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Frigyes Karinthy: This Is the Way You Write (selections)

2011.01.26

Frigyes Karinthy: This Is the Way You Write (selections)

 

 

Endre Ady: Hogwash-Country

 

For me there came a sable-colored ship

For me it came on sable-colored tide,

I was a dream-prince, and it carried me

--Hogwash-Country lay to our side--

Such a black ship, such a black tide!

 

Hogwash-Country, hajh, scurvy country,

Hajh, Hortobágy, lard-hearted fright,

Hajh, cursed city, rotted fallow:

My pigsty-country, let me go, I cry!

Along such black waters have come I...

 

I am the Seagull of the West,

But Earth has spat me out Hungarian.

Hogwash-Country sits upon my neck,

Hogwash-Country  now calls me its own:

I hear the lard-soaked country groan.

 

No more will I leave, oh you ship so black,

Hogwash-Country, won’t this make you glad?

Let them bark, let them, let them freely bark,

On the black waters, sable-colored lad,

Hajh, what the devil, melancholy lad.

 

Endre Ady: „The Dwarf-Headed Ones”

 

To work is not why I came here,

To work is not why I came here,

Dwarf-headed one, leave me alone.

 

Heavy labor is this of mine,

Heavy labor is this of mine,

We are the New Detestables.

 

But to me came a dwarfish one,

But to me came a dwarfish one,

And asked me, „What do you want?

 

„You are the New Detestables,

You are the New Detestables,

You ought to go to work as well.”

 

My Scythian blood came to boil,

My Scythian blood came to boil,

And I scolded Dwarf-headed One:

 

„And are you clear out of your mind,

And are you clear out of your mind,

That you say everything twice, you say everything twice?”

 

 

 

Mihály Szabolcska: „Simplicity”

 

 

Not a fancy, showy peacock,

Nothing modern is my heart.

Simpleness alone dwells in me,

Gentleness, smiles dwell inside.

 

All my songs are simple and pure,

That’s all I sing, nothing else,

Nothing  very complicated—

I write down what my heart tells.

 

My heart just chirps, like a birdie,

Always simple, always free,

Without effort, just keeps chirping,

Like a finch in leafy tree.

 

I sing only of my feelings—

Whatever lies in my heart,

Little sheep graze in the meadow—

They have taught me how to write.

 

My poems are pure and simple,

Nests, roofs, matters sensible—

There is nothing in them, but, Hark!

They are comprehensible!

 

My mind was made truly simple

By the Lord who dwells above,

There is nothing modern in me,

Only mildness, only love.

 

Two loving hearts, tiny cottage,

Where the sky is never gray—

Endre Ady ought to drop dead,

Preferably right away!

 

 

                        The Art of Literary Translation

 

A literary magazine published the following beautiful stanza by Endre Ady:

                                   Jöttem a Gangesz partjairól,

                                   Hol álmodoztam déli verőn,

                                   A szívem egy nagy harangvirág,

                                   S finom remegések: az erőm.

 

If one acknowledges that a poet can take certain liberties with the language,

one ought to be dazzled by the creation of the word „verő,” a charming

variation of „verőfény,” „bright sunlight.” Unfortunately, not every reader is

familiar with this practice, and as a result, a first, literal translation turned out like

 this:

 

 

                                    I came from the shores of the Ganges

                                   Where on the southern beater I dreamt.

                                   My heart is a giant bluebell-cup

                                   And delicate tremblings: my strength.

 

A sensitive translator read the anthology and was particularly moved by the

first stanza  He was not sure of the rare word „verőn”—and settled on „beater,”

as the nearest synonym.  He decided to submit it to the journal Dichterstimmen.

 

 He translated it into  German as follows:

 

                                   Ich kam vom Ufer des Ganges

                                   Dort traumt ich von südischen Schlager

                                   Mein Herz, de Blume, du banges,

                                   Du bist so zitternd,  so mager.

 

Oh well, in a literary translation like this one makes a few changes…

So far, everything was all right, but now another translator read the poem in the

magazine.  He was so carried away with enthusiasm that he did not notice

that the stanza was translated from the Hungarian into German.  Thinking

it an original, he translated it into Hungarian.  Once more, trouble arose,

with the same pesky word, „Schlager’..But he solved it bravely. In colloquial

Hungarian, a popular song is often called „sláger.” With that question taken

care of, now he felt confident and  submitted his work to a Hungarian

literary journal,  like this:

 

                                   Ufer, Jewish poet of hit-songs,

                                   He slept on the gangway so deep,

                                   His good friend, Herz, encouraged him,

                                   Don’t tremble so, don’t fret, don’t weep!

 

One can’t deny that some misunderstandings have crept into this, but it’s so

easy so get mixed up in this blasted Gothic script!  For instance, the excellent

translator misread the word „südischen” for „jüdischen”.  Moreover, he translated

„Ganges,” the name of a river in India, as the plural of „gang” that is „gangway,”

after all, in Hungarian,  the word „gang” is also used to mean a corridor, or an

outside staircase, a „gang.”  The trouble would have stopped there, except that

the stanza now fell into the hands of a third translator, who mistook it for a

Hungarian poem and sent it  to another German-language magazine in the

free German translation  given here:

 

                                   O, Dichter der alten Juden,

                                   Was schlafst du in Flussalz so tief?

                                   Hörst du nicht den alter Herzog

                                   Der dir in die Ohren rief?

 

Well, with respect to the word „Flussalz,” one can hardly expect a German

translator to make superfine distinctions, for enstance, between Hungarian

„folyosó” and „folyó só,” German „Flusszalz.  It is also understandable that

he mistook the unusual family name Herz for an abbreviation of Hungarian

Herceg, German Herzog, meaning „prince.” Accordingly, Gedicht-Magazin,,

rather than splitting hairs, accepted the principle of poetic licence and printed

the poem.  It was in this fashion that the stanza fell into the hands of still a

fourth translator.  This artist provided the final Hungarian translation., which

has meanwhile attained world-wide renown, in the following form:

 

                                   Herz-Salami’s salt content

                                   Uncontested leader:

                                   Denser than all other brands,

                                   Believe me, oh, kind reader!

 

Considering that the German word „Dichter” may with equal validity be

translated as „poet” or „denser,” to date this last one is the most widespead

Hungarian version of the extraordinary poem.  Apart from minor modifications

--sanctified by the necessity of preserving the original poetic form—the

translator made remarkably few changes in the content of the poem.  Moreover,

he also earned the gratitude of the salami-manufacturer, and we hope that he

has given proper monetary expression to his gratitude.  This, at any rate, would

be a desirable result..

 

 

 

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