Saturday, February 20, 2010

"a slow, inquiring narration"

In the preface to the American edition of his book A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia, after noting the (some might say hysterical) commotion the text caused when it first appeared in Europe, Peter Handke wrote this:
Now the text is translated, and I trust that you will read it as it is; I need not defend or take back a single word. I wrote about my journey through the country of Serbia exactly as I have always written my books, my literature: a slow, inquiring narration; every paragraph dealing with and narrating a problem, of representation, of form, of grammar—of aesthetic veracity; that has always been the case in what I have written, from the beginning to the final period. Dear reader: that, and that alone, I offer here for your perusal.
[Update: it has just come to my attention that by coincidence, at The Goalie's Anxiety, Scott Abbott has excerpted part of this same preface, to an actual purpose: taking issue with James Agee's offhand criticisms of Krishna Winston's recently published translation of Handke's Don Juan, His Own Version. Abbott has himself translated Handke in the past (and, in fact, translated A Journey to the Rivers), and he takes the time to look at certain decisions Winston made in the translation, comparing them with what he might have come up with, not unfavorably. Time, that is, that Agee does not take, at least not in the space he's provided in the New York Times. The whole post is worth a read, especially if you're interested in questions of translation.]

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