De l'un au multiple| ,
II. Des traducteurs d'envergure
Slow poison or magic carpet. The Du Fu translations by Erwin Ritter von Zach
Poison lent ou tapis volant. Les traductions de Du Fu par Erwin Ritter von Zach
Le traducteur autrichien Erwin Ritter von Zach (1872-1942) donna la première traduction des œuvres de Du Fu, la seule intégrale jusqu’à maintenant. Ce livre, qui a atteint un public considérable aux États-Unis et en Europe, occupe une position clef dans la réception occidentale de Du Fu.
Zach ne fit aucun effort pour adapter la littérature chinoise au goût du public européen. Ses traductions de Du Fu sont des monuments d’érudition, mais totalement dépourvues d’art et de séduction. Il alla jusqu’à censurer le contenu, modifiant les passages qu’il estimait grossiers ou immoraux.
Quelle est l’influence des traductions de Zach sur la réception de Du Fu ? On peut identifier deux tendances opposées. D’une part, la piètre qualité artistique du travail de Zach a éloigné nombre de lecteurs, en particulier dans le public de langue allemande. D’autre part, ces mêmes traductions ont agi aussi comme un stimulant pour les lecteurs et les écrivains créatifs. Des poètes de langue allemande et anglaise s’identifièrent à Du Fu et les œuvres suscitées par cette inspiration connurent un grand succès. On peut penser que, paradoxalement, ce sont les déficiences des traductions de Zach qui ont conduit à ce résultat, en raison des possibilités créatives offertes par un produit inachevé. Considéré de cette façon, il fut un grand entremetteur. Zach a produit ce qu’on peut appeler une traduction pour les traducteurs.
- 1 . The bon mot was first coined in France in 1654 and quickly became popular all over Europe. See Zu (...)
- 2 . For an interesting discussion of the Western reception of Homer see Sühnel 1993: 13-30.
1If we take a bird’s-eye view of the history of translation, we often find in the beginning the “great seducers” or le belle infedele1. They are in command of a beautiful style and have a sure instinct for the interests of the reading public. These pioneers will take great liberties with the original in order to adapt it to the needs of their time. Examples are the translation of Plutarch by Jacques Amyot (1513-1593) or George Chap-man’s (1559-1638) translation of Homer, which carries the Elizabethan world-view and style into the Iliad and Odyssey2. Only later, when the public has got used to the strange import, will the ugly, more faithful translations emerge, le brutte fedele.
2Zach’s work, by its wide circulation in Europe and the United States, has been influential in two opposite ways. First, it is partly responsible for the somewhat low esteem China’s greatest poet still suffers from in the West. On the other hand, it has inspired artists to write creative variations, which induced many Western readers to take an interest in Du Fu’s works and even to identify themselves with Du Fu. An analysis of Zach’s translations shows the dangers and pitfalls, but also some unex-pected possibilities of a “scientific” translation of literature.
- 3 . I want to thank Professor Günther Debon, Heidelberg, who told me about the best biography of Zach (...)
3What kind of man was Erwin Ritter von Zach and what were his ideas about translation? His name cannot be found in Who’s Who or in any major encyclopedia.3 He was born in Austria in 1872 to a family of military officers. After studying medicine and sinology, he served for nine-teen years in the diplomatie service in the Far East. At the age of 47, he retired to Batavia (Jakarta) in Java (in Indonesia). For more than twenty years he lived there, without the comforts most European colonists were used to, without a wife and with only his books. He died in 1942, on his way to India, when his boat was hit by a Japanese bomb and sank.
- 5 . An example is Zach 1925. Here he criticised harshly all German sinologists and the German Academy (...)
4He was a difficult personality, completely without the famous Austrian charm and savoir-vivre. His few acquaintances describe him as extremely sensitive and touchy, yet having a sharp tongue and a great sense of mission. Like Buddha, Confucius or Jesus, he wanted to save the world, the world of sinology, that is. Consequently, he compiled long lists of the errata of famous sinologists, to whom he attributed complete ignorance of Chinese grammar and of literary sources.5
- 6 . Zach wrote in the introduction to his translation of Li Bai: “Vorliegende Übersetzung ... verfolg (...)
