teeshirts and large numbers
Thursday, July 20 2006
Lordy, lordy, it was the 40th birthday of our friend Susan over in Boiceville and we'd been invited to the party, which was happening at her house tonight. We got to their house, which now features huge two foot tall numbers on the side, digits from an old school score board at a stadium in St. Louis that is in the process of being torn down. There's no chance that their UPS packages will get delivered to the wrong place now. (I often wonder why so many people number their houses - and particularly their businesses - so invisibly. Sometimes when I'm looking for a specific address I pass a dozen houses or more before seeing a single number.)
Inside, Susan had cooked up several gallons of delicious Indian food, most of which contained either shrimp or chicken. I mostly sat out on the back deck with a few others to eat it. A woman stepped away off the deck to smoke, and I assumed she was going to enjoy a cigarette but no, she was sparking up a doobie. That was the only kind of smoking I saw tonight. Almost no one I know smokes tobacco anymore, on the east coast at least.
Susan's husband is Don Byr0n, the acclaimed jazz clarinetist, and tonight Don's father was driving up from somewhere to attend the party. There was some concern when he didn't come at the expected time, but then suddenly there he was. He'd printed up a bunch of teeshirts featuring pictures of his son playing clarinet, which a woman handed out to everyone at the party. It was a little odd that this was happening at Susan's birthday party, but I guess the father is terribly proud of the son. The woman handing out the teeshirts, by the way, was the only person who had brought a child. I feel, though, that I am somewhat stretching the definition of the word child. The creature she'd brought was small enough to carry with one hand. It was a premature baby that, though several weeks old, weighed only seven pounds. It was utterly inert throughout the entire party, evidently not yet capable of making a fuss. Nevertheless, there was some people present who felt obligated to make a fuss over it. As you know, I don't particularly like babies. But this one was so small and prefunctional that it genuinely skeezed me out.
If Susan's parents had come to the party they would have been justified in handing out teeshirts featuring her mug. Recently Modern Library published her translation of Siddhartha out of the original German.
Near the end of the party, Susan discussed the process of translating it with a few of us out in front. She said that she never consults other translations when doing her own, though at some point she is compelled to satisfy her curiosity about how the difficult-to-impossible passages had been translated by those who had come before. And always, she said, she finds that earlier translators had had to fudge just like she'd had to, though often awkwardly. Every time Susan talks about her work I learn something completely new about it. I hadn't known, for example, that professional translators only work in one direction, always towards that of the language they know best. For Susan, then, she always starts with German and always ends with English.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next