6. Can FW be translatable?

C. George Sandulescu said ----- Most faithfully & absolutely accurately, NEVER! (Nor can Shakespeare, within the same narrow Range of Rigour, with Pentameters, (non)Rhyme, Alliteration, Pun, etc. met on an ABSOLUTE parity basis.) (No! No genuinely great literary text ever is: except perhaps by Beckett his own work only.) But very, very approximatively, MAYBE! If we define journalistic subediting of press agency fax & teleprint pulp as intraLanguage paraphrase, then Translation becomes almost automatically what we should call interLanguage paraphrase, the prerequisite of which is to define the Language first. Let us state the following: There is genuine consensus that Dickens wrote in English. Balzac wrote in French. Equally clearly. Which means that the Languages of Dickens & Balzac are Constants. In the 20th Century however, the language picture changes drastically, as Sam. Beckett would be Dickens & Balzac in one, sending his English manuscripts to Publisher John Calder in London & his French manuscripts to Publisher Jérôme Lindon in Paris, equally famous. (There is then here the subsidiary question -Was Beckett translating himself? If so, from what Language into what Language?) Bearing all this well in mind, we must then ask the question: How about Joyce in FW ? Where is the Language Constant? It is not at all by mere chance that he clearly appended his List of 40 Languages right at the end of his (BritishMuseumLibrary) FW Manuscript. Why did he do that? To ram the point home with the finesse of a dull sledge hammer that it was these 40 Languages (and perhaps a little more) that was his Constant. Quite idiosyncratically so. If we are to adopt a consistent Fragestellung Approach in dealing with Translation, we must then also ask -Is the Honuphrius Episode (fw572.21 to 573.33 down to "Translate a lax") written in crystal-clear English? My answer to that question is most categorically YES! One only needs to take into account the following types of "rewrite transformations" in point of ubiquity of personal reference, or ubiquity of identity, for short: Another theoretical aside is necessary here: Roman Jakobson's fundamental definition of the Sign in 1972 at the Milan Congress of Semiotics is more than essential for a rigorous outline of the FW Story. Jakobson says in untranslatable French: "Le signe est un renvoi." If we represent it by an arrow, thus P→π. We obtain a remarkable placement of the 48-line long Honuphrius microtext against the overall macrotext of 628 pages (of, roughly, 36 lines each) which is the whole of FW: (in order of appearance in the Episode:)
Honuphrius→ Humphrey →HCE →{Father... }
Felicia → Issy→Izzy →Isabel→Isolde →{Daughter...}
Eugenius → Coemghen→Finn→Kevin→Shaun →{Son 2...}
Jeremias → erry→ Shem →{Son 1 ...}
Anita → Ana Livia →ALP →{Mother...}
It must be said in passing that the Honuphrius Episode carries exactly thirty different Names of Persons in 48 lines: the rest is written in very "pure" and unadulterated English. One of the relatively few writers of good literature who resorts to ubiquity of identity in his fiction is William Faulkner in his The Sound and the Fury (1929). Did he ever get it from Joyce? They seem to have caught a glimpse of each other in a Paris restaurant... The hypothetical answer is that most Americans have always been fascinated by the ubiquitous Man in the Macintosh... (6.895 "I don't know who he is. Is that his name?") Then, the most important question in Paraphrase & Translation is that of Equivalence. Complex informational-cum-linguistic equivalence. (Most acutely aware of it was of course ... Beckett.) It constantly asks the question whether A is equivalent to B, and on what grounds: the range of grounds is indefinite, too often fringing infinity. We should never forget that there is Cultural Equivalence and Linguistic Equivalence: a word is sure to always and invariably have a corresponding equivalent; not so much a Proverb or a Cliché. Or rather: not quite as easily. Then come the more complex StylisticRhetoric Equivalence, and last but not least national(?) Discourse Equivalence. One last thing on the issue of Translation: by the side of the most outstanding Linguistic Genius of James Joyce, the Linguistic Competences of a Dickens, of a Balzac, and even of a Beckett look minuscule: Shakespeare himself pales somewhat. The only pity is that the glitterati have so little foreignAlien Language to go by in their value judgments... --- [Another question: There are FW translations into French, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, etc. However, Yanase's FW translation into Japanese looks like to make a different FW. On the other hand a paraphrase of the end of FW entitled "Soft Morning, City!" by John Hinsdale Thompson (in The Analyst XII) conveys the