Editorial Intern Michael Gray asks Chinese poet Xi Chuan and his translator Lucas Klein tough questions concerning process, navigating translation, and the relationship between literature and reality. Lucas Klein performed the English translation of Xi Chuan’s book Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems (2012).
For Xi Chuan: What elements of your original text do you find are most altered in the process of translation?
XC: In my own writing, especially recently, I’m often very blunt, but bluntness can be very hard to translate. I’ve done a lot of translations myself, and in my experience imagery is relatively easy to translate; with musicality, or particularly rhythm, though it’s hard to match the translation perfectly with the original, it’s still possible to find comparable solutions. But with ideas expressed bluntly it’s easy to lose the poetry. Bluntness is a quality of late Borges, because in his early years he was playing with the Baroque. It’s also a notion of expression Milosz was fond of, coming from Eastern Europe. These two stepped outside the bounds of lyrical poetry.
See the full interview here.