"where the word-hoards are concealed"

A wonderful article in the Guardian Review today. Ciaran Carson, on translating the 18th Century poem Cúirt an mheadhon OidhcheMidnight Court – by Brian Merriman, or Merryman, or Mac Giolla Meidhre.. though the latter, as Ciaran Carson notes, “may well be a translation from the English, rather than the other way round”. One line, in particular – from the article – stands out for me, “Things depend on how you say them, and who is doing the saying, and who the listening.” Indeed™ Published by the Gallery Press, an extract from Ciaran Carson’s new translation of The Midnight Court can be read here.

  • Davros

    Splendid Blog Pete. Most enjoyable.

  • Imeallach

    The article throws up some fascinating ideas which are very familiar to translators of literary works – and to lesser extent to people who are bilingual in day-to-day life. The act of translation engages the the translator in an analysis of the essence of meaning, rather than the words themselves. “For me, both languages – so familiar yet so foreign – became strange, as I wandered the borders between them. I realised my inadequacy in both.” The discpline imposed on “the borders” of langauge means that a translation provides a bonus insight for the reader who understands both languages. In translation the essence is abstracted from the words.

    This insight is not available to those who operate exclusively at a comfortable distance inside “the borders”. The monoglot Irish speaker is a thing of the past – but in his day the famous writer of the revival Rev. Peadar O’Laoire, believed that monolingualism in either language was most undesirable, describing as foolish those who were “gan Ghaeilge, gan Bhéarla”.

    If translation offers an insight into the essence of language there could be no finer lens through which to focus that insight than Cúirt an Mheán Oíche. The Irish language is molded and stretched by Merriman’s “master’s hand”, extracting from each word it’s maximum effect, combining into a whole which is far in excess of the sum of it’s parts.

    Trackback do Bhlag an Imill

  • Davros

    Have you read Declan Kiberd’s take on it in “Irish Classics” ? Very different from that portayed in the article. I hadn’t realised Brendan Behan had translated The Midnight Court.

  • foreign correspondent

    I studied this text at university but it barely dented my consciousness, because I was firmly of the belief that poetry was ‘boring’ and that only prose was worth reading. I have slowly come to realize how wrong I was, and this Guardian article would definitely motivate me to read Merriman’s work again.
    Go raibh maith agat, Pete.

  • Davros

    One line, in particular – from the article – stands out for me, “Things depend on how you say them, and who is doing the saying, and who the listening.”

    This one stood out for me – Slugger Lawyers and Lawyer larvae obviously excepted …. The legal profession’s image hasn’t changed a lot over the centuries 😉

    ‘ falsacht fear dlí … dalladh le bríb, le fís, le falsacht’

    ( the falseness of the lawyer … blinded by bribe, illusion and deceit )”

    From Page 198, Irish Classics, Declan Kiberd, © 2000, Granta