19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei

3.4
The difficulty ( and necessity) of translation is concisely described in Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, a close reading of different translations of a single poem from the Tang Dynasty—from a transliteration to Kenneth Rexroth ’ s loose interpretation. As Octavio Paz writes in the forewor, “ Eliot Weinberger ’ s commentary on the successive translations of Wang Wei ’ s little poem illustrates, with succinct clarity, not only the evolution of the arts of translation in the modern period but at the same time the changes in poetic sensibility. ”
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Original Series
Year of the Publication
Publication Date
Published 1995 by Asphodel (first published 1987
Original Title of the Book
Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese Poem Is Translated
Number of Pages
60

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gave it

In this book Eliot Weinberger examines the difficulties inherent in translating classic Chinese poetry into Western languages by considering a special case in detail: he selects one poem by Wang Wei ( 699/701- 761), romanizes it, gives a literal translation and then considers 16 different translators' versions of the sonnet in English, French and Spanish.

In Chinese Lyricism, which I review here https: //www.goodreads.com/review/show ... Burton Watson examines the same poem in some detail, providing another ( not identical) character by character literal translation.

Here is Parke 's literal translation of the vers: empty mountain not see manonly hear man talk soundreturn light enter deep woodagain shine green moss onUpon the reports of the knowledgeable, in Chinese this poem is vigorous and engaging.

This goes beyond the usual " much is left unsaid or implied " ( which is certainly also at hand); in such poetry the reader is expected to be active in a manner which goes well beyond the " deciphering of meaning " familiar to readers of Western oetry. " Wang deliberately left aside all the extensions Chinese has at its disposal to specify, to make precise what is meant.Weinberger then gives us 16 fleshed out versions of this poem by different translators, two of which are in French and one in Spanish by Octavio Paz ( who also contributes a little essay), providing each with rather apt commentary.

gave it

I came across this book almost by chance – I thought I might like it, but I did n't expect to be chuckling most of the way through.

Weinberger is good at annotating the excellence, but even funnier elucidating the inept.I read the ook in less than an hour and enjoyed every minute.

gave it

What Weinberger does in this short ook is that he looks at one poem written by Wang Wei and dissects and scrutinizes 29 translations people have done of that one poem.

Poetry, of course, relies on subtleties and nuances ( meter, rhyme, double meanings, etc) and many times those nuances can not be translated, especially when cultures are very simila.

gave it

I ’ d read the GR description of 19 Ways, but somehow I ’ d decided it would be ‘ about ’ Wang Wei ’ s short poem in the same ay that An Elemental Thing is about whatever-the-hell-it ’ s-about comprised of incredible writing on various topics presented in prose, sorta, and sonnet, sorta.

In the Further Comments by Octavio Paz—at times a tribute to the translation of Cathay by Ezra Pound, at certai times a description of his own ( Paz ’ s) considerations while translating and retranslating the poem—is this aside on Pound ’ s translation: Nothing could be more remote from the prose chopped into short lines that today passes for free verse.

gave it

Eliot Weinberger ’ s 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei ( subtitled “ How a Chinese Poem is Translated ”) presents Wang Wei ’ s famous “ Deer Park ” poem in 19 versions: Chinese, transliterated Chinese ( Pinyin), and a word-by-word rendering, then in 16 ( or so) translations with Weinberger ’ s assertions.

He explains calmly why he made the choices he did in his Spanish version ( also present in the memoi), and why he made certain ( and significant) changes from his original draft.While it is nteresting and perhaps even enlightening to have such a varied collection of translations side-by-side, any real insights as to what the comparison says about “ How a Chinese Poem is Translated ” will have to be deduced by the reader alone, as Weinberger ’ s jeering comments are rarely much help in this direction.

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