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The New York based publisher, Contra Mundum, will shortly (September 2012) be bringing out a translation of Marginalia on Casanova, the first volume of the massive St. Orpheus Breviary by the Hungarian writer, Miklós Szentkuthy.

“Originally published in 1939, as Csaba Sík noted, the seven volumes of the St. Orpheus Breviary ‘represent the greatest enterprise in scope, in worth? – undertaken in the Hungarian novel.’ Justifiably, Szentkuthy has been compared to Proust, Musil, and Joyce, and has already been translated into French, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovakian, and Spanish. Our translation was done by Tim Wilkinson (known for his translations of Imre Kertész and others) and will feature an original cover designed by Hungarian artist István Orosz.
As the first ever translation of Szentkuthy into English, this should prove to be a momentous if not historic publication for the Anglophone world. Over the next decade, CMP hopes to publish a translation of the entirety of Szentkuthy’s Breviary and many other works, including his monumental Prae. News will follow about possible book events this coming fall in NYC, if not elsewhere …”

“Contra Mundum is a New York based independent press dedicated to the value and the indispensable importance of the individual voice.
Its inaugural publication, a new edition of Gilgamesh [to be shortly reviewed in these pages S.H.], was published in January of 2012 and translated by Stuart Kendall, known for his translations of Bataille, Blanchot, Éluard and others. Jerome Rothenberg deemed Kendall’s Gilgamesh “the exemplary version for our time, a reading that allows the mind to see what had been too long lost to us and what we so much need to make us fully human. This is the place to go for further sustenance.
In March, CMP released a bi-lingual edition of Self-Shadowing Prey, one of the final texts by the Romanian poet Ghérasim Luca (1913-1994) and in May, CMP published Rainer J. Hanshe’s second novel, The Abdication. Forthcoming publications include Richard Foreman’s Plays with Films, Elio Petri’s Writings on Cinema and Life, Louis Auguste Blanqui’s Eternity by the Stars, Emilio Villa’s Selected Poems, and Nietzsche’s Greek Music Drama, amongst others, many of which are being translated into English for the first time.”   from Contra Mundum .

Note from website organiser : I must make it clear that I, the controller of this website, do not wish it to be used for advertising purposes as such, but that I am very happy to publish information on forthcoming books that might interest our readers, especially from start-up publishers. Although the main theme of the website remains poetry in translation, you will also find here posts on linguistic issues, translating techniques and notices of important translations of works other than strictly poetic ones. Congratulations to Contra Mundum for obtaining a grant from the Petrofi Literary Museum within their first year — this shows it’s still possible to get into publishing in these hard times. S.H.   23/7/12

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Daily I switch languages — call them masks:
At times a mask can feel like your own skin.
At other times, the spirit has to struggle,
Saved only by the tongue it calls its own.

The mysteries of life, of the universe,
I can describe in English now, although
In my mother tongue alone I can stammer out
The words that compose the sunset, make it glow.

George Gömöri  tr. Clive Wilmer

Thus the distinguished Anglo-Hungarian poet, George Gömöri, describes the predicament of someone ‘entre deux langues’. It is interesting that the poet, who has lived in England for much the greater part of his life, talks of languages as ‘masks’ and speaks of “the tongue it calls its own” rather than ‘my mother tongue’. George Gömöri tells me that he writes his own poetry in Hungarian first and collaborates with his friend Clive Wilmer (also a noted poet in his own right) to make a rendering in English (Note1).

I certainly share a dislike of translating something I have written myself into another language and there are one or two poems I wrote in French that I have no desire at all to translate back into my first language, English, (including a fairly long one about a Parisian friend of mine entitled Michel le Hongrois). I sometimes find myself lapsing into French in conversation  when I want to get across feelings or ideas that just don’t come over at all well in English, indeed for which there literally are no proper equivalents. (I don’t know whether George Gömöri, when he wants to ‘make the sunset glow’, reverts to Hungarian because the latter language is better at this sort of thing, or simply because it is his first language.)
That there is a very considerable ‘difference of sensibility’ between various languages is indubitable. French is cited by linguists as being one of the most ‘evolved’ of all the world’s languages (along with Mandarin) and it is certainly better at expressing intricate philosophical and scientific concepts, and marvellous for the meticulous analysis of human affections and affectations. French is indeed the language of the ‘philosophes’ — though whether it was the language that created Voltaire or Voltaire who left an indelible mark on the language is an open question. French, however, lags far behind English in vitality and descriptive power : not only was there no French Shakespeare, one cannot imagine there ever having been one. And vice-versa, one can with difficulty imagine an English Proust — Henry James, one feels, would have been a greater writer if he had been born the other side of the Atlantic/Channel.
It would be interesting to hear what other translators and fluent speakers of two or more languages have to say on this and related subjects.   S.H. 15/7/12

Note 1 : In an earlier version of this post I wrote erroneously that George Gömöri writes in English first and then has the poem translated into Hungarian by Clive Wilmer. Apologies to both George Gömöri and Clive Wilmer for this stupid error and many thanks to George Gömöri for pointing this out to me and also giving me permission to quote his memorable poem.    S.H.

Many authors today speak and write in at least two languages : indeed, it has for some time been almost mandatory for Scandinavians and inhabitants of the former Warsaw Pact countries, also inhabitants of India (where there are no less than twenty-two officially recognized languages and hundreds more spoken). As it happens, we have recently had consecutive presentations by two eminent Anglo-Hungarian poets, Goerge Szirtes and George Gömöri, at the Poetry Café (April 21 and April 28, see Events and Meetings).

Interestingly, they have opposite approaches to the problem : George Szirtes told us he always writes his poems in English and subsequently has them translated into Hungarian, whereas George Gömöri always writes in Hungarian first and has the poems translated into English later, usually by his friend Clive Wilmer who is an an esteemed poet in his own right.  George Gömöri has written a poem on this very subject :

Daily I switch languages — call them masks:
At times a mask can feel like your own skin.
At other times, the spirit has to struggle,
Saved only by the tongue it calls its own.

The mysteries of life, of the universe,
I can describe in English now, although
In my mother tongue alone I can stammer out
The words that compose the sunset, make it glow.

from Polishing October  (Shoestring Press, 2008)



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