5Zach proposed a translation theory in striking contrast to the more successful mediators of his time. His contemporary, Franz Kuhn (1884-1961), for instance, who translated no less than thirty-six Chinese novels, did not want to torment his readers with scholarly translations full of footnotes which would be read by only a dozen sinologists (Kuhn 1980: 13). Zach, on the other hand, wanted to do just that. The public he was aiming at were by no means the reading masses Kuhn could win over so easily, but the very small circle of serious students of sinology.6
6He took no pains to adapt Chinese literature to the taste of the vulgar public. Far from bringing China to Europe, he did not even bother to transport the Western reader to China. He provided only a rough map, by which the prospective student had to fight his own way in a heroic combat with the difficulties of classical Chinese.
7Some critics have said that Zach’s translations are not so scholarly after all, since they lack the academic apparatus (see Steinen 1938). This is perfectly true. Yet Zach consulted many more sources than he cared to admit. Apparently he withheld information on purpose so that students would learn to look up dictionaries and commentaries in order to get a good foundation in the classical Chinese canon., but had to use the inferior text and commentary by Zhang Jin .7
8A greater problem is the lack of artistic competence. We can imagine what would happen if somebody translated Shakespeare’s sonnets into prose, five or ten times longer than the original. While Chinese readers of Du Fu’s poems are elevated, shocked, moved to tears or laughter, many German readers have secretly asked themselves how such long-winded poetry could ever become so famous in China or what all the fuss is about. Zach has managed to turn nearly all of Du Fu’s strong features into weak points. I will give three examples:
Bleiches Mondlicht fällt auf die Statue der Weberin, deren Webstuhl in Ruhe ist,
9In the same way, the images are often rationalized or reduced to one single meaning, which, for the benefit of the reader, is moreover carefully noted in brackets.shidan , his breaking of taboos. He himself calls his poetry strange and barbarian, something quite unheard of in China. In an oft-quoted line, he wants even in death to shock his readers.9 Not only does Du Fu present himself, like Li Bai, as a great hero. He can also turn into a drunkard without honour, sick or mentally deranged. In the 18th century, the scholar Shen Deqian (1673-1769) expressed this:
- 10 . , in: shuoshi zuiyu (Poetic Commentaries) (Shen Deqian 1936).
Du Fu’s poetry is like a vast stormy ocean, with mud and dancing monsters, with fairies and snakes.10
10Yet Zach will often leave out the mud and the monsters by using euphemisms. When Du Fu decides to get into a “drunken stupor for a hundred years”, Zach only allows him a mild “intoxication”:
11The “gluttonous gulping of cannibals” becomes a mere “tickling of the palate”:
12When the sun shines on Du Fu’s “naked belly”, this is politely changed to an “uncovered body”:
13And when Du Fu is lying in bed, sick and vomiting and with diarrhoea, Zach corrects that to a more gentlemanlike “indigestion”:
14In these and other cases, Zach follows Confucian commentators, who disapproved of artistic fancies and socially disreputable behavior. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Du Fu had been canonized as China’s shisheng, the “Saint of Poetry”, equal to Confucius and a pillar of the state. His body of works became a classic like the Shijing, a sort of Bible. They were supposed to be shishi “poetical history”, which means, that their main content was not poetry but politics. Therefore, all of Du Fu’s exaggerations, daring images and personal confessions were either eliminated or turned into allegorical criticisms of government and society. Zach often adopted these moralizations.15 Since he gives no indication when he does so, this habit has been especially misleading for later translators.
- 16 . Zach wrote: “Den Gedanken an Nachdichtung ... habe ich von vornherein verwor-fen ... Auch muB dic (...)
15We may very well ask why Zach dedicated himself to translating poetical masterworks? He was not a master of language; moreover, he was perfectly aware of this.16 Couldn’t he instead have concentrated on history or philosophy? Yet, to be fair, there are a few lines in his translation where he rises to artistic heights. Since these come as unexpectedly as an oasis in a desert, they are all the more striking. Perhaps Zach had a secret artistic gift after all which he chose not to develop but to repress.
- 17 . In the introduction to a part of his Du Fu translations, Zach wrote: “Nachdichter môchten meine V (...)
16According to Zach, the Du Fu translations were to serve two purposes: first of all as a crib for students of sinology, who should thereby have access to an important part of the Chinese literary canon; and secondly, as a source book for creative poets.17 His first aim met with some unforeseen obstacles, yet in his second point he proved to be surprisingly clearsighted.
17The influence of Zach’s translations on the Western reception of Du Fu is difficult to judge, since there are many separate factors involved. Still, we can recognize two conflicting tendencies, both of which can in some way be related to Zach.
