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University of Bristol Creative Arts Magazine

Spring 2010








EDITORIAL Translation is not just about language. In this issue of Helicon we encouraged contributors to look beyond the borders of simply words and to seek other subjects that bridge the boundaries of creative media. Here are some of the best: enjoy.

Sarah and Anisa

Editors Anisa Ghuloom Sarah Sternberg

Features Editors Hannah Alton Isabel Blake

Poetry Editors Rebecca Jewitt Claudia Tobin

Prose Editors Jack Castle Eleanor Fogg

Art Editors Tom Brooks Emma Davies Helen Graham

Promotions Officers Arabella Field Tom Strickland Imogen Sch채fer

Photography Editors Jessie Atkinson Sophie Wright

Poetry Events Kit Buchan

Winner: Isaac Harland and Helena Card

The Brief Translate the quote on the previous page into a photographic image.

The Judges Helicon’s very own Photography Editors, plus the multi-talented Zachary Saitoti (Bristol-based photographer, artiste and spinner of discs), all of us looking for a shot with a certain je ne sais quoi.

The Response A veritable plethora of translatory gems, turning these six little words every which way into pieces as disparate as Victoriana and soggy-footed Scotsmen. See our website for the full set of ghostly delights, but find on these pages the crème de la crème, the images which stopped us in our tracks and elicited an ‘ooooo’.

Opposite From Top: Ella Frost (Second Place); Oladipo Emeruwa (Runner Up) This Page From Top: Rosie Levine (Runner Up); Alice Kelpie (Runner Up)

(after ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’)

“��������������� Anonymous������ ”����� , you have wrote most of the poems of England: Why cast this aside between old Roman villas? Now I am here, Arrived, having found your rag-bag of a toolkit in discarded Saxon and come not as robber but Samaritan to throw you to this world that will mend your soul, thus:

“��������������������������������� My clan considers him a sacrifice They will serve slaughter if he comes. It is different with us. He on one island, I on another Enclosed in fens stoutly surrounding. Blood-thirsty men dwell here Who will serve slaughter if he comes. It is different with us. I thought in hope of his long traipse, Sat lamenting with rain in weather When arms close & battle-quick snatched me To my joy and grievous injury.�” …

oh Forget it! You, Unknown Traveller! My hopes of you Sickened. Your seldom-comings Shake me, not starvation! You hear Journeyman?! A wolf Snatches our wretched whelp Forestwards. One easily severs what was Our song together.

never joined:

Jack Castle

 All Illustration by Menna Cominetti

Rosie Levine


Emma Davies


I feel that by writing this that I am empathising with a whole host of translators even at this inexperienced age. When I translated some Thomas Mann I was faced with the definite image of ‘dem großen altersgrauen Patrizierhause’. At the time this felt like the most disillusioning task in the world once my mind considered the possibilities: what to put? What to put that would do justice to Mann? Does ‘großen’ mean large in the sense of ‘big’ or in the sense that it is ‘grand’? So it’s ‘alt’ which means ‘old’ most of the time, but is ‘old’ too vague, and would ‘weathered’ ‘crumbling’ or ‘aging’ give a better impression of its aged appearance? Or even ‘hoary’. Hang on back to ‘aged’, I like that. At this point I had ‘grand, aged’ which is too guttural. Perhaps ‘great old’ rings better or ‘great old and hoary…’? Too much. Then onto ‘altersgrauen’ translated literally as ‘age’s grey’ which we wouldn’t say, and had Mann been English we can be quite sure he would not have said either. How about ‘aging grey’, or more simply ‘large, old grey patrician house’? Is this too simple for Mann, Death in Venice Mann? Maybe I’ll be called lazy if I translate ‘Patrizierhause’ as ‘Patrician house’, after all it could also mean:


a noble man’s house, even a noble’s house, a stately house, an aristocrat’s house. These were my options : the large weathered family home (maybe not grand enough), the large rather worn-looking noble townhouse (maybe not), the large, old grey nobleman’s house, the big hoary aristocratic house, the large old patrician house, the big patrician house grey with age, the big old patrician’s house (here, am I commenting on the patrician or the house?), the large patrician house, grown grey with age (too long), the big, aged patrician house, a big patrician’s house, worn grey with time (no!), the large old-fashioned patrician house (this is too subjective), the old shabby Patrician House (pejorative of its image perhaps), the big crumbling patrician home (I seem happy at the fact it is old here, don’t I?) It read better before, I think. A translator should opt for the safest translation to save it becoming a work of the translator’s own. There are moments when you can so easily slip from being the robotic translator into the driving seat where the author once sat.

