Wednesday, April 30, 2014


In my last post, I said that my dear friend Marjan Strojan, eminent translator of English-language poetry into Slovenian,"claimed his greatest challenge had been the work of Robert Frost: Marjan always seeks form-true translation, but Slovenian is a language devoid of Frost’s signature iambic foot.”  Marjan, on reading my entry, corrected me as follows:

That's not exactly true. My translations of Chaucer, Milton, Joyce, Frost and Sydney Lea are mostly iambic, and so is a lot of PreŇ°eren's poetry, as are all our own sonnets, all Shakespeare translations, etc. What I probably meant was that Slovenian speech patterns are, for the most part, metrically different from spoken American English, which is to say not iambic. I had to make Slovenian Frost speak in his own natural iambic  rhythms in order to have him sound authentic, and never to allow myself a turn of phrase that would sound unnatural in our basically non-iambic speech.

Hard? Yes.

(France Preseren, the 19th-century poet to whom Mr. Strojan refers above, is as important to Slovene culture as can be imagined. Preseren inspired virtually all later Slovene literature; he wrote the Slovene national epic (and the country’s national anthem), its first ballad, and in general a poetic canon of immense value, translated –though poorly into English, according to my friend– into innumerable languages).

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