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Selected Poems (Neruda, Pablo) Paperback – 30 Apr 1978
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"Esta viviendo el mar mientras la tierra
no tiene movimiento:
el grave otono
de la costa
con su muerte
la luz inmovil..."
could be strictly translated as
"The sea is living while the land
has no movement:
the grave autumn
of the coast
with its death
the immobile light..."
However, Belitt chooses to translate it thus:
"Though the sea lives, the land
in their dying
the immutable light..."
While I respect Belitt's ideas, it seems to me that in this and other places his translation alters both the meaning and the feel of Neruda's work. "Disconsolate" is multi-syllabic and Latinate; "grave" is stronger, more literal, and mirrors the sound of Neruda's word. Neruda uses the phrase "no tiene movimiento" (has no movement) in one place, which Belitt translates there as "immobile" -- and yet where Neruda DOES use the word "inmovil" (the Spanish cognate corresponding to "immobile") Belitt inexplicably translates the word as "immutable".
Translation of poetry cannot preserve both the sound and the sense of the words, but in my opinion translation should strive to do as well by both as possible. I think Belitt overlays Neruda's poems with his own ideas of "poetic" language, to the detriment Neruda's strong, visceral Spanish.
Read the book for Neruda's Spanish, not for Belitt's English.