Thursday, December 29, 2005

Yay for the computerized version and instant gratification:

800 math, 720 verbal.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I am a button-carrying, dues-paying member of the the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America.

Ah, co-op unionization.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I am apparently taking the GRE General Subject test...on the morning of December 29th.

Here's to punctuated equilibrium in the life of the post-grad.

Test prep ahoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's bitterly cold and the moon is waxing, so the astrophotography's on hold for a bit.

Other than that, I'm editing the old and translating the new every day for the last week, though this hasn't translated (actually an uninentional word choice there) into anything overly visible yet.

That and working and probably not sleeping enough. I'm cooking again though, which is nice.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Movie night tonight, day off tomorrow, and Orion guiding me up my driveway and home.

Betelguese, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph at the corners, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka in the belt, Meissa the head...well, I'll probably remember at least some of that.

Short-term plans: more star memorization (curse this bitterly cold weather), more Czech reading, and a trip to the library tomorrow. After eight hours of sleep.

Edit: Am acquiring a tripod, will experiment with astrophotography tonight. And memorizing some stars in Lepus, and trying to find anything visible in Monoceros. Finished "Smrt morčete" the short story today, handwritten, will try do type some tomorrow. Oh, the editing I'm not doing.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Down in DC last weekend, browsed a few used bookstores, picked up some Čapek (hell yes in the original Czech), and, apart from the weekend's extravangces (me, decked out in shirt and tie for a fancy-schmancy holiday party) I've been working a lot and cramming in some reading at spare moments. I've just finished my first Faulkner today. Now if only I could make the leap back up to more active pursuits.

The [purported] only existing recording of Čapek's voice (in English too about halfway through) is here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

In the last three days, I have been very busy. Nevertheless, I passed an extremely pleasant Thanksgiving at my mother's, reconnected with some old friends, spoke Czech, Slovak, and Polish (and I should have spoken some rudimentary Russian too, but that guy wasn't at work) and made some headway on the previously-promised short story Czech translation.

So it was a good Thanksgiving vacation, even if I had to work almost entirely though it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Closed At Sunset is engraved on the stone pillars by the only entrance.

Not tonight, as, on the way back from the bar, the gate swung invitingly ajar.

The town's oldest cemetery was very peaceful on a stark late-autumn night. The crooked tombstones and lonesome cedars were somehow just right.

[Edit: soon. Maybe by the 27th0: perhaps some original (albeit drafty) translation here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cemetery exploration, catnaps, and taking advantage of a real fall weekend for a change.

Reading, given up on the writing for the time being, apparently...but eating well and maintaining a barely reasonable sleep schedule. Like both my jobs more than ever, though. Also, lunch with my mother tomorrow, and more books in Czech coming my way!

So, hopefully I'll be able to write intelligibly again soon. I ramble now, but it's nice to get something out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I like both my jobs a whole lot. The one's a reason to get up in the mornings, (plus free coffee, the office mostly to myself for breakfast, some reading time, and some sedate filing in a very motherly atmosphere), and the other is lively and full of ostly fun people mostly my own age.

It's just rough on the joints. I have to stop falling asleep on my wrists, apparently. And sometimes I'm so tired I don't know what I'm feeling beyond that. Trying to nap, cook, read, and write, and my German is apparently progressing somewhat, so life could always be worse.

And now, to slightly more than six hours of sleep.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


No, I'm not doing it, as such, although Nick is, or at least seems to be. Bully for him, and so forth. But it is a handy stimulus towards creating time for my own writing project, though it doesn't exactly conform to their standards or deadlines. Nevertheless, I hope to handwrite 10,000 words of Pan Theodor Mundstock by November 30th. This will require either picking up the pace in the evenings or forfeiting some between-shift nap time, as I did today. Hopefully not too much of that. And hopefully by the time I start typing later in the month I've have mastered enough LaTeX to be formatting it as I go along. While still converting Burner of Corpses into a much prettier format.

It's nice to have quixotic projects, anyway, and a modicum of external motivation.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

63 hours of work since last Saturday morning complete. Wrists and back...OK. let the en-giraffenization commence!

Edit Edit: What was I on and around Halloween, you ask?

