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Linguistic and Translatological Aspects of Poetry Translation

Joseph Brodsky’s Texts in Russian, English and Latvian


Jānis Veckrācis

This essentially academic book and its author are daring companions of poetry translators in their dance on a rope while searching for the best solutions and shifting boundaries between the possible and impossible, and the insights have at least three main directions: first, the artistic and aesthetic nature of the activity; second, those specific skills which are necessary to complete the task; and third, the pre-requisites of failure or acclaim.

The artistic and complex nature of both poetry and its translation suggests the necessity of specific inclusive approaches though, whatever the technique, there always remain some blurred, inaccessible zones of inexplicable elements. The book aims at studying the linguistic aspects of poetry translation theories and practice in order to define the main theoretical principles of an integrated approach to poetry translation.

Practical insights are based on an analysis of the translation of Joseph Brodsky’s poems into English and Latvian. While under way, we experience all the cause-effect aspects of poetic texts representing author’s intention both to express and to hide, to intensify/highlight and to disguise. At times, we really feel – similarly to poetry translators themselves – like investigators either in the complex networks of theoretical insights or in even more risky endeavours to discuss and outline the practical aspects of poetry translation. A balance of theoretical and practical aspects is one of the main features and main benefits of the study. A detailed analysis of Brodsky’s poetic and philosophical heritage is another contribution. A unique opportunity for the international audience to gain insights into the Western/Russian/Latvian approaches to poetry translation theories and practices by also observing their mutual impacts and interaction, provides more added value.

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II. Integrated analysis of translations of Joseph Brodsky’s poems


Most of us approach poems in translation as one is supposed to approach a captured animal – from the side, not headfirst. […] We calm the text, ease it out of its origins, and consume it at a distance. We are aware of how much we are missing in translation, and find ourselves trapped in paradox: on the one hand, we want a translation to be as faithful as possible; on the other, we want it to read well as an English poem in its own right, which thus might not be very faithful after all.

(James Wood)

As we pass from the theoretical considerations relevant for the subject matter of this study to an analysis of the translations of Joseph Brodsky’s poems into English and Latvian, we aim at examining the applicability of the above theoretical integrated approach and its necessity. The framework of the further contrastive analysis is designed in such a way as to expose and elaborate the primary idea of the study that no fragmented, disintegrated linguistic analysis can be adequately applied, both as a framework for PT practice and assessment and as a model for PT theory.

Whan acting in line with the single-text approach, we begin with a lexical and syntactic analysis of translations into English and Latvian and use the results for an integrated study of the same translations to illustrate that the integrity and dynamic existence of any poetic text and its pragmatic characteristics respectively require...

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