18In the West, Du Fu has been often judged as “conventional” and “full of learned allusions”, a “Confucian moralizer”, without a strong Personal voice or individuality. One Du Fu specialist wrote:
It is clear that Tu Fu could not break free of the Confucian equation of literature ... with public service. (Davis 1971: 102.)
(Du Fu) lacks ... the strongly personal imagery which establishes [poets like Li He and Li Shangyin] as vividly individual poets. (Graham 1968: 39.)
20Yet these negative judgments apply less to Du Fu than to his commentators and translators.
21Zach’s bad habit of incorporating orthodox commentaries into his work has been followed by many later translators. There are two seemingly good reasons for this: first of all, Du Fu’s poems are not easy to read; and secondly, Western scholars want to see Chinese literature with Chinese eyes, instead of forcing Western artistic values on it. Yet the Confucian commentators usually understood more about politics than about poetry. Moreover, their allegorizations were often only a manœuvre to get around censors. In the same way, the gods and heroes of Homer and Virgil were interpreted as allegories of Christian virtues, in order to make them acceptable in the Christian Middle Ages.
22In China, these allegorizations did no great harm, since people could read the originals and privately follow their own thoughts and feelings. Yet Western readers would blame Du Fu’s conventional Confucian morality, which they saw in contrast to “Western freedom and individualism”. Thus, far from seeing China with Chinese eyes, old prejudices were confirmed. The intercultural gap was not bridged but widened.is one of the best-known examples.18
23How is it that Zach’s work produced such contradictory results? In Du Fu’s case, the normal process of translation-history is turned upside down: In the beginning, there was no great seducer to present Du Fu in an alluring way to the Western public, as Lin Shu did in China with the works of Shakespeare, Homer, Dickens and many others. Instead, the reader is thrown into cold water, either to sink or to struggle and learn to swim. Thus, Zach has driven away many readers and damaged Du Fu’s fame.
24On the other hand, he has attracted a great many others. Strangely enough, Zach’s very deficiencies have led to this resuit. His translation possesses what we may call the beauty of ugliness, the creative possibilities offered by an unfinished product. Seen in this way, Zach is even a greater mediator than the beautiful traitors, since he covers the bride with disfiguring veils in order to make her all the more desirable. In a similar way, Ezra Pound was inspired by Ernest Fenollosa’s stenographie notes to produce creative poems of his own. It is certainly a pity that Pound did not come across Zach’s translations of Du Fu.
- 19 . One example is Stephen Owen who writes: “Tu Fu is China’s greatest poet. His greatness rests on t (...)
25Zach has produced what may be called a translation for translators. Today, as the negative verdict on Du Fu is being slowly reversed,19 Zach’s complete Western translation will be extremely useful.
Chung, Ling. 1985. “This Ancient Man Is I: Kenneth Rexroth’s Versions of Du Fu”, in Stephen C. Soong (ed.), A Brotherhood in Song: Chinese Poetry and Poetics. Hongkong, Chinese University Press: 307-330.
Davis, A.R. 1971. Tu Fu. New York, Twayne.
Debon, Günther. 1988. Mein Haus liegt menschenfern doch nah den Dingen: Dreitausend Jahre chinesischer Poesie. Munich, Diederichs.
Ehrenstein, Albert. 1970. Ich bin der unnütze Dichter, verloren in kranker Welt: Nachdichtungen aus dem Chinesischen. Berlin, Friedenauer Presse.
Franke, Otto. 1925. “In eigener Sache”. (Printed as manuscript in Berlin 1925.)
Forke, Alfred. 1943. “Erwin Ritter von Zach in memoriam”, Zeitschrift der deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, vol. 97 (Neue Folge Band 22): 1-16.
Fuchs, Walter. 1938. Review of: “Sinologische Beiträge II: Tufu’s Gedichte (following the edition by Chang Chin) Books xi-xx, transi, by Dr. Erwin von Zach, Batavia 1936”, Monumenta Serica, 3, 654 f.
Graham, A.C. 1968. “Late Poems of Tu Fu”, Poems of the Late T’ang. Baltimore, Penguin. (1st editon 1965.)
Guo Moruo. 1982. “Li Bai yu Du Fu”, Guo Moruo quanji. Beijing, Renmin chubanshe, vol. 4: 109-522.