You might be sorry you clicked on at least one of those links.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Browsing Wikipedia, and ended up at Placeholder Names and was delighted beyond recognition to find, among the list of placeholders for out of the way, backwards locales, the following:

"Sainte-Clotilde-de-Rubber-Boot in Quebec."

Perhaps it's lack of sleep, but this strikes me as brilliance itself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Did some inquiries today on the phrase " the dickens," which dates back to Shakespeare and there Dickens, I learn, is originally just a euphemism for "the devil," which makes sense, given "what the deuce," etc. etc.

What precipitated this inquiry, however, was an odd attempt at the phrase rendered by my office manager, "I know you've been working like the Dickinson." It didn't immediately strike me as being a reference to the poet, certainly enough, though I have been working in seclusion most of the week, but rather as a mis-hearing...perhaps this woman extrapolated the phrase as being this early in life, maybe she just stutter-stepped and that's what came out.

In other news, I bought one book today purely based on the title; Agatha Christie's "By the Pricking of my Thumbs." The wise idea was to shelve it next to my copy of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (followed by my copy of Macbeth, probably, no doubt originally influenced by this lovely work. [Pity Yeats was lamenting the decline of royalism, though, and somewhat obsessed with this cyclical history-as-gyres business] Much to my chagrin, however, I find I do not seem to actually own a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, though I would have sworn I did.

The best laid schemes o' mice and men, I suppose...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

If anyone (unlikely) has gotten to the offhand mentions of von Neurath, there's a new footnote I've added recently:

58: The Czech svobodný means either “free, unencumbered” or (more commonly) “bachelor,” depending on the context. Here, it assumedly refers to von Neurath’s minor title of Freiherr (lit., “free lord”), and is therefore translated as "lord.". (p. 72)

This replaces the foolish choice of "bachelor" on two occasions, and boy had that been bothering me a lot. If only I'd gotten it out earlier in the week. Hélas, eheu, ach běda...alas, in other words.

Later edit: Would I be so utterly unjustified in adding a "Fremen" aside? Probably. But the temptation is there.
Tidbit of the night: Tonight, if they have not done so already, the members of Jurassic 5 are enjoying tiny boxes of GM cereal, and an assortment of Doritos, that I have handled and scanned, as a former neighbor of mine purchased them on a local college's credit card for placement in the dressing room.

Small world, apparently.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Finished up my prelim draft of Fuks #1, sent it out between shifts on Wednesday...and have succumbed to a head cold/stomach bug thing since then. Related? Who can say, but I was showing inklings of being sick before I got off my ass and "finished" editing this thing so I could give it to people. (number of niggling typos in the first three pages pointed out so far: three)

Since then I've called in to the morning job twice (yesterday, today) with chills and aches and stuffed-up-edness, and had to leave the second job yesterday early (well, by only a half-hour) with some sort of stomach thing to boot. By which I mean gnawing on raw ginger because some of the other co-op workers said it'd be a good idea stomach thing. (Actually, it wasn't too bad, and it seemed to work...some)

So I've been sleeping twelve hours a day as opposed to five and feel like I'm on the mend, though I have two co-op shifts left before my weekend of sorts starts tomorrow at five.

Nevertheless, I now feel comfortable saying I've finished translating a book (the rest is window-dressing) and I may start the second here in a minute. New notebook, new pen...why not? Perhaps not having a translation project is what my body is reacting to, after all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Things that have come to my attention recently:

Scarf-wearing is still something to be looked at askance, although people seem to like the FC Brno one.

The New Family Guy movie took several watchings to become funny. Quotable, but light on plot.

It's "Doctor Jones! No time for love! We got company!" in spite of what popular culture has to say on the matter. No big surprise that a slightly edited quote could become the standard, but still. Also, that movie's really weird. None too flattering towards the Indians, either. Not that that's _really_ a problem for me.

Also, I splurged recently on a copy of Robert Lee Wolf's "The Balkans in Our Time," one of the required readings for a pair of courses I took on Balkan history with a delightful Greek man. Bringing back a lot of memories, this. I think I used it in a couple of papers. And it's an excellent look on the history of Albania, Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria through communization. Ah, Livanios' classes.