Madeleine Fitton


TRANSLATION You’ve got the position you always wanted. Then the heavy green woman, fattest lime in NW London, went back to Emminster. Where she can sit at her desk, like all gold-necklaced corporate women. Leaves me in this bedroom, too cold for human comfort - but it’s cold back in Russia, isn’t it? So that makes it ok. I’m a strong man. You will do well in our “offices”, thirty pages a minute, you look fast. Camden tower block; not a place you’d expect to put an English-Russian translator. There are Russian dolls in Russia. With doll-like baby faces and dresses like blobs of fancy sour cream with raisins on top. Especially a Russian one, who has never been to the United Kingdom. Someone wrote a set of essays called “Happiness” and they want to go to the former Soviet Union, only there is no place in proper offices for excitable youngsters like that, who long to come to icy countries with no Corona and where the crisps are the wrong flavour and the snowflakes are so vast they make women want to cry. So the essays have to be translated in a more informal setting. In Russia the education system used to be free. Now it‘s lots, I’ve heard!!!!! Too bad There’s been things left for me in the flat, to make me feel at home. A fat fur coat, amongst other stuff, and food. There is a pub attached to the block, and I went in and said hello to a few people there, but they looked frosty, over their strawberry martinis. Salt got cold on their стакан1 edges. The moon thrust its frozenyoghurt tendrils into my beer. It was lonely. Russia is very, very cold, and the people are unfriendly. So I went back and looked at the poster of a grey globe on the refrigerator. Clashes a bit with the photos of the woman’s children, coated with Perspex leggings, happy they’re home for the winter. A guy screams outside that it is very cold, so he will go to the flat he’s lived in all his life and turn on the heating.


There is not much to do, except translate. The spaghetti I‘ve found…. Even heated, a trembling, tepid saucer. Nothing to go with it, at all.

Russians have a very limited choice of food, it’s mainly fish and ice cubes I call up a friend to talk, and the phone is dead. Got two days to go. Russians are backward when it comes to technology in phones and things Photo of Vladistock on the sofa. As I sit on the coral blanket, the frame begins to bend. That’s because it’s trapped in the cover of a book There are palaces in Russia, left a palace volume for ya. There’s another book about, try to find it…. I think of my mother’s voice telling me to stick it out, she would have given me coffee for that pub. Tar getting smeared now on the walls of the block, sparse, random splashes that actually make better the grey. I still feel bad ‘cause someone punctured the boiler, guess I’ll have to face the khaki Baba Yaga. Russians are such bad criminals The pub shines a light into the flat. The streets make a sad click, similar to computer mice in a sterile centre. Stairlight drips into the kitchen as I fuzzy up to the “authentic” fur; the chill from outside, down my back like lukewarm sushi rolls. My work is glaring me in the face. Can’t start. Men building outside. ничто2 to do. I take ice from the fridge and stare at it, add some lime juice. A newspaper sneers about Russia, Mongolia and the ban on perfumed cigarettes I open a copy of Преступление и наказание 3 It’s... in Ukrainian. Well, the alphabet’s the same... I SHOULD TELL YOU THIS. IF YOU BREATHE OUTSIDE IN RUSSIA, IT ISN’T ALWAYS SO COLD IT MAKES CRISPY SMOKE, ESPECIALLY IN SUMMER The steel tap beats an acid drum in the bath. 1

Russian for glass Russian for nothing 3 Crime and Punishment 2

Sophia Darell


Yassmina Karajah


‘I let you go’


A Tug of War

A TUG OF WAR Follow the leader looking all-rakish. Tiptop clip-on tie shimmers on and on to the top-hat. Top of the world. Even the pale chalk pin stripes are sliming. Binning away the late night fag-full cycles of moons. Policy on policy played like Jenga. Blues-brother henchmen standing bat-eyed beneath bowlers and blacked-out sham ray-bans. Popping Glocks at gooks and other Gods. At least in their heads. American-This, American-That, American-Only. Banana Obama: ragdoll. The god-squad- and guess what? bristly-beard? Bets are off, as pre-man’s stubble overlaps and splits into faction after faction. Islamic-This Islamic-That, Islamic-Only. ‘Good evening’ he passes. ‘Nuclear Nuclear’ translates the world. Exacerbate, exacerbate the Jenga grows unsteady and unshaven. Misspelt and drawn-up like a cartoon. The cap part of skull rubbed off the pages.


Armchair facing Armchair: foreground Background: muscle-man stand-off And the world, in the eyes of the media Separate the men like a tennis net. Transcribing misquotes and hype-hyping Like the pide piper made us follow. Input ‘Peace’ and output fisty-cuffs and badman handbags on a Baghdad dawn. And Dawning- its dawning- that man misquotes man And the heart jams itself in its own stuck-and-still elevator Shouting down like children.

