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This report is taken from PN Review 227, Volume 42 Number 3, January - February 2016.

Use All Gently Vahni Capildeo
Translating: is it done word for word, sense by sense, or sound for sound? If not managed with a balance-sheet of phonetic sounds – not compensating for the ‘n’ lost in one poetic cluster by an added ‘m’ elsewhere – but trialled in the succession and ultimate shape of corporeal shaking that would happen to someone who translated not by thinking of giving voice to the text, but by becoming re-articulated in accordance with the text’s voices: what might that be like? As if in the display of a flat black and white collage made from photocopies of old newspapers, grey from rubbed text and blips in lighting, cut into just-off geometric shapes, kites curving like kindred of cones, all the pieces were to start moving, inauthentic jazz, letters applejacking backwards, and out of the monochrome nowhere a real miniaturized extra-shiny trumpet were to emerge, positioning itself as a centrepiece, extruding long-pitched sounds and shattering every decorum that normally keeps spectators at a distance nobody would disagree was safe, the recorded voice of Mayakovsky blared through the British Library headphones to my eardrums and to an absent, conjured, Cyrillic-shifting crowd. It was the first time I had heard this dead man live. I knew at once that I had heard him before. Elsewhere, there had been a book on a desk. The huge energy of Edwin Morgan’s translation had ranted clear of those wood and paper boundaries. My head had roared with a rhythm. Morgan’s Scots had conveyed a Russian voice to a non-Russian speaking, silent reader. Arguably, this had happened in counterpoint, with ...

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