Weekend was great, am tired and either just dehydrated or coming down with something. Hopefully the former.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Things clarify...

I finally got one clue as to something specific that makes me sound foreign: I, like my brother, have picked up the habit of using "yes" and "no" as bare tag questions, unconsciously, and fairly frequently. Examples from today: "You're working until seven, yes?" and "I get my break soon, no?" Apparently this strikes the typical native English earn as quite foreign. Which makes sense, as I picked it up from non-native English speakers. Of various European ethnicities. So that's one symptom down.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

More fun at work today:

It was our Harvest Festival, so our local vendors came in a big tent outside and gave away free local things; I spent my whole lunch break out there, met a lot of folks who worked with me, and scored free pie, bread, cheese, chocolate, milk, etc. etc. The beer-mustard was great, and I was really cheerful going back into work for a change. Good stuff, that.

Also, in the continuing "you're from where?" saga one of my early-morning customers paused in the middle of our banter and hesitantly you have some sort of accent? Apparently I look and sound like a foreigner yet again. Her hesitant guess was "German," which I don't quite get. My co-workers chimed in with "maybe English, 'cause he looks like a Beatle" (yes, I need to get my hair cut, am working on that) but, joking aside, it was puzzlingly comical, as usual.

So far, that's Lithuanian, Ukrainian, German, Russian, English (to Americans), and Czech. (to some Slovaks to whom I was, admittedly, speaking Czech) Clearly my appearance is somewhat unusual, assumedly mainly as a result of the height issue. I do look very Slavic, and my tone and cadence may be odd...but it's still bizarre to me that I flag so many people as vaguely foreign. Mainly that guy in Providence who was convinced I was English, or putting on a really good English accent for show.

*shrugs* And now, the weekend.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Four things made my day today, both of them in the long and waning hours of the shift.

In order: A girl came through my line speaking Polish on a cell phone. I stopped her conversation with a "Dzienkuje bardzo," some discussion ensued (her English was fine too) followed by a "the guy in the grocery store speaks Czech" back into the cell phone in Polish. That was fun.

Some time later, two guys came in who were either pledging something or had lost a bet; both in jean shorts and aviator sunglasses, sleeveless, one in demin with a fake AC/DC tattoo drawn on his bicep, and the other one in a pink T-shirt advertising a seafood restaurant, I guess, with the words "I EAT 'M RAW AT GARY'S" It was the 'M that got mel; I couldn't stop laughing for minutes, and had to go outside.

Then I busted out the iPod to play "Hey Jealousy" for a co-worker and used its picture capacity to show me with short hair; which everyone agreed would look awesome, so I should do that, even if it's getting cold.

And then I segued somehow, in response to a "do you sleep in socks," to recounting the night of May 10th or 11th when I slept in five shirts and a jacket in the Vienna bus station with classes the next morning the next country over. It's nice to be able to convince your co-workers you're more than than new guy who seems decent enough but has never really told any decent stories.

Good times all around. And, at 3:30 tomorrow, I'm done until Monday morning.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ah, nothing like thirty-six hours of work in an eighty-hour span. I love my Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Just coming up for air since the time between my shifts today precludes a nap; I'm holding up fine, but only because I'm just at the beginning of this stretch.

Trying to find time to finish the book, since without readers it's just an enormously elaborate form of masturbation, and staying read as much as before shifts and breaks allow. Slogging my way through V., (maybe I'll try Mason & Dixon for the third time after this) and have watched Johnny Dangerously and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

I'm going to go continue gorging myself with food and girding my loins for round two today.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Opening one business and closing another has eaten into my writing schedule of late, as I use the intermediate time mainly for eating and napping...but I'm not really spending money, and, as a paycheck is tomorrow...yeah, that's probably going to be a good thing. I've been trying to keep up on my internetting and my reading ('s recently-linked paper on Muskogean historical linguistics, "The Devil in the White City" for 1890s Chicago-y goodness), and now, "Steppenwolf." Why? Not sure. "It was close to the end of the shelf" is as good a response as any, but it's good enoug so far.

