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Finnegans Wake in Translation

Discussion in 'Fiction Books' started by Polly Parrot, Jun 28, 2019.

  1. Polly Parrot

    Polly Parrot Moderator Staff Member

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    NOTE: this thread will be moved to the new International Reading Group once it has been created.

    Finnegans Wake, the book that beat all books, the one to rule them all, impossible to read say some but incredibly FUN to go through as well.

    Several translations have been made of the text, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, French, German, Italian, and some other languages too I think.

    A few useful notes when reading the book for the first time.
    The title, Finnegans Wake, was inspired by an Irish ballad of the same name about a builder who feel off a ladder, hit his head, and was then believed dead. Miraculously, Tim Finnegan is revived when some whisky is spilt on him during his wake. Book 1 / chapter 1 is partly concerned with the fall and its immediate aftermath. The ballad is one of the dominant themes of the book and helps as a sort of guideline to keep track of it again. Much of the narrative, if you can call it that, is concerned with HCE (Here Comes Everybody, Humphrey Chipden Earwicker) and his family but you will encounter several incarnations of 29 girls, 12 pub visitors, and four old men who are historians of Ireland, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or the authors of the four gospels.

    The circular nature of the book is, according to some scholars, inspired by Giambattista Vico's La Scienza Nuova (The New Science) discussing the birth and rebirth of nations. Joyce has taken the birth and rebirth theme and applied it to people instead though the book itself is replete with reference to rise and decay of empires (also the subject of my thesis...).

    Lastly: no-one knows what the book is about. There's been discussions, scholarly and otherwise, ever since its publication 80 years ago.

    The Ballad of Finnegan's Wake (yes, there's an apostrophe in the ballad):
    Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin street,
    A gentleman Irish, mighty odd.
    He had a brogue both rich and sweet
    And to rise in the world he carried a hod.
    You see he'd a sort of a tipplin' way
    With a love for the liquor he was born.
    And to help him on his way each day,
    He'd a drop of the craythur ev'ry morn.

    CHORUS:
    Whack fol' the dah, now, dance to your partner.
    Wipe the floor, your trotters shake.
    Isn't it the truth I told ya?
    Lots of fun at Finnegan's wake.

    One morning Tim was rather full;
    His head felt heavy, which made him shake.
    He fell from a ladder and he broke his skull
    And they carried him home, his corpse to wake.
    They rolled him up in a nice, clean sheet
    and laid him out upon the bed
    With a bottle of whiskey at his feet
    And a barrel of porter at his head.

    (Repeat Chorus)

    His friends assembled at the wake
    And Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch.
    First she brought in tay and cake,
    Then pipes, tobacco, and whiskey punch.
    Biddy O'Brien began to cry,
    "Such a nice clean corpse did you ever see?"
    "Arragh, Tim, mavourneen! Why did you die?"
    "Arragh, hold yer gob!" says Paddy McGee.

    (Repeat Chorus)

    Then Maggie O'Connor took up the job.
    "Oh Biddy," says she, "you're wrong, I'm sure."
    Biddy gave her a belt in the gob
    And left her sprawling on the floor.
    Then the war did soon engage;
    'Twas woman to woman and man to man.
    Shillelagh law was all the rage
    And a row and a ruction soon began.

    (Repeat Chorus)

    Then Mickey Maloney ducked his head
    When a noggin of whiskey flew at him.
    It missed, and falling on the bed
    The whiskey scattered over Tim.
    Tim revives, see how he rises!
    Timothy risin' from the bed!
    Says' "Whirl your whiskey 'round like blazes,"
    "Thanum an Dhul! Do ye think I'm dead?"​

    Rescources (I'll update as I find more).
    Useful links when tackling the Wake:
    • http://finwake.com/desktop.htm online version of the books with annotations.
    • https://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/JamesJoyceChecklist/ for any resources concerning James Joyce in general, you may need University access for some of them though.
    • https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLftB2gYwhiFHpnAAaH-S3--j3oywenNk0 some very lovely people have read out the first few chapters. This is a work in progress and every so often another chapter is added.
    • http://www.fweet.org/ more annotations to the Wake, but online, AHOY! It has a search engine but it's useful to have a look at the manual for the search engine before diving in. Similar to McHugh's annotations, this also allows you to view page-by-page glossaries. Can't recommend it enough. Fweet is a great alternative to McHugh (hasn't got everything the book has but quite a lot of it is there, and it's updated semi-regularly!)
    • http://www.finneganswake.org/ this is the New York Finnegans Wake Reading Group. Their group dates aren't interesting for the purposes of this thread but it does have some useful links.
    • https://jamesjoyce.ie/ website to the James Joyce Centre in Ireland. More general information but they also organise James Joyce talks, etc if you're ever near Dublin.
    Books
    • Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake
    • William York Tindall, A Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
  2. Cosimah2o

    Cosimah2o Active Member

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    A sublime introductory !! As reader, it's a lucky that someone well-versed in or proficient in Literature « guide us » in this arduous reading I am sure, Polly parrot will do everything she can for those « the uninitiated » in the Joyce 's Universe and therefore, in this so polyglot fiction .