Hoffmann, Alfred. 1963. “Dr. Erwin Ritter von Zach (1872-1942) in memoriam: Verzeichnis seiner Veröffentlichungen”, Oriens Extremus, 10: 1-60.
Hung, William. 1952. Tu Fu: China’s Greatest Poet. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.
Kahn, Paul. 1988. “Kenneth Rexroth’s Tu Fu”, Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 37: 79-97.
Kaminski, Gerd and Else Unterrieder. 1980. Von Österreichern und Chinesen. Vienna, Europaverlag.
Kuhn, Hatto. 1980. Dr. Franz Kuhn (1884-1961): Lebensbeschreibung und Bibliographie seiner Werke. Wiesbaden, Steiner.
McCraw, David R. 1992. Du Fu’s Laments from the South. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press.
Mei Tsu-Lin and Kao Yu-Kung. 1968. “Du Fu’s Autumn Meditations’: An Exercise in Linguistic Criticism”, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 28: 44-80.
Mo Lifeng. 1992. “Jian lun Wen Tianxiang de Ji Du shi”, Du Fu yanjiu xuekan, 3: 45-49.
Motsch, Monika. 1994. Mit Bambusrohr und Ahle: Von Qian Zhongshus ‘Guanzhuibian’ zu einer Neubetrachtung Du Fus. Frankfurt, Peter Lang.
Owen, Stephen. 1981. The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T’ang. New Haven, Yale University Press.
Pelliot, Paul. 1929. T’oung Pao, no. 26.
Qiu Zhaoao. 1979. Du shi xiangzhu. Beijing, Zhonghua shuju.
Rexroth, Kenneth. 1956. One Hundred Poems from the Chinese. New York, Directions.
Rosthorn, Arthur von. 1943. “Nachruf: Erwin Ritter von Zach”, Almanach der Akademie der Wissenschaften für das Jahr 1943, 93: 195-198.
Schiller, Friedrich von. 1962. “Uber naive und sentimentalische Dichtung”, in Benno von Wiese and Helmut Koopmann (eds.), Schillers Werke. Weimar, Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, vol. 20: 413-503.
Shen Deqian. 1936. “Shuoshi zuiyu”, Sibu beiyao. Shanghai, Zhonghua shuju.
Stackelberg, Jürgen von. 1972. Literarische Rezeptionsformen: Ubersetzung, Supplement, Parodie. Frankfurt, Athenaeum Verlag: 1-117.
Steinen, Dieter von den. 1938. (Review of Zach: “Sinologische Beiträge II: Übersetzungen aus dem Wen Hsüan”), Monumenta Serica, 3: 306-310.
Sühnel, Rudolf. 1993. “Odysseus alias Ulysses”, in Th. Cramer and W. Dahlheim (eds.), Gegenspieler. Munich, Hanser: 1-117.
Zach, Erwin Ritter von. 1925. “Über den modernen Betrieb der Sinologie in Deutschland”, Deutsche Wacht: 14-15.
– 1926. “Li T’ai Po’s poetische Werke”, Asia Major. 421-423.
– 1936. Sinologische Beiträge II: Tufu’s Gedichte. Batavia.
– 1952. Han Yu’s poetische Werke. Cambridge MA, Harvard-Yenching Institue Studies, VII.
– 1958. Tu Fu’s Gedichte. Cambridge MA, Harvard-Yenching Institute Studies, 2 vols.
Zhou Zhenfu. 1982. Shici lihua. Beijing, Zhongguo qingnian. (7th edition.)
26Zuber, R. 1968. Les “Belles Infidèles” et la formation du goût classique. Paris, Albin Michel.
1 . The bon mot was first coined in France in 1654 and quickly became popular all over Europe. See Zuber 1968 and Stackelberg 1972.
2 . For an interesting discussion of the Western reception of Homer see Sühnel 1993: 13-30.
3 . I want to thank Professor Günther Debon, Heidelberg, who told me about the best biography of Zach, by Gerd Kaminski and Else Unterrieder (1980: 260-291). See also Rosthorn 1943: 195-198, Forke 1943: 1-16, Hoffmann 1963: 1-60, Zach 1952: ix-xi.
4 . For a complete bibliography see Hoffmann 1963.
5 . An example is Zach 1925. Here he criticised harshly all German sinologists and the German Academy of Sciences, which caused quite a scandal.