Mainly it makes me want to be able to read German, or to just have a copy in German, but it's a good sitting in the hallway outside the office or the breakroom at the store read, and I've recently come upon a passage which has summed up my approach to Brno since May:

"And while I ate and drank there came over me that feeling of change and decay and of farewell celebrations, that sweet and inwardly painful feeling of being a living part of all the scenes and all the things of an earlier life that has never yet been parted from, and from which the time to part has come."

Brno was good; Brno was bad. I've had several conversations with Jef about reacting to the simple, cheerful question, "Oh, you were in Europe, how was that?" (Long stares play a part in the standard response). It was eight months of my life, and it's been gone for some time. A wish for uncluttered feelings about I like Hesse's (translated) collocation of sweet and inwardly painful. It's a good combination.

Or, rather, would have been, had I known it in May. I'm not really nostalgic in the painful sense for Brno. It was there, necessary for where I am now, and now it exists as that part of me which is in the past. Perhaps it's because I'm reasonably contented now; one's happiness at this point in time certainly would seem to affect how much one romanticizes the past.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

So one of my fellow cashiers' parents were from Zlín (and he speaks Czech nicely, and was ego-strokingly pleased at my Czech) and the guy finishing up my training tomorrow has a linguistics degree as well.

It looks like I'm in the right place to be a guy my age still working in a grocery store.

Great people, though. It's going to be nothing short of tolerable, and probably more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Since I've been muttering about it in multiple locations for some months now, I thought it necessary to publicly thank Jef for his musical present; nine CDs jam-packed with MP3s and a burned copy, lovely to behold, of the cocnept album "Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel," the best concept album ever about some sort of man, allergic to water, possibly a robot himself...giant caterpillars...underwater fire battles...actually, I have no real idea what it's about, but it is musical candy to me and has some pretty good smoking-on-the-balcony nostalgia accompanying it.

Re: Sigur Rós "conversation" in the comments below, I can only, again, reference Jef; namely, the end of the brief note he enclosed with said CDs. "Also, I make no apologies for the random musical jags I have gone on." Theoretically-informed or no, I likes what I likes.

Hey, while the season still's a summertime thing.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Struggling with productivity and not caring at the same time; I keep telling myself "to work" but it just isn't happening right now. Ah well, it's been quite the week, so far, it has, and I have a (shitty temporary co-op grocery store) job interview tomorrow, so I'm chilling with a beer and the iPod and a book, soon, I hope.

Von is jarring and beautiful by turns; it takes some faith to get into but tracks 3-7 and 9, I think, are quite heavenly and beautiful--and easy to see where the sound for Ágaetis byrjun and beyond came from. Yay for Nate for having bought this CD in Iceland when he was there.

Also quite lovely is "For Whom The Bell Tolls," which I got as a birthday present, and realized I hadn't read a lot of Hemingway (same with Nabokov and Pnin, though I had read Lolita) It's quite the book, dated euphemisms for cursing and the odd use of "thee/thy/thou" when dealing with translation from the Spanish language. But I would notice that, and I'm liking it so far.

That's the evening, in a nutshell. Happy weekend.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Back from slightly more than a week in DC, where I ushered in a new birthday with expensive gin and whisky, saw this Sigur Rós show [clickable link to listen/will be podcast soon, I'm told] with Nate, and bummed around figuring out how to walk around NW DC. Played with the birthday iPod, found out its photo capacity is nice but gimmicky (no way to edit, rename, or delete photos once they're on(!), edited apace, and received, among other things...

A subscription to Library Thing from Nick! Online personal library indexing? Mmmmmm...

One odd note: I spent the trip home reading through Nabokov's Pnin (Nate found he had a brace of them) and came upon the following passage:

"He never celebrated it nowadays, partly because, after his departure from Russia, it sidled by in a Gregorian disguise (thirteen--no, twelve days late) and partly because during the academic year he existed mainly on a motuweth frisas basis."

Now that last bit threw me quite for a loop, but I was eventually, after some scrutiny, fortunate enough to puzzle it out as the oddest day-of-the-week abbreviation I've yet seen. It's trying to find the significance of the word break--my best guess is that Pnin only taught four days a week, so motuweth on, frisas off? Still, hats off to Nabokov--he can't quite sustain the humor of the first chapter, but it's a nice little work, for what my opinion is worth.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fires, rapes, dying infants, fetid piles of garbage, the Superdome? The police on their own for food and water? Gangs of looters roaming New Orleans? Where is the national reaction beyond "we can't get gas/oh man the prices just went up?" And how much of the Texas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Mississippi/Alabama national guard is not there because they're deployed halfway around the world?