original meaning and beauty. Do you think the paraphrase of FW into the modern English is still useful?] I have right in front of me the Italian Translation of Luigi Schenoni as well as the French Translation of Philippe Lavergne. I know Schenoni personally--1 met him often at Joyce Congresses, and he visited me several times in Monaco. Between 1977 and 1987, I used to co-ordinate panels called "Linguistic Analysis of FW" and both Schenoni & Liana Burgess (Anthony Burgess's wife) were my panellists in Dublin, Zurich, Frankfurt, etc. I have the Japanese translation, boxed, somewhere too, though I cannot lay my hands on it right now. The Spanish & Korean translations I have never seen. I rate Schenoni's Italian translation the best of all the ones I know and I can judge: he is far more courageous, & dares to twist Italian most energetically; Joyce himself is sure to have looked benignly upon it. Schenoni is so cocksure of himself that he puts the original FW text a fronte, that is, by the side of his own work. Also, his critical apparatus is formidable. Lavergne's is quite tame by comparison: it is more than clear that he does not dare to mangle the delicate French language as he should in order to pack in all that Joyce wanted carried by the FW texture. The text is complete it is true, but the translator's flimsy Avant-propos (pp. 3-6) does in no way reveal the translator's motivations or procedures. Whenever I look at it, I wish I could do some research into the specific constraints societally imposed on French non-casual discourse... As to paraphrase, it is better than nothing, but I don't think much of it.
Mikio Fuse said ----- I have learned the best way to read Finnegans Wake is to take everything literally. So far as you are after Joyce's art, I don't think it's essential to read the Wake in translation, because the "reading" of the Wake itself is always translation in a critical sense. It cannot be "understood" unless the seemingly "abnormal" letters of the original text are translated into "normal" English and other relevant languages. And the point is NOT who is the best translator of the original but how we all (as verbal beings) inevitably translate (or betray) ANYTHING written in language, and furthermore how the use of language itself is our original translation/betrayal. --- [Another question: Would you comment on Yanase's translation of FW into Japanese? Is it enough valuable in order to understand FW for Japanese readers? Or must we read the original FW instead of its translation?] You are the eleventh person to ask me that question, Dr Hamada! Let me quote from my posting to the FWAKE-L mailing list (25 Aug., 1997):
The trouble with Japanese translations of Finnegans Wake (for
there are other partial translations as well) is that the Japanese
language & the literary tradition that has fertilized it is fairly
competent in the skills of word-play [. . .]. Although there have
been a lot of puffs about the genius of Yanase's word-playing, to
me it is the very ease of punning that makes Yanase's translation
un-Wakean. It lacks the sense of impediment, and that ironically
constrains his language within the limit of cosy historicity
(acceptable to the Japanese reading public). I've never seen him
personally, but had I a chance, I would ask him how he would
answer the question "When is a Pun not a Pun?" (307.2-3).
Aida Yared said ----- [Can FW be translatable to Arabic language?] It would be beautiful in Arabic, because Arabic is a very rich language with an enormous vocabulary, and therefore the possibility of very nuanced renderings. Sometimes when talking to friends I realize we use different words for very common items such as "room" or "cloud." FW would be very rich material for someone with the time and erudition to translate it.

7. Which parts or chapters or pages of FW are the most interesting or favorable for you?

Fritz Senn said: Chapters 1, 5 and 6; parts of II, 1 and II, 2; book IV, certainly fables.
Kataryzyna Bazarnik said ----- Very many. Initially, they were those including Slavonic words. It was interesting to look for the context of these words, try to see why they are there, what purpose they serve, and first of all, whether they are really Polish, Czech, Russian or not. Then, those which I find crucial for a structural skeleton, that is, 003, 628, 314-315, 156-8, 470-2 (I wrote about them in the essay on polar perspective you published in Abiko Quarterly #19). Definitely 196, 501, 281, 293, the final monologue of the book, . . . , very many indeed.
Michael S. Begnal said ----- 3, 52, 109, 150, 349, 395, 597, 611, 627-628
Sheldon Brivic said ----- The end of Book I and the end of Book IV are among the most beautiful things ever written. Book I, chapter 7, about Shem, and chapter 8, about ALP are good chapters to start with.
