“Translating Brecht,” from the Greek of Yorgos Kentrotis

i.m. Franco Fortini

Said Brecht to me (in a dream): now you’re translating me,
I see you’re set on literalness, i.e, rendering cleanly, purely.
But if you add your own words and thoughts, surely
the value of mine will increase. As for my texts, let them be

more like direction-finders or guides
but not rules or frames. I never endorsed shrinking
from chaos or disorder. My ways of thinking
draw strength from the dialectics of barricades.

That’s why I’m telling you: I like having my texts betrayed.
What that’ll show is, they’ve been fully and firmly grasped.
They need to be questioned – so that transmuted, not obeyed,
through your words my meanings will be unclasped.
And in this there’s no harm for a poet. So, here is
the solution: my intentions will best be served
when transformed by your challenges and queries.
Free beings like us refuse to be enslaved.

 

Μεταφράζοντας Μπρεχτ

Στη μνήμη του Φράνκο Φορτίνι

Eνώ με μεταφράζεις (μου ’πε ο Μπρεχτ μες στ’ όνειρό μου),
σε βλέπω που κολλάς στις λέξεις μου με αδιαλλαξία.
Αν λέξεις-σκέψεις πρόσθετες δικές σου, στην αξία
των στίχων μου θα πρόσθετες αξία. Το υλικό μου

για μπούσουλα και δείχτη δες το. Και όχι με του νόμου
τη νόρμα ή τις συνέπειες. Κι εγώ την αταξία
εξ άλλου επρέσβευα παντού, και πάντα υπεραξία
ιδεών αντλούσα μεσ’ απ’ τη διαλεκτική του δρόμου.

Γι’ αυτό σου λέω: μ’ αρέσει η προδοσία του κειμένου·
μου αποδεικνύει πως σε βάθος μ’ έχεις καταλάβει.
Εν αμφιβόλω θέτε τα γραπτά μου, προκειμένου
τη γλώσσα μου να βάλεις στη δικιά σου να μιλήσει!
Σ’ αυτό όσοι από ποιητική νογάν δεν βλέπουν βλάβη.
Εσύ γνωρίζεις την καλύτερη για μένα λύση.
Τι λέω εγώ το πιάνει αυτός που θα με αμφισβητήσει·
τους όμοιους μας τους νοιάζει να ’ν’ ελεύθεροι, όχι σκλάβοι.

 

Yorgos Kentrotis was born in 1958 in Laconia, the Peloponnese. Following studies in Law at Greek and German universities, he was eventually won over by literature and translation. He is currently Professor of Translation Theory at the Ionian University in Corfu. Since the early 1980s he has steadily produced translations from ancient Greek, Latin, German and Russian–of works by, among others, Plato, Cicero, Robert Musil, Pablo Neruda and Vladimir Mayakovsky. He has published numerous essays and monographs on comparative literature, poetics and translation. A first collection of his poems appeared in 2006; Kentrotis has produced five collections since. In 2014, he put out a collection of no less than 500 of Brecht’s poems in Greek translation, as well as a selection of epigrams from the Palatine Anthology. A similar edition of Paz’s poetry is forthcoming. In 2015, he published the long-awaited Greek translation of Giambattista Vico’s La scienza nuova (1725) and most recently in 2018, a new version of Charles Baudelaire’s Le Fleurs de Mal.

‘Translating Brecht’ borrows its title from an Italian poem by Franco Fortini, also a translator of Brecht. It appeared in Kentrotis’s most recent collection, published in 2016, which contained original poems as well as versions – and thus it includes also his Greek translation of Fortini’s ‘Traducendo Brecht’ (poignantly this is dedicated to Kentrotis’s son, Dimitris; while Kentrotis’s own poem exists ‘in memory of’ Fortini). For the original Italian see: http://www.900letterario.it/poesia/traducendo-brecht-ruolo-poesia-fortini/

Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

Richard Berengarten was born in London in 1943, into a family of musicians. He has lived in Italy, Greece, the USA and former Yugoslavia. His writing integrates multiple strands, including English, French, Mediterranean, Jewish, Slavic, American and Oriental influences. Under the name Richard Burns, he has published more than 25 books and received several awards, among them the Eric Gregory Award, the Keats Poetry Prize and the international Morava Charter Poetry Prize. In the 1970s, he founded and ran the international Cambridge Poetry Festival. He has been Writer-in-Residence at the Eliot-Dante Colloquium in Florence, Arts Council Writer-in-Residence at the Victoria Centre in Gravesend, and a Royal Literary Fund Project Fellow. He has been Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame and British Council Lecturer in Belgrade. He is currently a Fellow of the English Association, a Bye-Fellow at Downing College, Cambridge, and poetry editor of Jewish Quarterly. His most recent publication is Imagems 2 (Shearsman, 2019).

Paschalis Nikolaou (pictured) was born in 1979 in Alexandroupolis, northern Greece. He lives in Corfu, where he is Assistant Professor in Literary Translation at the Ionian University. Essays on aspects of translation studies have been included in edited volumes; his poems, as well as criticism and translations have appeared in Magma, The London Magazine, Etchings, Modern Poetry in Translation, In Other Words and Parnassus. He is also reviews editor of a translation journal, mTm. With Maria-Venetia Kyritsi, he has co-edited Translating Selves: Experience and Identity between Languages and Literatures (Continuum, 2008), and with Richard Berengarten, The Perfect Order: Selected Poems 1974-2010 by Nasos Vayenas (Anvil Press Poetry, 2010) – a volume shortlisted for the Criticos Prize (now the London Hellenic Prize). His most recent book is The Return of Pytheas: Scenes from British and Greek Poetry in Dialogue (Shearsman, 2017).
Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

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Author: Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

Richard Berengarten was born in London in 1943, into a family of musicians. He has lived in Italy, Greece, the USA and former Yugoslavia. His writing integrates multiple strands, including English, French, Mediterranean, Jewish, Slavic, American and Oriental influences. Under the name Richard Burns, he has published more than 25 books and received several awards, among them the Eric Gregory Award, the Keats Poetry Prize and the international Morava Charter Poetry Prize. In the 1970s, he founded and ran the international Cambridge Poetry Festival. He has been Writer-in-Residence at the Eliot-Dante Colloquium in Florence, Arts Council Writer-in-Residence at the Victoria Centre in Gravesend, and a Royal Literary Fund Project Fellow. He has been Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame and British Council Lecturer in Belgrade. He is currently a Fellow of the English Association, a Bye-Fellow at Downing College, Cambridge, and poetry editor of Jewish Quarterly. His most recent publication is Imagems 2 (Shearsman, 2019). Paschalis Nikolaou (pictured) was born in 1979 in Alexandroupolis, northern Greece. He lives in Corfu, where he is Assistant Professor in Literary Translation at the Ionian University. Essays on aspects of translation studies have been included in edited volumes; his poems, as well as criticism and translations have appeared in Magma, The London Magazine, Etchings, Modern Poetry in Translation, In Other Words and Parnassus. He is also reviews editor of a translation journal, mTm. With Maria-Venetia Kyritsi, he has co-edited Translating Selves: Experience and Identity between Languages and Literatures (Continuum, 2008), and with Richard Berengarten, The Perfect Order: Selected Poems 1974-2010 by Nasos Vayenas (Anvil Press Poetry, 2010) – a volume shortlisted for the Criticos Prize (now the London Hellenic Prize). His most recent book is The Return of Pytheas: Scenes from British and Greek Poetry in Dialogue (Shearsman, 2017).