Both in terms of loss of life (although this is merely a projection) and in terms of infrastructure damage, this is much more disastrous than September 11th. Not that you can compare these things...but you can compare national reaction, I would think. And it's scary to hear what's trickling out about what's going on amidst our attempts to deal with the aftermath.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"The contemporary American poet Ron Padgett, who has given us wonderful translations of Blaise Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire, once said that his motive in translating was feeling "I want to tell my friends about this!" when he encountered a new poet in a language his friends did not read."

Not that I'd know anything about that...
"Note: The present tense, I dare, is really an old past tense, so that the third person is he dare, but the form he dares is now often used, and will probably displace the obsolescent he dare, through grammatically as incorrect as he shalls or he cans. --Skeat."

From some thread I found somewhere, which credits the 1913 Webster's dictionary.

All this while following my hunch that the German modal verb dürfen "to be allowed/permitted to," was relateed to obsolete-ish English durst, which i had assumed to be from "dare." (As far as I can tell, I am wrong, my big Random House upstairs has dare from an old infinite "durran," cognate to OHG "(gi)turran,"--hmm. We shall see.)

I think my point was is that prescriptivist claims about incorrect usage and "correct" historical forms are much, much more likely than not to be sociological judgments than linguistic ones, just couched in half-assed linguistic terms. (everybody who says "he/she dare," raise your hands!) We definitely need more linguistic instruction in school, if only to convince people that they don't have the intuitive grasp of either their language or that of others than they otherwise might think. But mainly it was an excuse for me to write about digging into German modal verbs. And re-iterate my need for an etymological dictionary of German.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My new side project is that I'm trying to learn to read German. So far, I have been trying to funnel vocabulary acquisition through Czech...though I will probably have to give that up. I could try to go trilingual (that would make for fun flashcards), but it's not of much benefit to me to learn to read German in Czech, regardless of how much I should practice both languages. In any event, I'm half-assedly looking for a German etymological dictionary (in German). My Rejzek's 'Czech etymological dictionary' is amazing in two ways; it forced me to use Czech to learn more Czech, (which is always key, naturally) and it tapped in to my apparent need for freeform etymological searches and lists of reconstructions and cognates. Granted, it's a little easier with German, (brechen and break, anyone?) but I still think such a dictionary would rock.

Of course, North Country Books, I find today has a textbook of what is apparently German pronunciation and articulation; but I can't really see dropping the $25 for just a sketch of general linguistic principles and (theoretically) a brief historical sketch.

Also, I'd just like to point out, for egotistical purposes, my retroactive addition to a languagelog post on the Brothers Grimm movie. Go me! Nothing like people interested in linguistics getting together to casually slam Matt Damon. And I've just dashed off another email about the increasing prevalence of the new stylized use of macrons. I think I'd rather have signs in IPA as well.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Well, I didn't want to post consecutive updates that were just counts of how much typing I'd done--so I apparently saved it all for the end.

Thirty thousand words since last Monday, fifty-five thousand total, and I'm done with Burner of Corpses...well, sort of. In any event, I have an electronic draft. Now the repetitive copyediting begins.

*laughs* And apart from the last couple hundred words, I'd spent several hours working in front of this fine piece of cinema. Any time your lead actor is "Costas Mandylor," which sounds like a subspecies of crocodile in its own right, you know it's quality entertainment. And guess what? It stayed alive just long enough to eat that evil corporate lady. Sorry if I ruined any of that for anyone.

In any event, I start the old medical records job again tomorrow morning for the next little while, so I'm just pleased I was able to meet my self-imposed deadline for getting this bad boy typed up. Give me a week or so of editing, and I might be ready to send copies out.

Monday, August 22, 2005

So, I managed to "transcribe" 5500 words today in a series of writing jags, and, as usual, this has given me perspective on what it is I'm actually doing, versus what I'd assumed my translation style was.

