Friday, July 23, 2010

Interview with Aileen Dever (translator of Rosalía de Castro)

The following is an interview with Aileen Dever, who together with her father, John Dever, edited and translated The Poetry and Prose of Rosalía de Castro: A Bilingual Facing Page Edition.

What made you both decide to do this book?
First, my father and I decided to do this book because we truly fell in love with Rosalía’s poetry and hoped to give her a wider audience. There are some wonderful translations that have been done into English. However, we wanted to do a more comprehensive translation to give English-speaking readers and scholars a wider selection from which to choose and thus get to know more completely this remarkable writer. Second, we were drawn by Rosalía’s inclusivity in that she embraces all human beings. Her brand of ‘feminism’ is about caring for all people everywhere. There is so much Rosalía can teach us today.

How easy was it to find a publisher?
We were very fortunate as we found an advertisement for The Edwin Mellen Press at the annual National Association of Hispanic and Latino Studies conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, specifically seeking translations. We wrote to the press to determine their interest in our idea and Professor Herbert Richardson, Editor-in-chief, answered enthusiastically. So we excitedly began our project.

What was it like working two of you on a single translation? What surprises did this throw up?
It was particularly wonderful to work with my father on this translation because I had a chance to see him in a very different light. We live close to a beautiful park with oaks, elms, maples, and pine trees as well as a river. We would stroll most mornings through the park and discuss the poems we had apportioned ourselves, sometimes reciting lines of Rosalía’s poems as the wind whistled through the green leaves. Although we divided up the poems and prose between us, one of the best parts of the project occurred when we would look over our translations together, making suggestions and notes in the margins. Then mutually we would agree on the final version. It was surprising how much absolute fun we had talking about Rosalía’s poems and our translations. We became aware that there is indeed a creative process involved in translation as we sought just the right word or image to convey Rosalía’s meanings in our determination to do her artistic justice.

Did you try to keep the metre and rhyme of the original poems, or have you opted for a freer version of the poems?
We did not strive to keep the metre or rhyme of the original poems because we did not want to subject her beautiful poems to ‘straitjackets’ of sound. We were more concerned with maintaining the sense of her words. Sometimes, though, rhyme occurred seamlessly and then, of course, we would employ it. We found that alliteration/assonance were wonderful tools for conveying a poetic sense in English.

What other translations have you done, and are you planning to do more translations of Galician literature?
I have done a little translating of José Asunción Silva’s poetry. Perhaps I will turn my attention to translating a selection of his poems.

Finally, please could you show us the translation of a (short) poem you particularly liked?
Below is the translation of Rosalía’s well-known poem ‘Cando penso que te fuches’:

When I think that you’ve gone off,
dark shadow haunting me,
there again by my bed
you return taunting me.

When I imagine you’re gone,
in the very sun you show yourself,
and you are the star that glows,
and you are the wind that blows.

If there is singing, it is you who sings,
if there is crying, it is you who cries,
and you are the murmuring of the river
and you are the night and the dawn.

In everything you are and you are everything,
for me and in me you live,
nor will you abandon me ever,
shadow who haunts me forever.

Thank you for talking to us!

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