Thursday, August 24, 2006

Got books? Got a camera?

I was reading the LibraryThing blog and discovered that LT is holding a book pile contest to celebrate its 1-year anniversary. So I piled up a bunch of language-related books and photographed them. Surely this shapely tower of color-coordinated volumes will be a winner!

Book Tower

Then I got really ambitious and hauled out the entire Hobbit collection.

Tower of Hobbits

Can you spot the one language that is missing from the pile?


Results:

 

I hereby dub these works of geek art "The Two Towers".

Posted at 22:15 PST  Link

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Translators dismount

And now for something completely different...

Apparently someone in Wales got lazy and used an online translator to translate a road sign into Welsh. Twisted knickers and Inflamed bladders ensued:

The "cyclists dismount" sign between Penarth and Cardiff became "llid y bledren dymchwelyd" in Welsh - literally "bladder inflammation upset" (or tip or overturn).

... It is possible that an online translation led to confusion between cyclists and cystitis.

Posted at 18:35 PST  Link | Tags: ,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Translation War and Peace

An article in the Aug 4 Wall Street Journal, Lost in Translations(subscription required), talks about new translations of classical literature by Plato, Homer, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, and Lev Tolstoy. In typical media fashion, they try to turn it into a competition:

It has the makings of an epic battle between two opposing forces.

In January, Viking released a version of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace," the first new English translation in nearly 40 years of the sprawling Russian saga about the Napoleonic Wars. A blurb on the back jacket of the 1,412-page volume, translated by Anthony Briggs, calls it "the best translation so far of Tolstoy's masterpiece into English."

In fall 2007, Everyman's Library is coming out with its own "War and Peace," translated by husband-and-wife team Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

All these editions of War and Peace are really starting to pile up on my shelves. And now I'll have to get the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation when it comes out, because they've received so many rave reviews and awards for their other translations of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, et al. (However, The Moscow Times criticized their translation of "Dead Souls.") Oprah liked their Anna Karenina so much that she picked it for her book club two years ago; her endorsement generated hundreds of thousands of sales. I wonder if Oprah is an Amazon Associate?

More from the WSJ article:

Proponents say the new editions bring the language up to date, clearing away cobwebs and correcting mistakes in clunky, older texts. But some scholars and academics are troubled by the trend, citing the beauty and timelessness of the earlier translations - a view supported by some literature fans.

For readers, more new translations mean more anxiety that they may choose - or have already spent dozens of hours reading - the "wrong" interpretation of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.

I suspect that choosing among different translations of works of classical literature is below the radar of most readers. You decide (or are given an assignment) to read "Crime and Punishment", so you go to the bookstore and grab the cheapest edition they have. Or you go to Amazon and order the newest one. Newest is best, right?

The April issue of the Atlantic Monthly contained a review by Mona Simpson of the newest translation of War and Peace, by Anthony Briggs.

When War and Peace was first published, much of it was in French. Tolstoy virtually "translated" those passages into Russian for his 1873 edition. ... In fact, French was used so widely in the first edition that a renowned Soviet linguist called it a bilingual work.

And yet, if it is a bilingual novel (it certainly is a novel about a bilingual culture), the previous translations don't convey that as definitely and easily as this one does. ...

That being said, I still prefer the Maudes' translation.

So, if you had to choose only one translation of War and Peace to take with you to a desert island, which would it be?

Constance Garnett   Louise and Aylmer Maude
"Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family. No, I warn you, that if you do not tell me we are at war, if you again allow yourself to palliate all the infamies and atrocities of this Antichrist (upon my word, I believe he is), I don't know you in future, you are no longer my friend, no longer my faithful slave, as you say. There, how do you do, how do you do? I see I'm scaring you, sit down and talk to me."

These words were uttered in July 1805 by Anna Pavlovna Scherer, a distinguished lady of the court, and confidential maid-of-honour to the Empress Marya Fyodorovna. It was her greeting to Prince Vassily, a man high in rank and office, who was the first to arrive at her soirée.
  'Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you stlll try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist - I really believe he is Antichrist - I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my "faithful slave", as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you - sit down and tell me all the news.'

