7 sept. 2011

Gypsy Cante: Deep Song of the Caves

I am a little disappointed by Will Kirkland's collection of Cante Jondo, published by New Directions in 1999. It is a sincere effort and collects some relevant lyrics for a reader with no Spanish. Aside from the limited selection, centered on earlier texts from the 19th century and the "Golden Age" of the 1920s, the translations themselves are not particularly distinguished. If you had to tranlate "porque mis penas nunca van a menos / siempre van a más," would you think the poetic device of parallelism is significant? Look at the stark simplicity of those lines. WK writes: "because these griefs will never get smaller, / will grow with the years." In the same poem he mistranslates the word "hasta." "Hasta l'alma me duele / de tanto llorar." He says "Even my soul feel the pain / of so many tears." What this really means, though, is "I have been crying so hard that hurts all the down to my soul." Converting llorar, a verb, into a noun, "tears," robs the line of its dynamism.

The words "tears" and "years" are obviously there just for the rhyme. This is the opposite of how rhyme works in the original. In other words, the rhyme never weakens the poem or distracts the reader, it is never forced. Machado y Álvarez says the flamenco cante never contains ripio or padding. Also, there is no excuse to not use colloquial English in the translation of these texts. Nobody talks like this: 'How is that for some crazy words /such love is gone."

I'm not even going to start on the introduction and critical apparatus. There is probably no way to present this poetry without the predictable appeal to Romantic Spain.

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