    Cheer up to read with us , we will help you to puzzle out the Intrinsic value of Finnegans wake ( whatever the language choosed ) and besides, you will be able to refresh your knowledges of your rusty languages !! Who knows, maybe you can also help us :)

    Getting back on track about the purpose of this thread,
    I'm going to read this book in French and Spanish (( at the same time )) . For me, an intriguing aspect of these translations lies in knowing if these were done as literal translations ( word for word) or as free translations ( sense ) .
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
  3. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Drat! I was hoping that the title of this thread meant a translation from English into English, with perhaps a considerable shrinkage of Joyce's verbosity along the way.

    Seriously, though, that is not just a snark.

    I've had my go at it several times now, and have just not been able to make a dent. Also I might add, I have tried Professor Tindall's Guide, which you mentioned, with similar lack of success. From which, I've concluded the Wake is just not for me. Faulkner, Proust and Nabokov seem to be more my speed and have provided endless hours of excellent reading.

    So, I'll listen.

    Sorry.
     
  4. Cosimah2o

    Cosimah2o Active Member

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    Peder try to read this book in Irish !! :D
     
  5. Polly Parrot

    Polly Parrot Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't think there is a translation to regular English, or anything that turns it into a coherent narrative unfotunately. Nor is there anyone who can say with any modicum of certainty what it is about except some silly drunkard who gets up a ladder, dies and stays that way for most of the book, and is then revived.

    I've read some Proust and Faulkner, I would like to re-read A La Recherche du Temps Perdu but haven't got the time for it at the moment, sadly.

    This thread is mostly a bit of fun to see how things are translated and I think that a lot of the time the translation is in some way the translator's interpretation of the work. With any book to a certain extent but even more with this one because, how does one translate neologisms which can't be found in English, never mind any other languages?
     
  6. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Polly for your thoughtful reply to my somewhat light-hearted post. But,truly, it is just not my cuppa at the moment.

    With regrets
    Peder
     
  7. Polly Parrot

    Polly Parrot Moderator Staff Member

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    I've added some links to the original post.
    Also some YouTube wake-bits.



    This is a little dated with the weirdly animated bust but it's a recording of James Joyce reading from the Anna Livia section of the book.


    From earlier on in the book, the ballad of Persse O'Reilly, set to music. :D
     
  8. direstraits

    direstraits Well-Known Member

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    I too thought about English to English translations. :)

    Beer Good said once many years ago about how translators are actually almost equally responsible for the work in translation as the author who did the original, because of exactly what you mentioned Polly - the interpretation.

    I would imagine it being doubly hard for this one, since the book is so wildly open to interpretation, as you said. If you're lucky enough to read in multiple languages, then I guess one can treat each translation as a singular Joyce scholar's take on his work.

    If you rely on the translation, well then, there really isn't anything to compare, is there? :)
     
  9. direstraits

    direstraits Well-Known Member

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    And btw, Polly, your intro post is super interesting and well written! Got me really interested in the book!

    After reading Ulysses and comparing that to some of the incredibly lucid prose in his short stories, I've always thought Joyce was playing an elaborate prank on everyone.
     
  10. Cosimah2o

    Cosimah2o Active Member

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    My reflections on the first chapter - I have to recognize this reading has been quite tedious o_O I found the « Leading thread» of this book thanks to some annotations and these did help me and - the same time- these digressed me from the narration...Given that, the clarifying notes about the Napoleonic Wars, the Ostrogoths, the Prussians among other....and « amalgamating » besides, the Irish folklore with the Biblical characters and other profets...My reading ( in some passages ) turned into a clutter :confused:

    * Separated remark : I am still trying to « digest » the passage about the Duke of Wellington in the museum and the sexual metaphors:confused:o_O:confused:

    Regarding the Translations - I ventured to read in French and Spanish, but only I've could to read entirely the translation - from top to bottom - in French . The Spanish translation by Marcelo Zabaloy , it doesn't exist as such :eek: Neither can be considered as a literal translation, maybe a « dyslexic » translation . The Spanish language neither corresponding with the standardized
    :werd
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019 at 3:43 AM

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