I had originally decided to translate longhand into a notebook for several reasons. I was in Brno, for one, and too lazy to figure out how to use the computer clusters I didn't have to pay for...and I'd happened to bring several smallish Brown U. notebooks. Combine this with a desire to be the sort of person who fills notebooks with frantic scrawl (thank you, Nick!) and we were off and running.

I came to see this as a "I'd write out my translation all old-school" sort of thing, with what followed being merely transcribing. I have come to realize this was not true, and, on some level, knew it for a long time when I began leaving things directly in Czech, writing down multiple meanings for a single word, and even leaving whole passages out. Also, I failed to appreciate to what extent "tightening up some of the wording" and "making this into something more closely resembling English." was a) still part of the translating process and b) taking me away from my presupposed all-literalist roots.

Now, I think I got the idea of my true literality from my and Nick's participation in a Sanskrit class where we would do our homework (eventually, translation of dense, dense philosophical text from the Upanishads) progressively later and later...eventually getting to the point where we would regularly do our work at lunch the day it was due. The refectory was more fun with 1500-page dictionaries courtesy of the wonderfully-named Sir Monier Monier-Williams. In any event, what we did, which evidently contributed much to my self-perception of myself as a translator, was throw as direct a translation up as we could and await class time to flesh it out.

But yeah, this is an integral part of the translation process, I'm coming to find. As literal a translation as possible must precede a degree of nativization, with the standard compromises lurking at every corner. But I feel it's important that I do keep these processes physically separate--that is, to attempt to be as literal as possible on paper as a first attempt, rather than attempting very much of the nativizing process in my head, where my motivations and idiosyncratic choices will not be recorded. It should make a laborious editing process...well, laborious, but much more fruitful.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Attempted rambling refinement of my thoughts on Waldrop/Dryden:

"One does not translate words" strikes me as patently false. Words are the smallest stand-alone units of meaning, and are what everyone writes in. How could translation be any different? After all, I wrote mine word-by-word. It is by no means a negligible unit of meaning, but must be kept in mind. Mindfulness of broader sense is important too, but I think it's a mistake to suborn one to the other. The sentence as unit-of-meaning seems like some step towards this, a compromise between higher-level meaning and what one's author actually wrote, what the text is as written.

And as for his other views, It seems to me that what is meant by '"The smallest unit of prose that can be thought of as translatable is the sentence and it is not incorrect, at most an exaggeration, to say that the real unit is the entire text." (Waldrop 100) While this seems holistic and unhelpful at times "OK, so how does that help me with this one clause," it seems to be a fallout from a higher principle, that meaning is encoded on multiple levels, and that one must make judgment calls where appropriate. But the author built up text-level meaning from...well, individual words.

My main principle, if I had to elaborate it, in dealing with Fuks was "look to the author above yourself, except where forced otherwise, for you're not as clever as you think you are." I guess it's easier to render as "Trust the author." Perhaps this is only valid due to my experiences with a sparse yet rigid structure, and with sentences lending themselves to literal translation. But if he could build meaning and sense that way in Czech, I don't see the need to dick around with it in English.
In any event, I'm sure I fucked up my share of things. It's certainly a very personal, and, quite simply, a ridiculous endeavor. *shrugs* It keeps everyone else from having to learn Czech, and, as it's not the original and never will be, perhaps it must hint at compromises made and sense lost. We wouldn't want to make the language obsolete.

And as for the ridiculous,

"In an attempt to make a prose version of one of the poems, I somehow tricked myself into making versets. It seemed, when I realized what I was doing, a ridiculous thing, but what is a little flirt with the ridiculous, compared with the immense impossibility of translating any literary text? " (105)

That I understand. Damned necessary enemies. Now I have to find more of his stuff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Subtleties of narrative, or sometimes you can have too many footnotes.

In the Fuks text I've been dealing which, one of the main characteristics of the work, and, indeed, in his writing in general, is a sparse opacity when dealing with matters of timing, which complements the slightly surreal attitude that pervades throughout where characters and actions flit about and repeat themselves. There are offhanded references to a light spring breeze, a quarter of a year after Christmas, several weeks after the events of the preceding chapter, and so on. You can figure out when things are going on with a large degree of precision, but such things are not transparent.

