In the middle of the desert you can say anything you want

02 Feb 2013

My attempt to translate "February" by Boris Pasternak

I remain of the opinion that translating poetry is bad. Some of the meaning is lost because the resulting verses are bound to the translator’s own interpretation of the poem (which might be not what the author meant), and cultural reasons (can’t forget the example about the Ukrainian “хліб на рушнику” and the Russian “хлеб на полотенце”).

Either way, after seeing lots of bad and fake-sounding translations of Pasternak’s beautiful “February” I decided to do my own. First attempt at translating a poem and writing poetry in English, I must admit kinda like the result :) This is a very first draft version, took me about 40 minutes.

February. Get ink, start crying!
Start crying over february
The dirt, as loud as rumbling thunder
Burns in the blackness of the spring.
Hire a buggy, for six grivnas,
Ride through the church bells, city streets
Find yourself where the rain drops louder
Louder than ink, louder than tears
Where, like black pears, burnt down to charcoal
Thousands of rooks drop from the trees
to ground, and fill your eyes and feelings
With deep dry sadness, empty pleas
Where on the ground you see thawed patches
The wind is filled with empty screams
And the more randomly the better
Those cried-out poems your heart streams.

Check out the original. The translation I found uninspiring enough to write my own can be found there too (it’s the translation I stole the “blackness of the spring” line from, nothing else though).

I’ll definitely come back to this thing someday.

Nel mezzo del deserto posso dire tutto quello che voglio.