry during his life, then this poem also contains his understanding that he could no longer develop his gift, and this should have been distressing also. Therefore, when we translate “Elegy“, we must strive to convey this emotional component of the original text. And, in case you wonder, this is exactly what I did in my translation.

Monday Verses: Michelangelo Buonarotti – Sulla morte di Cecchino Bracci (1545)

David Hockney, In Memoriam Cecchino Bracci

In 1544, a handsome 15-year-old boy named Cecchino (Francesco) Bracci died, leaving his uncle Luigi del Riccio shattered. At the time Luigi was a close friend and counsellor to Michelangelo Buonarotti, whom he kindly asked to execute a tomb for Cecchino and compose an epitaph.

I was reading a book by Sigmund Freud recently, and the Austrian narrated a story of how a young scientist asked him to review his work. Freud agreed; however, he couldn’t force himself to do it; eventually, he accepted that he didn’t actually want to do the review, and excused himself from the task.

Believe it or not, in 1540s in Italy Michelangelo was in the exact Freud’s position. He barely knew the boy, and it turned out that, in spite of his famous beauty, Cecchino never sat for a portrait. The only source of knowledge and inspiration was supposed to be Cecchino’s uncle, Luigi.

Michelangelo’s autograph of the epitaphs

A kind soul as it seems, Michelangelo took to the job. Luigi sent generous hampers to feed a rather indifferent Muse, which gifts the artist sometimes acknowledged in the draft epitaphs and sketches he’d sent back to del Riccio. Indeed, the texts we have demonstrate the hard times Michelangelo could have when the subject failed to ignite his poetic flame. Even the words stumble, and the lack of acquaintance with the boy fully manifests itself. Several months and almost fifty epitaphs later, Michelangelo pulled out from the job. And yet, in 1545 he’d sent Luigi a beautiful sonnet. It is a short study of the poet labour’s lost, with a beautiful ending that actually re-interprets one of the draft epitaphs, pointing out to the fact that it is a lover who preserves the image of the beloved. In spite of what we know of the Renaissance homoerotism, and Michelangelo’s in particular, I insist that Love here needs to be understood as a pure affection, not a hint at any sexual interest.

The tomb (image: Wikipedia)

The tomb was eventually made by another artist and can be seen at the church dell’Aracoeli in Rome. In 1962, David Hockney painted In Memoriam Cecchino Bracchi. This post also includes the sketches by Michelangelo that were eventually used as the basis for the tomb. The final epitaph was composed in Latin.

Drafts (image: Michelangelo.ru)
Drafts (image: Michelangelo.ru)

The Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky also translated two of the epitaphs on the death of Cecchino. I guess the interest in this series of epitaphs lies in several facts. The genre of an epitaph is unique in itself, and when a famous artist-cum-poet composes the whopping 42 quatrains, it does attract attention. Cecchino’s death devastated “the whole of Rome”, according to his uncle, although the age at which the boy died was likely the main reason. And even though Michelangelo’s pen and Muse refused to work together, he nonetheless appears to have been excited at the opportunity to explore one of the favourite themes of the early Baroque poetry, namely vanitas and preference given to the other life.

I didn’t try to translate the epitaphs. Yet back in 2008, when I discovered the 1545 sonnet, it captivated me so that I had to translate it. I must admit, I fully experienced Michelangelo’s own hardships, it was the first time I was translating from Italian, and as always before my task was to try and preserve the original rhythm and melody in the Russian translation. I was, however, satisfied with the result. It is included below, together with the English translation by John Addington Symonds.

In 2013 my Russian translation was awarded the First Diploma in the “Poetry” nomination in Music in Translation competition.

Michelangelo Buonarotti – Sulla morte di Cecchino Bracci

A pena prima aperti gli vidd’io
i suo begli occhi in questa fragil vita,
che, chiusi el dì dell’ultima partita,
gli aperse in cielo a contemplare Dio.
Conosco e piango, e non fu l’error mio,
col cor sì tardi a lor beltà gradita,
ma di morte anzi tempo, ond’è sparita
a voi non già, m’al mie ’rdente desio.
Dunche, Luigi, a far l’unica forma
di Cecchin, di ch’i’ parlo, in pietra viva etterna,
or ch’è già terra qui tra noi,
se l’un nell’altro amante si trasforma,
po’ che sanz’essa l’arte non v’arriva,
convien che per far lui ritragga voi.

