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The Battlefield of Translation: Joseph Brodsky and Daniel Weissbort

Pages 122 - 142


Following Joseph Brodsky's expulsion from the USSR and his settling down in the USA, translation of his poetry into English became a matter of Brodsky's professional career. Brodsky meticulously revised English translations of his work done by others in order to preserve the original form and meter of his poems – an unheard of move for a non-native speaker. By looking in detail at the changes he made to a translation into English from his cycle “A Part of Speech” completed by a British poet and translator Daniel Weissbort the present article examines one episode of Brodsky's intervention. The heated correspondence between the two over those changes became a forum where Brodsky expounded his theory of formal translation. On his part Weissbort had misgivings about the manner in which his own attempts were subsumed by Brodsky's (self-) translations. A detailed analysis of the poem “The North Buckles Metal,” initially translated by Weissbort and subsequently revised by Brodsky, probes these theoretical pronouncements discussing the multiple layers of meaning mobilized by the poem, and the manner in which Brodsky's translation maintains these in the English through strong rhymes and frequent assonance and alliteration.


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