Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stanley Kunitz on translation

The poet as translator lives with a paradox ... One voice enjoins him: "Respect the text!" The other simultaneously pleads with him: "Make it new!" He resembles the citizen in Kafka's aphorism who is fettered to two chains, one attached to earth, the other to heaven. If he heads for earth, his heavenly chain throttles him; if he heads for heaven, his earthly chain pulls him back. And yet, as Kafka says, "all the possibilities are his, and he feels it; more, he actually refuses to account for the deadlock by an error in the original fettering." From "A Note on the Translations," in Poems of Akhmatova.