Finn Fordham said ----- It varies for me, but, at the moment 119-124, 292-300, 526-532, and 619-627 (The Book of Kells, The Triangle, the run up to Here Comes Everybody and Liffey's monologue) but there are many that have interested me more in the past and others still waiting to reveal themselves as more interesting than these.
John S. Gordon said ----- It depends. II.2 and II.3 may be the most challenging. --- In general, I think that Joyce is following a theory of dream psychology according to which the mid-points of any given dream are the deepest, thickest, and most complicated. II.2 and II.3 constitute the mid-point of the whole book, and are therefore especially challenging. There is, I think, a corollary pattern in Books I and III, both of which become especially dense at their respective mid-points. Which makes them, in a way, especially interesting - in a way, say, that I.8 is not.
David Hayman said ----- The pages that challenge me at any given moment. If you mean which are my favorites, the answer is many and the reasons are multiple. If you mean which are most accessible, perhaps I'd have to say the concluding monologue, the 'Soft morning city' of ALP or I.8. On the other hand I enjoy Shaun wherever he appears. I love 'Butt and Taff,' one of the most demanding sections and that most demanding of chapters: II.3. But the question is unhelpful. It is too much like asking me for my favorite book or symphony or art work.
Tim Horner said ----- My personal favorite would be the "Radio Quiz and 12 Questions Concerning Various Figures and Places." Question one, for all it's excess, provides a fairly digestible insight into FW as a whole. The framework of this passage, the plurality that is attached to Finn, speaks out about the plurality throughout the work. There is a real sense of joy and exuberance to this passage. This passage is in the beginning of Part One, Chapter Six. In my recent Penguin Classics edition, it falls on pages 126-139.
Richard Kostelanetz said ----- Probably the opening of Anna Livia Plurabelle, if only because of my love of the historic recording of Joyce's declamation of this passage.
Geert Lernout said ----- This is impossible to answer: as soon as you begin to read it even the most boring page yields something of interest. Although I should say that I consider some parts of book II (with the exception of chapter 2) belong to the category of "not very interesting."
Patrick A. McCarthy said ----- Different chapters attract me for different reasons. The book's first and last chapters are obviously interesting because, like "The Sisters" and "The Dead," they are in a position to initiate or to recapitulate major themes, images, verbal patterns, and situations. Book I, chapters 5 and 7, are very interesting for what they have to say about art and the artist. In Book II, I especially like the marginal writings of chapter 2 and the overlapping narratives of chapter 3. There are innumerable attractions in Book III: for example, the Yawn inquest/séance in the third chapter and the Honuphrius law case in the fourth. But I suppose I would say that Book l, chapter 8--"Anna Livia Plurabelle"--is the one that most attracts me right now, since I recently wrote a long article on its genesis, and that experience renewed my pleasure in reading that chapter and FW in general.
Roland McHugh said ----- Mostly Book II, chapters 1-3. Say pp. 219-355. But they're also the hardest parts until you're used to them.
Margot Norris said ----- I love the passages dealing with women and children: the ALP chapter and the gossip of the washerwomen, the children’s games and the homework lesson. But my favorite chapter is the last chapter, in which dying is representing as going backward into one's life, reliving middle age, and one's prime, and one's youth and one's infancy again, and returning to one's origin in the fluids of one's parents. An astonishing concept retold in magical prose.
Joe Schork said ----- My personal favorites are: I.6 The Questions (pages 126-168); II.1 The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies (pages 219-259); II.2 Night Lessons (pages 260-308); III.2 Shaun's Sermon (pages 429-473); IV(.2) Kevin's Isolation (pages 604.27-607.22). I must immediately add that I like these sections because I know the most about them, their sources, and the NOTEBOOK material from which they evolved.
Catrin Siedenbiedel said ----- My favourite passages are the opening, whose language and structure recall an ancient epos, the "Anna Livia Plurabelle" chapter with its poetical language, and the ending, the monologue of Anna Livia Plurabelle, which is also very poetic.
Sam Slote said ----- For me, I like I.5 and pretty much all of book III (especially III.3), but I would not claim that these are the most interesting pages.
Aida Yared said ----- I particularly like Chapters I.5, I.7 and the last chapter. Chapter II.2 is probably the most interesting in its complexity.
Laurel Willis said ----- They all are. The ALP chapters are the most beautiful.