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This article is taken from PN Review 142, Volume 28 Number 2, November - December 2001.

'Something Like His Own Language': Joseph Brodsky Daniel Weissbort

The title of this hefty book - The Collected Poems in English by Joseph Brodsky - is challenging, rather than, as at first sight it seems, simply factual. It is not immediately apparent that the volume contains several categories of 'Poems in English'. First, poems translated by the author from his own Russian into his own English; second, poems translated by the author in collaboration with another translator; third, poems independently (presumably) translated by other translators; fourth, poems written by the author in English. Increasingly, Brodsky, if with reluctance, was taking charge of the translation process, as I noted in a review of So Forth (1996) ('His own Translator: Joseph Brodsky', Translation & Literature, Vol. 7, Part 1, 1998). When he worked through or alongside another translator, he exerted strict control, which sometimes led to tense situations. Whether his auto-translations were much influenced by feedback from others is not known to me, but it is unlikely that they were entirely free of such influences.

Translators' names are not to be found under each poem. Consequently it is not immediately apparent whether the poem was written in English rather than translated into it. Many of the poems are translations in the traditional sense. The collaborations in varying degrees, and, to a greater extent, the self-translations are also translations, but in a special sense, which I shall attempt to characterise. In fact, the authorial status of these poems is indicated, and additional information provided at the back of the ...


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