John Addington Symonds – English Translation

Scarce had I seen for the first time his eyes,
Which to your living eyes were life and light,
When, closed at last in death’s injurious night,
He opened them on God in Paradise.
I know it, and I weep — too late made wise:
Yet was the fault not mine; for death’s fell spite
Robbed my desire of that supreme delight
Which in your better memory never dies.
Therefore, Luigi, if the task be mine
To make unique Cecchino smile in stone
For ever, now that earth hath made him dim,
If the beloved within the lover shine,
Since art without him cannot work alone,
You must I carve to tell the world of him.

Julia Shuvalova – Russian Translation

Я только раз взглянул в глаза того,
В чьем взоре ты черпал и жизнь, и свет,
Как в вечном сне он их сомкнул, чтоб впредь
Смотреть в раю на Бога самого.

Как глуп я был! И плачу оттого!
Но, право же, моей вины в том нет.
А ты хранишь вовеки счастья след,
Хотя бы Смерть и унесла его.

Луиджи, просишь ты: пусть сохранит
От тлена несравненную улыбку
Чеккино мой прославленный резец.

Но любящий любимого творит,
И, раз уж Муз дела идут не шибко,
Тебя мне должно взять за образец.

October 2008

На русском 

В июне 1544 г. в Риме умер юный Франческо (Чеккино) Браччи, племянник поэта Луиджи дель Риччо. Луиджи, хорошо знакомый с Микеланджело, обратился к поэту-художнику с просьбой создать надгробие для мраморного памятника Чеккино, а также написать текст эпитафии. Микеланджело согласился. До нас, действительно, дошли четыре эпитафии. Однако ни одна из них не украсила надгробие Чеккино, да и сам памятник, в конце концов, был успешно создан другим мастером.

Причина, по которой Микеланджело уклонился от исполнения договора, вероятнее всего изложена им самим в приведенном сонете. Вопреки тому, что можно прочесть в популярных статьях о глубине отношений Микеланджело и Чеккино, степень близости была невелика, что и подчеркивает первая строка сонета. Несмотря на то что Чеккино славился своей красотой, ни один художник, похоже, не соизволил запечатлеть его при жизни. Переводы нескольких набросков эпитафий, сделанные А. М. Эфросом, демонстрируют бесплодные усилия пера Микеланджело, которое дель Риччо изо всех сил старался подпитать – в прямом смысле этого слова:

Здесь рок послал безвременный мне сон,
Но я не мертв, хоть и опущен в землю:
Я жив в тебе, чьим сетованьям внемлю,
За то, что в друге друг отображен.

– Не хотел посылать вам это, потому что скверно вышло,
но форели и трюфели одолели бы и само небо. Вверяю себя вам.

К благой судьбе я смертью приведен:
Бог не желал меня увидеть старым,
И так как рок не властен большим даром,
Все, кроме смерти, было б мне в урон.

– Теперь, когда обещание пятнадцати надписей выполнено,
я больше уже не повинен вам ими, разве что придут
они из рая, где он пребывает.

Рисовать эскиз надгробия оказалось еще тяжелее: “Посылаю вам с запиской дыни, рисунка же пока нет, но я изготовлю его непременно со всем искусством, на какое способен”. И однако же искусства было мало:

Чеккино – в жизни, ныне – я у Бога,
Мирской на миг, небесный навсегда;
Счастливая вела меня звезда:
Где стольким в смерть, мне в жизнь была дорога.

– Так как поэзия этой ночью молчала, посылаю вам
четыре надписи, за три пряника скряги и вверяю себя
вам.

Андрей Вознесенский также перевел две из этих эпитафий:

Я счастлив, что я умер молодым.
Земные муки – хуже, чем могила.
Навеки смерть меня освободила
и сделалась бессмертием моим.

Я умер, подчинившись естеству.
Но тыщи дум в моей душе вмещались.
Одна на них погасла – что за малость?!
Я в тысячах оставшихся живу.
 

Проведя не один месяц в творческих муках, Микеланджело отклонил заказ дель Риччо. Но в 1545 г. написал для него вышеприведенный сонет. При отсутствии каких-либо изображений юноши, Луиджи, как любящий дядя и воспитатель, для которого смерть Чеккино явилась тяжелым ударом, мог бы единственным “источником” вдохновения для художника. На это и намекает Микеланджело, с присущими его веку изяществом и легким юмором предлагая изваять самого дель Риччо, дабы сохранить в веках память о Чеккино. Одновременно в этом сонете сходятся многие темы, поднятые Микеланджело в черновых вариантах эпитафий, в частности, в этих строках: “Я жив в тебе, чьим сетованьям внемлю, за то, что в друге друг отображен”.

