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The Stray Dog Cabaret

par Paul Schmidt (Traducteur), Catherine Ciepiela (Introduction and Editor)

Autres auteurs: Anna Akhmatova (Contributeur), Alexander Blok (Contributeur), Sergei Esenin (Contributeur), Velimir Khlebnikov (Contributeur), Osip Mandelstam (Contributeur)4 plus, Vladimir Mayakovsky (Contributeur), Honor Moore (Postface), Boris Pasternak (Contributeur), Marina T︠S︡vetaeva (Contributeur)

MembresCritiquesPopularitéÉvaluation moyenneMentions
976222,691 (3.5)18
A New York Review Books Original A master anthology of Russia's most important poetry, newly collected and never before published in English In the years before the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Stray Dog cabaret in St. Petersburg was the haunt of poets, artists, and musicians, a place to meet, drink, read, brawl, celebrate, and stage performances of all kinds. It has since become a symbol of the extraordinary literary ferment of that time. It was then that Alexander Blok composed his apocalyptic sequence "Twelve"; that the futurists Velimir Khlebnikov and Vladimir Mayakovsky exploded language into bold new forms; that the lapidary lyrics of Osip Mandelstam and plangent love poems of Anna Akhmatova saw the light; that the electrifying Marina Tsvetaeva stunned and dazzled everyone. Boris Pasternak was also of this company, putting together his great youthful hymn to nature, My Sister, Life. It was a transforming moment--not just for Russian but for world poetry--and a short-lived one. Within little more than a decade, revolution and terror were to disperse, silence, and destroy almost all the poets of the Stray Dog cabaret.… (plus d'informations)
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» Voir aussi les 18 mentions

Affichage de 1-5 de 6 (suivant | tout afficher)
In 1984, Paul Schmidt collaborated with the composer Elizabeth Swados on a musical, The beautiful lady, set among the avant-garde poets who frequented the Stray Dog Cabaret in St Petersburg between 1912 and 1915, using Schmidt's own translations of their poems. After his death, Catherine Ciepiela and Honor Moore expanded on that idea to create this anthology of Schmidt's translations of Anna Akhmatova, Alexander Blok, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, and the rest.

Schmidt notoriously took all kinds of liberties with the texts, both in taking them out of context and juxtaposing poems from different poets to create dialogue and tell a story, and in picking styles and tones for their English voices to help characterise the poets more strongly on stage. Ciepiela and Moore are open about this, and give a summary of the most drastic changes in the notes, but this still isn't a collection you would want to use for any kind of serious study of the individual poets: it's probably better to see it as something like a historical novel that uses artistic licence to try to give you a vivid and intelligible picture of what was going on in a previous age. Taken in that way, it's interesting and lively to read, and many of the poets really seem to come alive, despite Schmidt's one-man-show effect: I thought Tsvetaeva and Khlebnikov came over particularly well. I'm not sure that I really buy Sergei Esenin as a country-and-western singer, though... ( )
  thorold | Dec 10, 2020 |
A moving collection of poems from artists who expressed their personal experiences during a traumatic time in Russian history. ( )
  KikiUnhinged | Feb 9, 2014 |
Warning - this is *not* a translation, it's a rewrite:

http://kaggsysbookishramblings.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/a-did-not-finish-the-str... ( )
  kaggsy | Apr 3, 2013 |
How much artistic license you or I, as people on the receiving end of an aesthetic transaction, are willing to accord a poet, painter, movie director, comedian, or other creative person is, I suppose, dependent on many things: our temperament, the medium, the subject matter, the time of day, our level of intoxication, other variables. Let’s say, for the purpose of discussion, that by “artistic license” we accept the definition of the ultimate arbiter of all things factual, Answers.com, to wit: “the degree of liberty taken by an artist or a writer in deviating from conventional form or fact to achieve a desired effect.” My guess is that New York Review Books (NYRB), the publisher of The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems, is of the opinion that we Americans adopt a pretty liberal view of this matter. In this one case, at least, the word “liberal” is a good thing. Certainly anyone willing to accept David Caruso as a thoughtful and perceptive man of science is capable of a massive capacity to suspend disbelief.


But how about translators; how much artistic license are we willing to offer someone who is purporting to convey what a third person has written or said in a language we don’t understand into a language that we do understand? “Plenty,” is the answer offered by Paul Schmidt, perpetrator of The Stray Dog Cabaret. “Zippo,” is the answer that former President Jimmy Carter would likely provide. Recall that 30-some years ago, Carter took a trip to Poland, where his translator rendered the President’s statement “I have come to learn your opinions and understand your desires for the future” as “I desire the Poles carnally“.



The subtitle to SDC is “A Book of Russian Poems.” The purported authors of these poems are the futurists Velimir Khlebnikov and Vladimir Mayakovsky, plus Alexander Blok, Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Sergei Esenin and, with only two contributions, Boris Pasternak. All were presumably denizens of the Brodyachaya Sobaka, a St. Petersburg establishment that flourished between 1911 and 1915, and was variously Englished as the Stray Dog Café, the Stray Dog Cabaret, the Stray Dog Cellar and the “Society for Intimate Theater.” The cover of this New York Review Books production describes it as a “place to meet, drink, read, brawl, celebrate, and stage performances of all kinds.” Schmidt presents us with one such imagined performance, as the poets take the stage, sometimes singly, sometimes presumably together, comedy-club style, to declaim their works. Schmidt is labeled the “translator.”



