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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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Linguistic focus in PT and in PT assessment is a productive approach which provides reasonable scientific certainty and validity. The theoretical insights and the detailed analysis in Part II is aimed at contributing towards a comprehensive linguistic and translatological theory of PT and PT assessment. We respectively suggest the following main conclusions.

The integrated PT approach whch is examined and practically tested in this study corresponds to the requirements relevant for the analysis of poetry and its translations in view of the specific text-type features. The cross-linguistic, cross-cultural and interpretative components form an indispensable unity.

Poems as texts are verbal representations of the aesthetic and poetic aims of their authors (and of their translators who create the TL poem); these texts both reveal and “hide” information. By also considering the cultural context, the degree of extra-linguistic information is high. This aspect determines the respectively high significance of the cross-cultural and interpretative components of translation analysis.

Every lexical and syntactic unit when analysed within a TU should be processed by examining its functional and semantic roles both at the unit level and at any higher level, up to the general context of the text.

The decoding phase is also an essential element of ensuring the necessary resources for adequate encoding of the units and the whole text into the TL and target culture. The transformative nature of poetic texts implies a key competence of translators – ability to investigate into what, by...

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