P.J. Kleinfeld


Madeleine Fitton (with translation opposite)


A N TA R C T I C A N S Author’s Note: The Chilean government sent people to the no-man’s-land of Antarctica to become ‘Antarctic natives’, in order to cement the national claim to the territory. This claim meant Chilean companies could mine minerals and metals in Antarctica, but also meant that a Chilean population had to be kept on Antarctica. Inspired by a picture of a boy on a mountain-bike in a snowdrift in a very old copy of the Guinness Book of Records (his record was to have been born the farthest south of any human). Eduardo, Alfredo and I were all born in Chile’s Antarctic research base, which they are calling San Cristobal. We arrived within two months of each other and our birth here was a huge fuss. We were in all the newspapers. When we turned ten we posed, smiling, in the snow drifts with mountain bikes that the journalists brought us in the military transport plane. We also posed with a new flag, like the Chilean one, except that instead of a single star it had a beautiful Southern Cross. Didn’t we like it? We did? Never mind that the whole country was also south of the equator. That didn’t matter. It was a beautiful symbol, we all agreed. The news reports said Alfredo had invented the design himself. Because we were born in winter it was impossible to ride the bikes, and we were wrapped up so completely that not even our faces were visible in the black-and-white pictures. Two weeks ago, Professor Rodriguez and his assistant flew down from Santiago. They asked us what games we played, and what words we used. We were told that we were of above-average intelligence but I didn’t believe it. We were told we were developing a distinct accent and our own culture. We weren’t totally happy to hear that, somehow, we had become exotics. Had we come up with a new word for ‘penguin’? I later read his report for the UN, which said our intelligence was so great because, coming from Antarctica, we ate so much fish from the seas that surrounded our home. But no one from the Base fished. Even if they had wanted to, it would have been suicide to have taken a fishing boat into those mountainous waves. The fish


we did eat, like everything else we ate, came from tins and had to be flown down from Santiago. The only fish round here were the weird, luminous and microscopic creatures that the scientists drew up from the bore-holes to examine their DNA. Not too long ago, trucks with trailers carrying huge parts of mining machines came trundling down the new ice-road that bisected our slice of Antarctica. Professor Rodriguez interviewed all of us, but was especially interested in Eduardo. He was encouraged to say he loved Antarctica and only wanted to live there. I knew this wasn’t true – he had clipped a photograph of a beautiful adobe hacienda on a bushy hillside in the north of the country and had pasted it to the wall in his room. Apparently he wanted Chilean Antarctica to be a province of Chile, as did we all. Professor Rodriguez had asked him if, when he grew up, he wanted to run a fishing boat from the Antarctic shore. The waves were huge and rough. There were no fish. But poor Eduardo was completely overborne, and ignored his senses. Didn’t he want to run a fishing-boat? Yes... Yes, perhaps he did. Professor Rodriguez got back in the C-130, which idled its engines between landing and takeoff so that they wouldn’t freeze. As it climbed the cold sky he thought what angle he would put on his findings before presenting them to the UN commission. The rights of Chile’s native Antarctic people must be respected, the report would say; Chile, as this people’s defender and custodian, was honour-bound not give up its claim to its sovereign Antarctic territory. Meanwhile the huge lorries would carry on down the road that went down that tapering slice of continent to its cold centre. Hadn’t the UN wanted us to protect the native peoples of the Atacama so that their customs, their culture, their way of life wouldn’t die out? And now they wanted us to surrender our people in the Antarctic? Professor Rodriguez warmed to his theme. Did they expect these Antarctic Chileans – no – Chilean Antarcticans to be outcast on the world? It was obvious: the long land the clung to South America’s side didn’t stop at Tierra del Fuego, but over those rough straits the nation had an icy mirror of itself.

Alex Hitchens



Katie Alesbury Tom Ivanovitch


The Translator The Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, called translators ‘the packhorses of education’. Translators are rarely championed. They should be. These beasts of burden silently trudge through deserts of manuscripts and I’ll wager barely any of us could name but one. I wonder how many people who have enjoyed the likes of War and Peace, Les Miserables or The Divine Comedy in English and given any thought to the translator. Sure, Tolstoy, Hugo and Dante are geniuses blah blah blah. Good. But realistically their work would be inaccessible to most of us without the translations of Pushkin’s so-called packhorses. Rosemary Edmonds is one such mule. She was one of a motley crew of translators enlisted by Penguin after the war to open foreign classics to the mass audience. Edmonds spent the war as General de Gaulle’s interpreter at the Free French headquarters in London. With victory, she returned to the Sorbonne, embarking on a Russian course with all fees paid by the French Government in recognition of her services. We can be glad they did because her translation of War and Peace is still a favourite amongst English language readers. No mean feat. Edmonds described being confronted by a page of Tolstoy’s manuscript as “a daunting experience.” (How about fourteen hundred of them, eh?) He “wrote in a close, spidery hand; ballooned the margins with alternative ideas; deleted; re-drafted vertically across