6 . Zach wrote in the introduction to his translation of Li Bai: “Vorliegende Übersetzung ... verfolgt rein pädagogische Zwecke: der reifere Student der Sinologie soll in die Schwierigkeiten der chinesischen Dichtkunst eingeführt werden ... Die Ubersetzung ist daher so wörtlich wie môglich, überall finden sich Verweisungen auf die Klassiker sowie besonders auf das Wen-hsüan...” (This translation ... merely pursues educational goals: the advanced student of sinology shall be introduced to the difficulties of Chinese poetry ... The translations are therefore as literal as possible, everywhere there are references to the Classics and especially to the Wen-hsiian...) (Zach 1926: 422.)
7 . Zach used Zhang Jin , Du shi zhujie, Du shi tang ben . The standard edition is: Qiu Zhaoao (jinshi exam 1686), Du shi xiangzhu .
8 .“Pale moonlight shines onto the statue of the weaver whose loom is at rest / while the scale-armour of the stone-whale [on the banks of the lake] is moved by the autumn wind.” For successful translations and interpretations see: Mei Tsu-Lin and Kao Yu-Kung 1968, Owen 1981: 214 f, McCraw 1992: 200-214.1 myself have discussed “Qiu-xing bashou” in Motsch 1994: 374-382.
9 .; quotation in “Jiangshang zhi shui ru haishi liao duan shu” (Short poem at the riverbank, when the water rose high as the ocean) (Qiu Zhaoao 1979, ch. 10: 810).
10 . , in: shuoshi zuiyu (Poetic Commentaries) (Shen Deqian 1936).
11 . “I intend to spend the rest of my life entirely in intoxication.” “Ping ji san shou, qi san” (Qiu Zhaoao 1979, ch. 10: 882, Zach 1958: 293. For a good translation see Debon 1988: 275).
12 . “To the ruling class [the officiais] as well as to the robbers and thieves, you have to give a mere tickling of the palate.” “Ji” , in: Qiu Zhaoao 1979, ch. 17: 1533; Zach 1958: 574.
13 . “With my body uncovered I am sunbathing in the pavillon by the river.” “Jiang ting” , in: Qiu Zhaoao 1979, ch. 10: 800, Zach 1958: 257.
14 .“An old man like me gets sick in view of this terrifying sight; with serious indigestion I have to stay in bed for a couple of days.” “Bei zheng” , in: Qiu Zhaoao 1979, ch. 5: 400, Zach 1958:115.
15 . An example is the translation of “Geye” (Zach 1958: 581). For a criticism of allegorical interpretations of this poem see Zhou Zhenfu , Shici lihua (1962) (1982: 81).
16 . Zach wrote: “Den Gedanken an Nachdichtung ... habe ich von vornherein verwor-fen ... Auch muB dichterisches Talent mit sinologischem Können gepaart sein, wie es bei bei Florenz und Forke, aber nicht bei mir der Fall ist” (I have given up the thought of adaptation at the outset. A poet’s talent must be combined with sinological skills as it is the case with Florenz and Forke, but not me.) (1926: 422 f.)
17 . In the introduction to a part of his Du Fu translations, Zach wrote: “Nachdichter môchten meine Version als Rohstoff betrachten, woraus sie deutsche Gedichte formen können. Bei der Wiedergabe habe ich auf gröβtmögliche Genauigkeit und logische Verknüpfung geachtet: soll doch diese Übersetzung (wie alles, das ich geschrieben habe) in erster Linie jüngeren Sinologen als Studienbehelf dienen.” (Adapting writers may consider my version as raw material, with which they may shape German poems. In the rendering I concentrated on the greatest possible precision and logical connection: this translation (as everything I wrote) is intended to help younger sinologists in their studies.) (1936, quoted from Fuchs 1938: 654 f.)
18 . While in prison and waiting for his execution, Wen Tianxiang wrote Ji Du shi , a collection of 200 poems compiled out of lines of Du Fu. Nowadays, the poems are valued highly. See Mo Lifeng 1992.
19 . One example is Stephen Owen who writes: “Tu Fu is China’s greatest poet. His greatness rests on the consensus of more than a millennium of readers and on the rare coincidence of Chinese and Western literary values” (Owen 1981: 183). For other positive judgements in the West see Hung 1952, Mei Tsu-Lin and Kao Yu-Kung 1968, McCraw 1992, Motsch 1994.
Table des illustrations
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