Sunday, 19 May 2013
This set me thinking about the nature of translation. There have been phrasebooks for travellers for centuries. They result in (no doubt apocryphal) absurdities such as 'my postillion has been struck by lightning' or Gerald Hoffnung's 'There is a French widow in every bedroom'. Even Google Glass's example - of what 'half a pound' is in Chinese needs to be contextualised via a picture of a vegetable display that the presumed Glass wearer wants half a pound of.
Moffat Book Events website now carries a series of bi-lingual (English and Russian) tales of British life which we aim to expand. The idea is to introduce the reader to key cultural activities - so far the game of cricket and the local pub - which are essential to the understanding of each other. I watched the movie starring Michael Douglas 'Money Never Dies' on TV last night. In one scene, the young protagonist scores a hit with a Chinese business delegation by presenting the male leader with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and the female leader with a package beautifully wrapped in red. The giving of appropriate gifts, the use of appropriate colour - these are as important as what words are used. Hence, 'translators' need not fear gadgetry such as Google Glass. Without profound study of the culture being 'translated', words are sometimes worse than useless.
Amongst the French
by Paul Zimmer
I do not have their words,
do not have their years or customs.
Passing them on the road,
shy as fog passing down
slopes into the valley,
I always give first utterance
or make an uncertain gesture.
My neighbors are kind,
knowing I am like rain,
that if they wait long enough,
in time I will go away.
It is the same for me in
all directions—under stars
swarming out of foothills,
on the gravel I churn
with my shoes—east, west,
north, or south—the same.
If I remained in
this friendly place forever,
I would always be a stranger.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
|Lewis and Clark|
|Evgeny and Alan|
Here is the story of Lewis and Clark as told by today's Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 1804 that Lewis and Clark departed on their journey. Even though this was the official start date of the trip, it had taken years of preparation.
Thomas Jefferson had been trying to send explorers to the American West for years. Back in 1785, when he was the Ambassador to France, Jefferson met a man named Ledyard who had been born in Connecticut, wandered all over the East Coast, sailed with Captain Cook in the South Pacific, and ended up in Paris. Jefferson wanted to send Ledyard to explore out West, and they worked out an intricate plan for him to get to the West Coast via Russia. But the trip was a disaster — Ledyard walked 1,200 miles through Scandinavia and the Artic Circle, and managed to travel through most of Russia before an angry Catherine the Great had him captured and deported, so he took off for Africa, where he soon died. A few years later, in 1793, Jefferson was secretary of state, and he decided to try again. He organized an expedition under the charge of a French botanist and explorer named André Michaux, who wanted to travel from the Missouri River all the way to the Pacific. Eighteen-year-old Meriwether Lewis asked Thomas Jefferson to let him join Michaux's expedition, but Jefferson said no. Unfortunately, the new French Minister to America, Edmond-Charles Genet, was scheming to increase hostilities between America and Spain, and Michaux ended up involved in the plot, and the expedition fell apart.
The third time around, Jefferson planned even more carefully. He had now known Meriwether Lewis for years, and Lewis was his trusted private secretary, so Jefferson suggested that Lewis lead the trip. In January of 1803, Jefferson sent a secret letter to Congress to ask if they would fund an expedition — at a cost of $2,500. They agreed, and Jefferson sent Lewis to learn the skills he would need from the best teachers — he studied surveying and mapmaking, botany, mathematics, anatomy, fossils, and medicine, each with an esteemed scholar. For his co-leader, Lewis chose William Clark, his former commanding officer in the army.
Lewis and Clark spent the winter before they departed near St. Louis at Camp Dubois, on the Mississippi River. They gathered supplies, recruited more people, and in the final days, packed the boats. They had a long supply list, which included 25 hatchets, 10.5 pounds of fishing hooks and fishing lines, 12 pounds of soap, three bushels of salt, 45 flannel shirts, 15 pairs of wool overalls, 176 pounds of gunpowder, 130 rolls of tobacco and 4,600 sewing needles (the tobacco and needles were gifts for Native people they would encounter), a microscope, a telescope, two sextants, 15 .54-caliber rifles, and 50 dozen Dr. Rush's patented "Rush's Thunderclapper" pills — a laxative whose two main ingredients were mercury and jalapeños. They fit all this and much more into three boats: one was a 55-foot Keelboat, a riverboat that could be sailed, rowed, or poled; and two were pirogues, smaller flat-bottomed boats that were similar to big canoes, one painted red and one white. On this day in 1804, the "Corps of Discovery" started up the Missouri River.
Friday, 10 May 2013
|'traditional eremitical garb and a frugal diet'?|
|A modern hermitage in Moffat|
'The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome' by Gordon Campbell OUP £16.99. 'As early as 1767 William Wighte's Grotesque Architecture of Rural Amusement : Consisting of Plans, Elevations, and Sections for Huts, Retreats, Summer and Winter Hermitages provided plans for seven different types of hermitage, including an 'Oriental' one 'with an inscription in faux-Arabic script' and an 'Augustine' one 'with wings that end in pavilions to accommodate a library and bath'. ... Campbell's book ends with the suggestion that garden gnomes (first introduced from Germany in the 1840's) 'came to occupy the cultural void occasioned by the demise of the ornamental hermit' (Peter Parker, The Spectator 11 May 2013).
