Friday, February 11, 2011

Willard R. Trask, translation and vision

Who the fuck was Willard R. Trask?  I ask this in a very good way.  It comes from the utmost regard, and wonder.  If he was alive, I wouldn't want to find him and bother him, but I am very curious.  Not much is publicly known about him.

Only recently, I found out that he died in 1980, through a NY Times article.  Its first lines read, "Willard Ropes Trask, a translator whose erudition encompassed prehistoric religions, the poetry of the medieval minnesingers, Joan of Arc, Provencal verses and Polynesian folk songs, the memoirs of Casanova, Stalinist police terror and the mysteries of Georges Simenon, died Sunday at New York University Hospital.  He was 80 years old and resided in Manhattan." 

For two decades, he's been an awe-inspiring figure for me.  I always admired well-read and well-spoken polyglots, but he went far beyond this.  He must've been cultured or worldly in the best senses, and there's a feeling that he was inspired by the best enlightenment principles and sensibilities, but the breadth and depth of the universal works he translated were those of uncommon visions.  It can be ventured that his classical interests were also the experience of their decadence, that this also aligned them with a primordial inquiry.  In the post-information age, a world where the would-be universal communication of singular visions is always already nostalgia, there being an exascerbation of the meaning of individual works, their codification as it were and their personalization, the uncommon imagination may have little value and it can appear a bit suspicious.  Thus, my wonderment for this translator of most discerning tastes. 

Translated works and publication dates:
Yang / 'Late Spring' (1935)
Joan of Arc: A Self-Portrait (1936)
Ramón José Sender / Chronicle of Dawn (1944)
Alexander Granach / There Goes an Actor (1945)
Pushkin, Poet and Lover (1946)
Zoe Oldenbourg / The World is not Enough (1948)
Theologia Germanica (1949)
Albert Beguin / 'A Poetry marked by scansion' (1950)
Gabriel Bounoure / 'St.-John Perse and poetic ambiguity' (1950)
Gaëtan Picon / 'The Most proudly free' (1950)
Fritz von Unruh / The Saint (1950)
Victor Serge / The Case of Comrade Tulayev (1951)
Erich Auerbach / Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1953)
Ernst Robert Curtius / European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1953)
Angelus Silesius / The Cherubinic Wanderer (1953)
Mircea Eliade / The Myth of Eternal Return: Cosmos and History (1954)
Thomas Mann / The Black Swan (1954)
Viktor Zuckerkandl / Sound and Symbol: Music and the External World (1956)
Mircea Eliade / The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1957)
José  Ferrater Mora / Man at a Crossroads (1957)
José Ortega y Gasset / Man and People (1957)
Mircea Eliade / Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mysteries of Birth and Rebirth (1958)
Mircea Eliade / Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (1958)
Henry Corbin / Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (1960)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe / Egmont: A Tragedy in Five Acts (1960)
Emile Zola / Germinal (1962)
Mircea Eliade / Myth and Reality (1963)
Mircea Eliade / Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1964)
Giacomo Casanova / History of My Life (1966)
The Unwritten Song: Poetry of the Primitive and Traditional Peoples of the World, Volume 1: The Far North, Africa, Indonesia, Melanesia, Australia (1966)
Medieval Lyrics of Europe (1969)
The Unwritten Song: Poetry of the Primitive and Traditional Peoples of the World, Volume 1: Asia, Polynesia, Micronesia, North America, Central America, & South America (1969)
Classic Black African Poems (1971)
Editha & Richard Sterba / Beethoven and His Nephew: A Psychoanalytical Study of Their Relationship (1971)
Georges Simenon / The Hatter's Phantoms (1976)
Mircea Eliade / A History of Religious Ideas, Volume 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries (1978)
Mircea Eliade / A History of Religious Ideas, Volume 2: From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity (1982)
Benjamin Franklin / On Wine: A Letter to the Abbe Morellet (1982)
Friedrich Hölderlin / Hyperion or the Hermit in Greece (1984)
Guido delle Colonne / Lyric (1985)