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Direct translation versus meaningful translation
chokuyaku versus iyaku

Translating haiku, a discussion


Contribution of Chibi (pen-name for Dennis M. Holmes)

Here is a quote from Robin D. Gill's book "orientalism & occidentalism" footnote #5 Direct translation, chapter 2 "the 'I' of the monster" page 38.

I have trouble discussing translation in English for lack of good terms to descripbe it. This term is my Englishing of chokuyaku (direc=straight=close-translation) and means a translation which preserves the words and the word-order of the orginal, sometimes at the expense of style and even the meaning. It is more often than not used in a derogatory way and - as you will note from my argument - I think it should be.

Its antonym, iyaku may be transliterated as "meaning-translation" and is suppposed to give the intent of the orginal. This term tends to be viewed in a positive way than its nearest English equivalent "loose translation." When languages are as different as English and Japanese, the "direct" translation will often throw you for a loop, whereas the "loose" one may be right on the ball. (I am Wittengensteining again.)

His book is rich with footnote and gives a direct insight into translation trials and tribulations within his experiences (20+years).

I contend, for special purposes such as translating Japanese haiku, that chokuyaku seems the better fit mostly. My reason being that in learning the Japanese language, I resonate with the Japanese construction (if you will, architecture and not to be confused with grammar) of the poem. You risk a certain instabillity if you "restructure" the verse.

Certain "load baring" elements, for instance, (if you permit me to use the architecture analogy) may shift and the poem may teeter to fall in a pile of word rubble! Or, worse yet, become a structure that distorts architectural mood or motif of the orginal into something "occidental". But, as Mr. Gill points out in his book, my feeling may be my "orintalisming" fascination with
Japanese haiku.

Any thoughts from other are welcomed.

Translating Haiku, Message 441


Contribution of Larry Bole

Infinite are the arguments of translators. I come down in favor of the 'iyaku' approach to translation.

There are exceptions, but the best translators of poetry from a source language into a target language tend to be people who are good poets in the target language. Many of the translations, in the last half of the twentieth century, of poetry from other languages into English have been done by English-language poets who pretty much don't know the source language, but make good translations with the help of a bi-lingual dictionary and with the help of a bi-lingual speaker of the source language. Even better if they can work directly with the source-language poet, especially if that poet can speak English!

Here are some exerpts from the entry "Translation" from the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry (Enlarged edition, 1974) [I have made paragraphs for ease of reading]:

...The extent to which a poetic effect relies on the sound of words, or on their tricks of context or association, is a measure of its resistance to the translating process; on the other hand, quite complicated structures of imagery will often metamorphose virtually intact, and the gnomic and aphoristic can come through with
remarkable force.

The first scientific statement about this subject was made by Ezra Pound in 1933, when he remarked of his three "components of poetry," phanopoeia, melopoeia, and logopoeia [I will use the definitions of these terms made by Danial Gallimore in his WHCessay, "Dew on the Grass:" phanopoeia - symbolic beauty; melopoeia - musicality; logopoeia - logical beauty], that the first can be translated and the second cannot, while the third, though it is untranslatable, implies an attitude of mind, a "tone," which will frequently pass through paraphrase.

Obviously, a great deal depends on what the translator regards as the main strand of the original, and what he is willing to modify or abandon as secondary...

The misunderstandings that make for bad translations are worth enumerating. Inadequate acquaintance with the original will naturally lead to mistakes, but what prevents an inferior translation from holding the reader's interest is less likely to be inaccuracy than incompetence in managing the new language, or an imperfect idea of its resources.

Though he cannot know his original too well, it is easy for the scholarly translator to be too familiar with it. Familiarity blunts his sense of when it is best to be literal...

A translation, so far as the reader is concerned, is a poem written in his own language. He cannot be expected to take an interest in the translator's sense of duty toward the original, though this commonly accounts for dead passages. The first mistake of the inept translator is unwillingness to leave anything out, though reflection will show the wisdom of not admitting into a new poem what one can't cause to function within it. ...

The second cause of failure is uncertainty about why the original is worth translating: not why it has some claim on the attention of a specialist, but why it is needed in the economy of the new language or in the paideuma ["the tangle or complex of the inrooted ideas of any period"] of the new reader.

Translating Haiku, Message 444

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