So, having set the stage, so to speak, let’s go back to the question of artistic license for translators. Perhaps it might be best to probe this concept with a series of specific practices, to test just how likely we are to affirm the translator’s authority to do such things as:



Change the form of a poem by, say, altering quatrains to a series of three-liners, or breaking a continuously lineated poem up into stanzas (a favorite procedure of Schmidt),or (even more of a favorite procedure) altering the sequence of lines.. My reaction: No problem. At least, it happens all the time in translations of poetry. For example, no one would be crazy enough to try to translate the Divine Comedy into an English terza rima. Well, actually, Longfellow did just that, but everyone knows he was a weirdo.



Supply a title to a poem that originally had none or a different one. My initial reaction: Again, pretty common, so no big deal. Let’s think about it for a moment, though. Often the newly supplied titles are in the form of offerings from one to one of the other Stray Dogs. For example, Schmidt calls an untitled poem by Tsvetaeva “To Osip Mandelstam”, or he calls a poem by Blok, originally titled “In the Restaurant” and dedicated specifically to someone else (Maria Nelidova), “To Anna Akhmatova,” and then follows it up with an item by Akhmatova, re-constructed by yanking out the middle of a three-poem cycle, and starting it off: “Why don’t you look at me, don’t you love me? / You bastard you really are beautiful / And I’m hooked.” My considered reaction: Come on now, Schmidt’s just trying to convey some give and take here, some sense of dialog between his characters; so cut the guy some slack. So what if he’s rewriting a little bit of the personal history of these old-timers? It’s all in the service of good fun, and they’re dead anyway.




Cut whole sections of longer poems and replace them with paraphrases or short summaries (or nothing.) My reaction: Well, it all depends. How about an example? My response: very well, in “A Funny Thing Happened to Vladimir Mayakovsky in the Country”, by Vladimir Mayakovsky (at least Schmidt got the attribution right), 18 lines describing how the sun approached and entered the poet’s house are condensed to: “What did I say that for? / Because all of a sudden, ever obliging / the sun came rolling through the door.” My reaction to my response: That’s OK. They were probably a bunch of pretty boring lines; after all, who’s interested in nature when you’re in a cabaret zonked out of your mind?



Add embarrassing lines of your own into a poem that you’ve otherwise butchered in a number of different ways. My reaction: Now wait a minute, here; that’s a pretty pejorative way to put it, isn’t it? Consider the much more graceful way that Professor Catherine Ciepiela expresses the situation in her introductory essay to The Stray Dog Cabaret: “[Schmidt] even introduced into the first poem [“Me” by Vladimir Mayakovsky] a refrain of his own invention… In thus changing Mayakovsky’s poem, Schmidt was guided by a real grasp of his [presumably Mayakovsky’s] poetics, and the result is brilliant.” What “poetics” are we talking about here? Well, Mayakovsky had a habit of using what he called the lesenka or “step” structure, in which words & phrases are indented and parceled out over descending lines. Here’s an example, from the beginning of a poem titled “Hope” and not translated by Schmidt (so there’s every reason to have hope!):

Insert my heart!
Blood
to surge through all my veins…

Guided, as Professor Ciepiela says, by these poetics, Schmidt repeatedly inserts a little refrain of his own into the first part of the poem “Me”:

And it makes
me
cry.

Such as:

On street corner crossings
they crucify cops
And it makes
me
cry.

Is this “brilliant,” as Professor Ciepiela announces? A different translator might use another word: like “pitiful”. (As in “stimulative of pity.” Wasn’t that Schmidt’s intent?)

So, all in all, I guess you could say that I tend to apply a somewhat stricter standard regarding artistic license when it comes to translators. In short, when I read a book that is subtitled “A Book of Russian Poems”, I expect to encounter the translator’s best effort to present the creative accomplishment of the Russian Poets in question as clearly, as faithfully, as transparently as possible. Otherwise, he or she should abandon the name “translator” in favor of something more apt, like: “adaptor,” or “reviser”, or “mangler”.

My final judgment on The Stray Dog Cabaret is best expressed in the words of the poet:

And it makes
me
cry. ( )
4 voter jburlinson | Nov 7, 2010 |
A nearly perfect anthology: consistently wonderful poems, a thoughtful introduction, a passionate and talented translator, and a fluid structure. Thank you bringing this back into print, NYRB. ( )
  rmariem | Oct 23, 2009 |
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Nom de l'auteur(e)RôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
Schmidt, PaulTraducteurauteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionsconfirmé
Ciepiela, CatherineIntroduction and Editorauteur principaltoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Akhmatova, AnnaContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Blok, AlexanderContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Esenin, SergeiContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Khlebnikov, VelimirContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Mandelstam, OsipContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Mayakovsky, VladimirContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Moore, HonorPostfaceauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Pasternak, BorisContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé
T︠S︡vetaeva, MarinaContributeurauteur secondairetoutes les éditionsconfirmé

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A New York Review Books Original A master anthology of Russia's most important poetry, newly collected and never before published in English In the years before the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Stray Dog cabaret in St. Petersburg was the haunt of poets, artists, and musicians, a place to meet, drink, read, brawl, celebrate, and stage performances of all kinds. It has since become a symbol of the extraordinary literary ferment of that time. It was then that Alexander Blok composed his apocalyptic sequence "Twelve"; that the futurists Velimir Khlebnikov and Vladimir Mayakovsky exploded language into bold new forms; that the lapidary lyrics of Osip Mandelstam and plangent love poems of Anna Akhmatova saw the light; that the electrifying Marina Tsvetaeva stunned and dazzled everyone. Boris Pasternak was also of this company, putting together his great youthful hymn to nature, My Sister, Life. It was a transforming moment--not just for Russian but for world poetry--and a short-lived one. Within little more than a decade, revolution and terror were to disperse, silence, and destroy almost all the poets of the Stray Dog cabaret.

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