[lit-ideas] Re: Lost in translation

  • From: Andy <mimi.erva@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 17:52:39 -0800 (PST)

Oops, I screwed it up.  In the stanza where I thought she was sying "it needn't 
be said" she's really saying the heart never tires of saying, Let there always 
be sunshine, etc..  The words are similar and I was listening, not reading.  So 
too in the first stanza the translator's sentence "That was the little boy's 
picture" is more accurate than mine.  It is in the passive voice.  I was 
flipping back and forth into my Word document, made it awkward.   

From: Andy <mimi.erva@xxxxxxxxx>
To: lit-ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> 
Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2012 5:30 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Lost in translation

I have to admire people who translate literary works.  I've come to the 
conclusion that some things are simply not translatable.  A Russian children's 
song came up recently and in listening to it, in Russian it works perfectly.  
In English it doesn't work at all.  I found this translation on the Internet 
and it sounds downright like propaganda, nothing at all like the 
original.  Here is a YouTube version that has the chorus also in English.  It's 
a bit more syncopated than I'd like it to be, but I'm using this 
version because the chorus is also in English.
Below I pasted someone's translation, my efforts in brackets.  I tried using 
the actual words to capture what is actually said, while making them more or 
less singable to the tune.  I often couldn't make it rhyme, but that isn't the 
point.  The point is how different the lyrics are as I hear the words from the 
way they're translated.  It really makes me wonder how much point there is in 
reading poetry in translation.  I can't find the link to the words pasted 
below, sorry.  It did say in Wikipedia that this song was written in 1962 and 
seemed to have swept the country.  It isn't exactly customary in the U.S. for a 
children's song to be anti-war, but 1962 wasn't even 20 years after the end of 
an extremely traumatizing war, which we've never here experienced.  It was 
quite the holocaust.  At any rate, here's my more literal attempt against 
someone else's more poetic version:
Bright blue the sky.
Sun up on high—
That was the little boy's picture
He drew for you
Wrote for you, too
Just to make clear what he drew.
The sun is a round [as in a sphere], Blue sky's around, So drew a boy a 
picture; He drew on a sheet, and wrote in the corner.
May there always be sunshine, 
May there always be blue skies,
May there always be mummy,
May there always be me!

My little friend,
Listen, my friend,
Peace is the dream of the people
Hearts old and young
Never have done
Singing the song you have sung.


My little friend, My good little friend, People so very want peace, [Can't make 
out this line], The heart's once again, So obvious it needn't be said.
Soldier lad, stay!
Hear what we say—
War would make all of us losers
Peace is our prize
Millions of eyes
Anxiously gaze at the skies.


Shhh, soldier, Listen soldier, People are afraid of the explosions, [I can't 
make out the rest of it, sorry, and can't find it in Russian to read it.]
Down with all war!
We want no more.
People stand up for you children
Sing everyone—
Peace must be won,
Dark clouds must not hide the sun.


Against tragedy, Against war, We'll stand by our boys, Sunshine forever, 
Happiness forever, That is what people desire (it's a bit stronger in Russian, 
but I can't do it in English; to say peace must be won makes them sound like 
the aggressors.  That's all wrong).
My version's a bit lame, I know, but again the point is how different the words 
in the English are from the Russian.
And a welcome back to Tom.  Sounds like an awesome retirement.  Alison's blog 
entries are downright charming.  

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