At first it had no name. It was the thing itself, the vivid thing. It was his friend. On windy days it danced, demented, waving wild arms, or in the silence of evening drowsed and dreamed, swaying in the blue, the goldeny air. Even at night it did not go away. Wrapped in his truckle bed, he could hear it stirring darkly outside in the dark, all the long night long. There were others, nearer to him, more vivid still than this, they came and went, talking, but they were wholly familiar, almost a part of himself, while it, steadfast and aloof, belonged to the mysterious outside, to the wind and the weather and the goldeny blue air. It was part of the world, and yet it was his friend.
Look, Nicolas, look! See the big tree!
Tree. That was its name. And also: the linden. They were nice words. He had known them a long time before he knew what they meant. They did not mean themselves, they were nothing in themselves, they meant the dancing singing thing outside. In wind, in silence, at night, in the changing air, it changed and yet was changelessly the tree, the linden tree. That was strange.
Everything had a name, but although every name was nothing without the thing named, the thing cared nothing for its name, had no need of a name, and was itself only. And then there were the names that signified no substantial thing, as linden and tree signified that dark dancer. His mother asked him who did he love the best. Love did not dance, nor tap the window with frantic fingers, love had no leafy arms to shake, yet when she spoke that name that named nothing, some impalpable but real thing within him responded as if to a summons, as if it had heard its name spoken. That was very strange.
He soon forgot about these enigmatic matters, and learned to talk as others talked, full of conviction, unquestioningly.
The sky is blue, the sun is gold, the linden tree is green. Day is light, it ends, night falls, and then it is dark. You sleep, and in the morning wake again. But a day will come when you will not wake. That is death. Death is sad. Sadness is what happiness is not. And so on. How simple it all was, after all! There was no need even to think about it. He had only to be, and life would do the rest, would send day to follow day until there were no days left, for him, and then he would go to Heaven and be an angel. Hell was under the ground.
Matthew Mark Luke and John
Bless the bed that I lie on
If I die before I wake
Ask holy God my soul to take
He peered from behind clasped hands at his mother kneeling beside him in the candlelight. Under a burnished coif of coiled hair her face was pale and still, like the face of the Madonna in the picture. Her eyes were closed, and her lips moved, mouthing mutely the pious lines as he recited them aloud. When he stumbled on the hard words she bore him up gently, in a wonderfully gentle voice. He loved her the best, he said. She rocked him in her arms and sang a song.
See saw Margery Daw
This little chicken
Got lost in the straw
Comments of translating Doctor Copernicus
XINYI YU and YANQING WANG
There are two kinds of difficulties in translating Doctor Copernicus into Chinese: one is the differences in English and Chinese language and the other is the differences in cultural background.
Firstly, it is difficult to understand the text since the narrative begins with personal pronouns. We are confused whether “it” and “they” should be translated into pronouns that refer to thing or person, because Chinese distinguish the two: “it” can be translated into “它” which refers to a thing, or “他” which refers to a person. Moreover, since the story is narrated from the child’s perspective, we find it hard to represent it in Chinese. For example, although the linden is described as Nicholas’s “friend”, there is no intimate interaction between Nicholas and linden like children’s literature. It makes it difficult to translate in a childlike tone. Through the process of the translation, we thought it was difficult to get the balance between written language and spoken language as well. For example, since the sixth paragraph (which begins with “The sky is blue, the sun is gold, the linden tree is green…”) is better translated into spoken language in order to show the paragraph describes by Nicolas’s perspective, we have to choose words that sound colloquial but blend in with the overall writerly style.
Secondly, because of the differences in religion and culture, imaging and describing the scene of the bed-time prayer to readers is another difficult point. The hardest part is that since some words do not have the exact corresponding words in Chinese and we have to make effort to explain them in Chinese in order to make the translation more understandable. For example, “truckle bed” is translated as “带脚轮的矮床”, which means “the low bed with casters”, and “clasped hands” as “合十祈祷的双手”, which means “put the hands together for praying”.
Finally, the most difficult point is translating the prayer and the nursery rhyme, because they can be translated into either classical poetry form or modern poetry form in Chinese. We need to choose the suitable words to keep the rhythm of the poem, and at the same time, we have to pay attention to the selection of words appropriate to the poetry form. This means that we sometimes made choice of preserving Chinese rhythm at the expense of changing the meaning of the original text. For example, “If I die before I wake / ask holy god my soul to take.” can be understood as a traditional common prayer. However, if we turn the poem into an ancient Chinese version, it becomes a classical poetry. Similarly, we face a dilemma when we try to translate it into a modern poem, in that the nuance does not fit the context properly.
To sum up, although we were met with a lot of difficulty in the translation process, we enjoyed the freshness of Banville’s text and felt that we improved our skills in reading and translating English literary texts. Furthermore, the original text impresses us with its distinctive narrative style
s. We are looking forward to enjoying the rest of the novel.
Xinyi YU and Yanqing WANG are Chinese students studying English Literature at the Japanese university, Ochanomizu University. Since the supervisor has no command of Chinese, we conducted the translation project as follows. The students made their own translations, referring to the Chinese translations already uploaded at the Banville Project site. Then they peer reviewed their translations, and had discussions about their differences, questioning the supervisor about the nuance of the words, phrases and sentences of the original. They had an adventurous experience of moving among three very different languages (English, Chinese and Japanese) in their translation process.