История жизни и смерти Чеккино Браччи, о которой известно ровно столько, сколько можно извлечь из этих коротких посланий Микеланджело, послужила источником вдохновения для английского художника Дэвида Хокни (In Memoriam Cecchino Bracci, 1962).

В 2013 г. за перевод этого сонета я получила диплом I степени в номинации “Поэзия” на международном конкурсе перевода “Музыка перевода”.

Common Translation Mistakes

Over the last three months I edited over 30 translations, in addition to translating texts myself. This explains the absence of posts here, but as a result I was able to find a few very common mistakes continuously made by translators. And whether you are a professional or a wannabe translator, I thought you may benefit from my findings.

1. Left-to-right translation.
Rather than calling it a verbatim translation I chose the above name to highlight the issue of different syntaxes. Indeed the syntax that makes sense in English does not necessarily do so in Russian or vice versa. And yet this mistake is the most common that I have to correct. I’m particularly fond of independent participle clauses that are translated as relating to the subject, with all hilariousness attached.
Tip: The task of the translator is to render the text from a proper original language into a proper target language. If this means changing the syntax, so be it. And instead of translating the text from left to right, start with identifying the predicate (first) and the subject (second).
2. Verbatim translation.
As I have to edit a lot of marketing materials, sometimes a text that sounded just alright in English in Russian turns to be written in a style unfit for the purpose. Most often this is the case of using a precise equivalent of a source word that sounds too blank or, alternatively, too high-flatuline in the target language.
Tip: avoid going for the first meaning of the word and delve deeper. This is why a dictionary of synonyms is a must and it should be on your desk when you work. We, myself included, sometimes begin to think we know the language so well we don’t need a dictionary but practice shows this is not true. Or not quite true because your human computer can also freeze, especially when you handle a large text or working to a tight deadline.
3. The use of language.
Surprisingly, the better you know the language, the more speakers of either source or target language worry how well you can translate the text. It is surprising because the majority of people prefer to remain in control, meaning that as soon as you deliver a grammatical structure they don’t know or an expression they’ve never seen (that totally fits the meaning intended) they begin to question it and sometimes ask you to translate verbatim. I usually explain the client what the whole thing means and, whilst I don’t intend to rewrite their text I intend to translate it into good English, set expressions included.
Tip: confirm with the client what kind of translation they want. If this is a technical translation for their own, “internal” use, fair enough, do a simple translation and don’t show off. But if they are planning to publish it in some shape or form, do your job well and answer questions.
4. Don’t hesitate to ask for glossaries.
Some people genuinely think a translator already knows everything. Not just grammar or vocabulary, but very single lingo out there. We do, we just don’t tell everyone that sometimes it takes hours of research to translate the title of that law or the name of that institution. Even half an hour spent surfing online snatches time off our work, bringing the deadline closer.
Tip: don’t fool yourself and the client. You have the right not to know everything. Recently I had to translate some academic texts from Russian into English. One had quotes, another was packed with special terminology. I asked the author of the former to provide spelling for his references and translations of extracts, where available. The second author was kind enough to input precise terms she wanted to use. I always ask clients to supply me with either existing equivalents or with instructions for how to translate legal acts’ titles etc. The client often looks for someone proficient in language, not in such details as names of legal acts.
5. Style
While editing the marketing texts, I keep coming across two common ways of breaking the rules of any style guide. One group of translators follow the sentence exactly. The first 2 points here were about them. But there’s another group for whom to give a good literary translation is not quite enough. They want to make it even more literary, more beautiful, punchier, more selling… There are two outcomes: either they fall into making an incorrect translation altogether, or the target text is a purple prose overload. A deviation that leads to either outcome is an extremely verbose text. An example may be found in Gogol’s The Dead Souls when, instead of saying “I sneezed” the lady said “I eased my nose with the help of a handkerchief“.
Tip: as on many similar occasions, less is more. Unless we are talking of phraseology, a target text should not be much longer than a source text.
I’m sure there will be more observations but these are the ones I wanted to share presently.
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