Re: Interpreting dead people's creative works (was: Riddles ...)

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Sat Jan 06 2001 - 15:21:58 MST

From: "E. Shaun Russell" <>, Fri, 05 Jan 2001

>It should also be noted that a good (but not great) movie about Onegin came
>out a year or so ago, with typically splendid acting from Ralph Fiennes
>(perhaps my favorite actor).

Drat, missed it. I like Fiennes too.

>Though I have not read it yet (it is on my "to-read" bookshelf...),
>Hofstadter's _Le Ton Beau de Marot_ is about interpretation and
>translation, revolving primarily around little-known French poet Clement

OK, I'm convinced. Now this is a future book for me to read.

>Just look at the Bible. The amount of interpretations and translations
>which have been derived from that book boggle the mind.

Silly me,

Somehow I forgot this interpreted work. Probably the largest and
longest-running interpreted work ever. We should add the Koran too.

Did anyone else ever read _Good News for Modern Man_ (I think that's
the title), a strange translation of the Bible's New Testament, where
the words are rewritten in "today's" language? It's wierd. I think I
prefer Jesus Christ Superstar (or Life of Brian) :-)

>Music is perhaps the only art in which emulation/interpretation can be as
>creative as new compositions. Though I generally prefer newer music on the
>avant-garde, I have heard some wonderful renditions of old classics which
>are both creative and still retain the essence of the original (a great
>example of this is George Winston's 5 & 1/2 minute rendition of Pachabel's
>Canon in D).

I agree.

I read somewhere that Nigel Kennedy's Vivaldi: Four Seasons was on
Britain's Top-40 POP MUSIC list (~10 years ago). Definitely not traditional.

Alot of years ago, when I was younger and generally more stupid about
symphonic music, I had a conversation with my Estonian cousin-in-law,
who is a professional music conductor and violinist, about some music
cassette tapes that I had with me of some classical music. I didn't write
on the cassette box the name of the orchestra or the conductor,
because I honestly didn't think that it made much difference. "You
*don't know* and *it doesn't matter*?!" he asks. "No...", Amara says
sheepishly. (A composer's piece sounds basically the same, no matter
what orchestra plays it and no matter what conductor interprets it,
right? ) How embarrassing.

Needless to say, he straightened me out on that (our first) meeting
about the huge difference the conductor and orchestra make in interpreting
classical music.

>It is interesting that the sonnet form caught on so quickly after Thomas
>Wyatt brought it back from Italy (originally devised by an Italian named
>Petrarch). Wyatt's most famous poem is both a combination of translation
>(most of it), as well as a mirror of his own situation (it refers to his
>mistress, Anne Boelin):

In _Handbook to Literature_ by C. Holman, the author says that Wyatt
translated Petrarchan (14th century) Italian sonnets and then left over 30
sonnets of his own composition in English. An associate of Wyatt,
named Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) shares the credit with
Wyatt for introducing the Italian sonnet form to England.

(who says my high school literature class was not useful?)

>Wyatt's most famous poem is both a combination of translation
>(most of it), as well as a mirror of his own situation

Thanks for the poetry. It's fun to weave oneself into one's own public
especially in extremely subtle ways, which no one else would understand.
(private jokes)

>It is interesting to note that the English language is (in the early 16th
>century) quite legible and understandable by today's standards, yet when
>one reads Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_ from ~130 years earlier, its
>language is quite hard to understand.

You too? I had a conference in Canterbury last April, and I bought
Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_ as a souvenir. The book is too
tedious to read, though.

>There's no question that Hofstadter would be the best kind of person to do
>translations. If only he would take a stab at Dostoyevsky...

Dostoevsky's _The Idiot_ has been my airplane and holiday reading
material during the last 2 weeks. The main character, Prince Myshkin,
acts in the Russian tradition of the Holy Fool. What a character!
The novel is entertaining and an interesting perspective of upper class
19th century Russian life. I'm sure I'm missing important aspects in the
English translation, though, and interestingly enough, the
translator's name is not listed anywhere in the paperback book.


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"Sometimes I think I understand everything. Then I regain
consciousness." --Ashleigh Brilliant

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