I'm not above over-footnoting things, but as a matter of course throughout the translation of the work I had been unpacking as many of these details as I could, with the intent of providing them later. (In an event not to spoil this yet further for anyone who may end up reading it, when I have it transcribed, I shall talk about things at a level of remove) This involved such things as dealing with the calculations necessary to obtain the exact date of some church holidays, or the day of the week the events of a historical action had occurred. Naturally, smug with my success at having done so, I planned on sharing these exact dates as footnotes, and have them all scrawled down at various points.

Now I think that would defeat the purpose altogether, allowing my own obsession with the text to overwrite, and inappropriately so, a level of detail, and more or less undermining the point. As historical curiosities, sure, they're fun to know, and least for me. But I can keep them that way. Well, other than babbling about it online.

"But here it is: the translator is a collaborator, not exactly with an author, living or dead, but with a text. Thus there are two phases any translator must go through: first to read something, then to write something.

This is why the naïve scribbler is so very very wrong to suppose that translating is the easy way to write a poem, a story, a play, that all you have to do is know the language of the original and, as it were, transcribe it in your own.

Try it. "

(from Waldrop, p 98 of this paper. [pdf; much obliged, as usual, to languagehat])

I disagree with some of Waldrop's later points--especially with the re-hash of Dryden's "one does not translate words," which has some merit (inasmuch as the tone and frequency of the words involved can contribute to an overemphasis on morphological clarity, thus ruining the tone of a sentence), but not as a general rule. Still, I am trying. And it seems that having a whole bunch of words on paper may only be the beginning. Interesting.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Yes, it's true. I, through my Hollywood connections, have indeed gotten the inside scoop on what's going to be included in the new philology action movie starring Heath Ledger and Matt Damon!

Now, while fans of EXPLOSIVE folklorist action might be disappointed in the fact that many of the peasant interviews and data-collecting of European folk tales got left on the cutting room floor, you'll realize that it had to be when you see what's been left in!

Jake's (Heath Ledger) appointment as secretary of Jerome Bonaparte's library in WESTPHALIA! Will's (Matt Damon's) contributions to the Deutsches Wörterbuch, foundation of modern German etymology! Jake's literary endeavors! The publishing of the three-volume DEUTSCHE GRAMMATIK! The struggles with the development of what was going to come to be known as Grimm's Law! Consonant correspondences in the Germanic languages! Academic arguments with RASMUS RASK!

And yes, movie fans, they leave it open for a sequel! Though Grimm's Law was the first non-trivial formulation of systematic sound change, the rule as stated remained incomplete--the ORIGINAL VOICELESS STOPS were especially hard to deal with! And though the movie closes with Jake's death in 1863, the movie closes on--you guessed it--KARL VERNER scribbling away in his study!

But I guess we'll have to wait to see just how those Germanic stops ended up voiced! It'll be worth another $9.25, believe you me!
Making the leap to Blogspot.

Even changing a longstanding handle. Well, my love of mollusks did certainly predate my love of weird anagrams involving my name.

Hopefully I'll be able to babble about translation and etymology more here, in addition to the occasional rant about how much more I like pen-and-paper writing. The notes on translation and etymology are likely to be either anecdotes from experience, for the former, or correspondences I find amusing.

Namely, things like the fact that English mollusk [>Latin mollis/molluscus 'soft'] has a correspondence in Czech, měkkýš, [>měkký "soft", though the Czech does not seem to be genetically related to the Latin] formed by the adjective plus a nonproductive terminological suffix - ýš. Another of the words that shares this is is the noun hroznýš, "[boa] constrictor", from the adjective hrozný, "terrible, horrible, awful." This allows for a play on words in the Czech that's nonexistent in English. This, naturally, occurs in chapter one of Spalovač mrtvol, the book I've been translating. Paraphrasing from memory, it's something like "everyone knows in advance what to expect from a constrictor; it's in the name, after all."

I guess that still carries in the English, for one would expect constriction, but that's at a level of remove from expecting outright horror. And that's why it's footnoted, of course.

And this is most of what I think about all day.