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My specifics of translating Estonian poetry

Keywords: translation, poetry, Estonian literature, Estonian, Latvian

 

The author shares his experience, spanning close to forty years, translating Estonian and Finnish poetry. In the process of translating, he has gained knowledge and developed his own system for dealing with ancient Estonian folksongs, the epic poem Kalevipoeg, as well as the poems by such authors as Ilmar Laaban, Artur Alliksaar, Andres Ehin, Juhan Liiv, Hando Runnel, Jaan Kaplinski, Hasso Krull and others.

The highlights of the paper are as follows: the specifics of Estonian as compared to Latvian; the common and the distinctive (lack of grammatical gender and future, musical qualities of Estonian etc.); the specifics of the form and poetics of the old Estonian folksong (regivärss), representing the form, metrics, sound (alliteration, assonance) of Estonian in Latvian; the specifics of translating Kalevipoeg, its most important differences compared to the ancient Estonian folksongs (coining new word forms and words, translating the special language of Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald into modern Latvian); the peculiarities of Ilmar Laaban’s poetics and wordplays in his book of surrealist poetry Rroosi Selaviste as translated into Latvian; expressing the musical nature, thought and feeling in Artur Alliksaar’s poetic language; translating the classical Estonian poems (metre, rhythm, rhymes, intonation) by Juhan Liiv, Hando Runnel, Jaan Kaplinski and others; the possibilities and principles of translating the wordplays of Contra, (:)kivisildnik, Veiko Märka and others.

The author brings many examples from Estonian and Latvian to illustrate his conclusions. The author emphasizes that in addition to representing the form, rhythmical structure and intonation, equally important is the ability of the translator to improvise, to feel free in his/her language and poetics, for this is the only way to lose less in translation.

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