It was in July 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honour and favourite of the Empress Marya Fëdorovna. With these words she greeted Prince Vasili, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception.

Rosemary Edmonds   Anthony Briggs
'Eh bien, mon prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family. No, I warn you - if you are not telling me that this means war, if you again allow yourself to condone all the infamies and atrocities perpetrated by that Antichrist (upon my word I believe he is Antichrist), I don't know you in future. You will no longer be a friend of mine, or my "faithful slave", as you call yourself! But how do you do, how do you do? I see I'm scaring you. Sit down and talk to me.'

It was on a July evening in 1805 and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honour and confidante of the Empress Maria Fiodorovna. With these words she greeted the influential statesman Prince Vasili, who was the first to arrive at her soirée.
  'Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now nothing more than estates taken over by the Buonaparte family. No, I give you fair warning. If you won't say this means war, if you will allow yourself to condone all the ghastly atrocities perpetrated by that Antichrist - yes, that's what I think he is - I shall disown you. You're no friend of mine - not the "faithful slave" you claim to be... But how are you? How are you keeping? I can see I'm intimidating you. Do sit down and talk to me.'

These words were spoken (in French) one evening in July 1805 by the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honour and confidante of the Empress Maria Fyodorovna, as she welcomed the first person to arrive at her soirée, Prince Vasily Kuragin, a man of high rank and influence.

I would take the original. Then I could while away the hours sitting under a palm tree and working on my own interpretation.

Tolstoy   LaGeek
- Eh bien, mon prince. Gênes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des поместья, de la famille Buonaparte. Non, je vous préviens, que si vous ne me dites pas, que nous avons la guerre, si vous vous permettez encore de pallier toutes les infamies, toutes les atrocités de cet Antichrist (ma parole, j'y crois) - je ne vous connais plus, vous n'êtes plus mon ami, vous n'êtes plus мой верный раб, comme vous dites. Ну, здравствуйте, здравствуйте. Je vois que je vous fais peur, садитесь и рассказывайте.

Так говорила в июле 1805 года известная Анна Павловна Шерер, фрейлина и приближенная императрицы Марии Феодоровны, встречая важного и чиновного князя Василия, первого приехавшего на ее вечер.
  "Well, Prince, it looks like Genoa and Lucca are now just Bonaparte family estates. I warn you in advance, if you don't agree that this means war, and if you insist on defending all the terrible atrocities of this Antichrist (I really believe that's what he is), then you're no friend of mine, or "faithful slave" either! Oh well, how are you doing? I see I'm scaring you - come sit down and talk to me."

These words were spoken on a July evening in 1805 by the famous Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid-of-honor and close personal friend of the Empress Maria Feodorovna, as she greeted the first arrival at her soirée, the respected and high-ranking Prince Vasili.

Note: if you vote more than once, only the last one will count.

 
Watch this space!   
    
Results will appear here, thanks to the magic of AJAX, and many hours of fiddling around.   

Posted at 21:45 PDT  Link | Tags: , ,

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Scanning Archimedes

This looks interesting: tomorrow (August 4) the Exploratorium will host a live webcast showing the X-ray scan of a 1000-year-old manuscript containing a mathematics treatise by Archimedes. You know, the guy who jumped out of his bathtub yelling Eureka? The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab will fire up a particle accelerator to generate the high-energy X-rays needed to image the manuscript, called the Archimedes Palimpsest. According to the BBC,

The original texts were transcribed in the 10th Century by an anonymous scribe on to parchment. Three centuries later a monk in Jerusalem called Johannes Myronas recycled the manuscript to create a palimpsest.

Palimpsesting involves scraping away the original text so the parchments can be used again. To create a book, the monk cut the pages in half and turned them sideways. ...

The monks filled the recycled pages with Greek Orthodox prayers. Later, forgers in the 20th Century added gold paintings of religious imagery to try to boost the value of the tome.

Isn't the word palimpsest [Latin palimpsēstum, from Greek palimpsēston, neuter of palimpsēstos, scraped again : palin, again + psēn, to scrape] cool? Can you say "X-ray fluorescence imaging of Archimedes' parchment palimpsest" three times, fast?

Posted at 14:45 PDT  Link