Saturday, August 21, 2021

Osip Mandelstam "sings the wine of the Ages" but "no one catches [his] words": Alistair Noon's translations of Mandelstam

In "Concert at a Railway Station" (Shearsman 2018), Alistair Noon's translations of Osip Mandelstam, the poems hover between confident assertions of meaning's communicability across time and images doubting moments of communication. In "A Menagerie", Mandelstam "sing[s] the wine of the Ages"; but in "[Our hostess had time ...]", some words cannot be "caught": "[B]ranches shelter the words you don't catch or reply to". The same problem also comes up in "[Through the gypsy camp ...]": "No one catches my words". But then again, in "[We're brimming with life ...]", language reaches beyond such a moment of doubt: "The purple inks continue to write / with stars and tails, to make sense." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 21 August 2021)

Osip Mandelstam - Concert at a Railway Station. Selected Poems

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