Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My wish list, translation edition

Now here's a good idea. The Little Professor regularly posts her book acquisitions, but recently also posted a wish list. If you have any of the books on her list, send them her way. Someday, they will be part of some lucky university library's Little Professor Collection of Unreadable Victorian Protestant Novels and Supporting Materials.

My wish list consists solely of books that do not exist but could. I don't mean lost books - Ovid's Medea, or the Collected Poems of Sappho. That's a different list. These are the books I would like someone to translate for me.

Robert Garnier, Les Juives (The Jewesses) (1583) - Garnier is the 16th century creator of classical French tragedy. This is not exactly a favorite genre, but I have read Mary Sidney's translation of his play on Anthony and Cleopatra (Marc-Antoine, 1578, tr. as The Tragedie of Antonie, 1592), and would like to learn more.

Agrippa d'Aubigné, Les Tragiques (1616) - a complicated epic poem that I am unlikely to understand without extensive notes. Translator, please include extensive notes.

Alfred de Vigny, Selected Poems - the few de Vigny poems I have found in English are lovely things. More please. A collection of Alfred de Musset would also be welcome, although libraries sometimes have a complete translation of his work from the early 20th century.

Théophile Gautier, Enamels and Cameos (1852) - Gautier is the author of the cross-dressing Lesbian travesty novel Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835), which is commonly available, but his poems are not, despite the attention paid to contemporaries like Baudelaire and Verlaine. Surely Gautier is no more difficult to translate than those fellows.

Ugo Foscolo, Odes and Graces, or how about a collected poems - the great Italian Romantic poet and novelist. I found a few of these on the internet somewhere, and want more - all.

E.T.A. Hoffmann, Complete Works - Penguin Classics and Oxford World Classics have kept good selections of Hoffmann's stories in print, and one can scrounge up a dozen or so more in various other collections. But Hoffmann is a major figure who should be available in English in his entirety.

Theodor Storm, Poems - some of his tales are available here and there, but not the poems.

Johann Peter Hebel, The Rhineland House-Friend, or whatever it's English title should be. A collection of humorous tales and anecdotes in the form of an almanac, sort of. Fragments I've read are excellent.

I could go on and on with the Germans, but I have indulged myself enough already. I would love to be wrong about the availability of these works. Please let me know if I am. Also, let me know what's missing from my list - fill out this agenda for translators.


  1. Don't forget the unreadable Catholic novels! :)

  2. So noted, though I think I'll let your comment serve as the update.

    In case it's not clear, I kid because I respect. Reading the unreadable is one of the most important things literary scholars do. I don't want to read that stuff!

    There's an iceberg-sized substratum of intellectual and creative history that most readers never encounter - the non-canonical stuff, the forgotten bestsellers and worstsellers, the magazines and pamphlets. Literary historians dig around in this stuff so the rest of us don't have to. My thanks to them.

  3. I can't help seeing this wishlist as a challenge! I often assume everything French is translated or has been at some point (even if the translation needs updating!) and I was just thinking last night that I need to get working on a new translation project (the unpaid but much more rewarding literary kind!)
    Musset is a favorite of mine already but I will have a look for Garnier and Aubigné, neither of which I've heard of before.

  4. I have a Haitian friend who said that when she was a teenager Alfred de Musset was her favorite poet. That got my attention.

    Anyway, yes, please, translate and post some old French poems for us.

  5. Great news everyone! A big step towards the Collected Poems of Sappho has been taken. Two spanking brand new poems by her have been found!
    You can read one of them (in English translation and the original Greek) here:

    Of course scholars, having been burned in the past by forgers (cough Ossian, cough), are a bit wary about openly admiring these new brilliant poems. They argue how one of the poems mentions the names of the two brothers of Sappho we know about, but no new name we already didn't know before; that is a little fishy. Also the poems follow closely on the model of Supplication to the Goddess of other surviving poems by Sappho. One of the two poems even matches closely a previous surviving fragment from Sappho for which only individual letters survived, not whole words.

    The sad fact of the matter is that after a genius has created her own individual style (discovered a semiotic field, so to speak) talented imitators can create brilliant variations which closely resemble the originals. It happened to some of the greatest writers we have, Chuang Tzu, Kabir, Li Po, Homer, etc. All I can say is that I welcome all the Pierre Menards of the past, present and future who bravely fight to correct the mistakes of history.

  6. That is my understanding, that there is some work on authentication or provenance still to be done.

    Since this old post was written, I have been directed to a well-hidden translation of the Garnier, and a good translation of the Gautier has appeared. Not a bad pace. Maybe the upcoming Sebald will inspire someone to translate Hebel.