Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsOctavio Paz

Deer Fence

July 26, 1987|Wang Wei

Empty hills, no one in sight,

only the sound of someone talking;

late sunlight enters the deep wood,

shining over the green moss again.

From Eliot Weinberger and Octavio Paz, "Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese poem is translated" (Moyer Bell: Colonial Hill/RFD 1, Mount Kisco, NY 10549: $5.95; 53 pp.). Wang Wei (ca. 700-761) was a poet, painter and calligrapher, one of whose works was a massive horizontal scroll containing a landscape painting and 20 quatrains of poetry on the Wang (no relation) river. This scroll--painting as well as poems--was copied in China--"transformed," the editors say--for 900 years, the earliest extant version stemming from the 17th Century. In more recent times, Wang Wei has been repeatedly translated by Western writers. In this small but fascinating book, Weinberger and Paz collect 17 English, one French and one (Paz's own) Spanish translation of one of Wang Wei's quatrains and add commentary on the merits and special features of each. Of the translation above, by Burton Watson, 1971, they write: "Watson here renders the first two characters of Line 1 with two words; no article, no explanation. His presentation of the image is as direct as the Chinese. There are 24 English words (six per line) for the Chinese 20, yet every word of the Chinese has been translated without indulging, as others have done, in a telegraphic minimalism. In the translation of Chinese poetry, as in everything, nothing is more difficult than simplicity." "Nineteen Ways" will be available Aug. 15. 1987, Eliot Weinberger and Octvio Paz, by permission.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|