paragraphs already written and made diagrams to remind him of what he wanted to develop.” Keeping up with Tolstoy while delivering a faithful and accessible product is truly remarkable but it is, after all, merely the duty of any translator. I hope this goes some way to show that translators are not simply bi-lingual people with a lot of time on their hands. They are an indispensible cog in the timepiece of literature. They are taken for granted and receive far less recognition than they deserve. Ever heard of the OxfordWeidenfeld Translation Prize or the Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation? Thought not. Lest we forget all the brave men and women who translate FROM English, allow me to mention Tóth Tamás Boldizsár, the only man to have translated all seven Harry Potters into Hungarian. I still don’t really know what a ‘horcrux’ is but Mr Boldizsár is the poor man whose task it was to find a Hungarian equivalent. I think he should get a translation medal just for that. But if he did, then of course, Lý Lan and Helga Haraldsdóttir are going to want one for each finding an equivalent in Vietnamese and Icelandic respectively. You get the picture. So next time you read a book in translation, have a look to see whose work it is (not the big name on the front, the little one inside). Or why not stick Ezra Pound’s words on your bookcase or Waterstones card: “A great age of literature is perhaps always a great age of translations.” Nice one Ezra.

Sebastian Neave

Ella Frost



Barnaby Wharam


Emma-Victoria Farr


Flame Flowers In the dining room of the Hotel Scandia I shuffle metaphors like someone cheating at patience: “Born again seaport of fire and rubble” “Bomb-site urchin” “Polyglot Van Der Rohe city of concrete and glass” Sunset. Blossom of fire smothered beneath Leaves of sea-green horse chestnut Moving soundless through the glass, And tramcar pantographs like flexed arms Of robot gymnasts articulating tib. and fib. Lights. From the dining room reflect against the window, Change into fairy lights strung across the chestnut’s green canopy. I step outside, and the Christmas tree is gone. On the side of the stationary tramcar: “Vlambloem.” “Flame flower,” I wonder. “De laatste tram is gegaan,” says an English voice, in passing. Does this mean I look both Dutch and lost? And how can the last tramcar have gone When I am looking at a tramcar? “Vlambloem.” I turn to both explain and ask, But he has moved on. My explanation is unwanted, My question unanswered, and he is walking Along the water’s edge, away from the unfinished bridge. A stone drops from the quay into the canal Momentarily rippling the surface. The tramcar, dark and empty, does not move.

Sarah Marsh


uernica o r S l e e p i ng B e a u t y

Her body floated gently above the bed. She couldn’t feel the starched cotton sheets beneath her but through the pink shades of her eyelids she was aware of a great clinical whiteness. Her heart beat insistently somewhere outside of herself and she could hear voices rising and fading around her. The sounds were soupy and muffled and just out of reach. She felt that if she strained toward them she might hear better but her limbs felt too heavy, her body tired. She sank back into the viscose liquid that seemed to be coddling her. *** These dreams keep troubling her, dark figures wading out of the morass. A low, choking scream echoed around her and she felt hot breath against her ear. Many fractured faces, many shades of grey, a dying horse and a Minotaur, her own personal Guernica. Every time the rip of fabric, the heaving, racking chest. On loop the piercing, brutal penetration and then nothing.


Charlotte Humphery

She jerked awake, Or almost awake, as if she was still being held under the surface. It is like flying, like a change of altitude, as she adjusts to the brightness and the quiet. It is like the Bends. Her ears pop. A grieved, authoritative voice mentions a date, three months, ninety days. She hears a protest but the current sweeps her away. *** A familiar voice wafts over the still air, its curling intonations wrapping themselves around her. It is a part of the landscape of the room, a background murmur that she only notices in its absence. Today it seems anxious, questioning over and over, begging something of her. One hundred days. It is a male voice but it is gentle, tender against her bruises. Warm fingers ruffle the fronds of her hair and she feels her body responding like a sea creature, an anemone. The glue that is clogging up her blood seems to thin as the voice comes closer. She gasps at the soft pressure on her lips. She kisses back.


Translation (Spring 2010)  

University of Bristol Creative Arts Magazine - Poetry / Prose / Art / Photography / Features

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