'Beyond the Malachite Hills: A Life of Colonial Service and Business in the New Africa' by Jonathan Lawley. I.B. Tauris 18.99 In his review, Matthew Parris quotes the following irresistible letter from the book:
To the District Officer, King,
On opening this epistle you will behold the work of a dejobbed person and a very much childenised gentleman. Who was violently dejobbed in a twinkling by your goodself. For Heaven's sake, Sir, consider this catastrophe as falling on your own head and walking home at the moon's end of five savage wives and 16 voracious children with your pocket filled with non-existent cash....When being dejobbed and proceeding with a heart and intestines filled with misery to this den of doom myself did greedily contemplate culpable homicide...'
The eloquent petitioner got his job back.
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
|The Wendell Berry stone in the walled garden of Blair Castle|
Sunday, 28 April 2013
|Richard Demarco on the road|
To begin with, 12 of us sat in the sun at the picnic table in the beautiful Moffat Gallery garden, planted by Sherpa Dawa of Craigieburn Garden, Moffat, gathered round the great man (13 when my grandson Zac joined us). We were: John Martin (co-founder of the Demarco Gallery, founder of Forth Studios); Sheila Martin; Helen and Graham Duncan, Trustees of the Demarco archive; Edith Reyntiens of Dumfries, whose father Patrick - the famous stained glass window artist Coventry Cathedral, Westminster Hall etc - was a contemporary of Richard's at Edinburgh School of Art; Richard's wife Anne; Terry Newman, assistant to RD; Viola a Croatian photographer; Janet Wheatcroft of Girton College Cambridge and Craigieburn garden, Moffat; Eryl Shields, photographer and writer of Moffat; Jill Hollis of Cameron & Hollis, Moffat-based publisher currently working with Andy Goldsworthy; my sister Jenny Gough-Cooper sometime administrator of the Demarco gallery , graduate of Camberwell and Hornsey schools of art, biographer of Duchamp, now a professional photographer, and myself.
Talk continued inside the gallery surrounded by the pictures Richard has been making since 1960, under the rubric 'The Road to Meikle Seggie', on the theme of 'the road' or 'the journey', through rural Scotland contrasted with, and leading to and from, the city of Edinburgh. We were joined by a couple from Dalkeith, an artist and a singer/songwriter who happened to be passing.
We brainstormed some Creative Place/Day of the Region ideas, the importance of art etc.
Richard also brought with him, and we discussed, details of the 'Room 13' initiative http://room13international.org which seemed to those present a perfect activity (among others) for Old Moffat Academy.
Richard will be holding another seminar at 21 Well Road on Sat June 15th 2-4pm, this time with the focus on Moffat's Creative Place/Day of the Region plans.
Friday, 26 April 2013
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Today is the birthday of Vladimir Nabokov, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1899. He was the first of five children; his father was a lawyer and politician and the family were well-to-do members of the minor nobility. He grew up with access to a lavish library, and was trilingual, fluent in English and French, as well as his native Russian, from an early age. When he was 17, he inherited an estate from his uncle, but he lost it the following year in the Bolshevik Revolution, and he was never to own a house again. The family fled St. Petersburg during the revolution, and in 1919 they settled in western Europe: first England, where Nabokov attended Cambridge, and then Berlin, where his father was shot and killed at a political rally in 1922.
Nabokov left Berlin in 1936 with his wife, Vera, who was Jewish, and their son; they moved to Paris but left again in 1940 to escape the Nazi advance. They settled in the United States, where he wrote and pursued the life of the academic nomad, moving from rented house to rented house and teaching at a series of colleges. In 1961, the success of his famously controversial novel Lolita (1953), and its subsequent film adaptation, enabled him to retire and write full time, and the Nabokovs moved to a hotel in Switzerland, where they lived until his death in 1977.
It is of particular interest to Moffat Book Events, looking ahead to our international conference on translation here 20-22 Sept 2013, that he wrote his first nine novels in Russian, and then began writing in English, although he mourned the loss of his native language. He wrote in the afterword to Lolita: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English."
He was also a passionate and methodical collector of butterflies. He wrote, "From the age of seven, everything I felt in connection with a rectangle of framed sunlight was dominated by a single passion. If my first glance of the morning was for the sun, my first thought was for the butterflies it would engender," and he claimed that he would have become a lepidopterist, had it not been for the interruption of the Bolshevik Revolution. His knowledge, though self-taught, was so great that he was appointed curator for the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology's butterfly collection. In 1945, he came up with a theory that the Polyommatus Blue species had come to North America from Asia in a series of waves, and though professional lepidopterists scoffed at him at the time, recent DNA research has proven him right.
In his memoir, Speak, Memory (1951), he wrote, "The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness."
And, "A sense of security, of well-being, of summer warmth pervades my memory. That robust reality makes a ghost of the present. The mirror brims with brightness; a bumblebee has entered the room and bumps against the ceiling. Everything is as it should be, nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die." (from today's online The Writer's Almanac)