Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In your ocean eyes

Blame Neha. Faiz is untranslatable in general, and Teri samundar aankhon mein (see original here) doubly so, but the Bilal Tanweer translation she put up was so godawful, that I figured I couldn't possibly do any worse. So here you go:

This shore of sunlight where evening sets,
where both times meet -
neither day nor night, neither now nor then -
an eternal instant, instantly fleet.
On this shore of sunlight, an instant or two,
the leaping lips,
the jingling caress,
our togetherness neither false nor true.
Why feel ashamed? Why talk of blame?
Why lie?
When this evening's sun sinks
in your ocean eyes
households shall sleep content
and the wanderer wave goodbye.

- Faiz Ahmed Faiz (translation mine)

Obviously there are a few departures from the original here - what I wanted to do was be as faithful as possible to the rhythm of Faiz's poem - its friskiness, its momentum, its rhymes and half rhymes. That's meant sacrificing accuracy here and there (and inverting the order of "Jab teri samundar aankhon mein / is shaam ka sooraj doobega"), but I quite like the result.

One serious change is the shortening of "Kis kaaran jhooti baat karo" to "Why lie?", which not only considerably shortens the line, but also makes it rhyme with the lines that follow rather than with the line immediately preceding it. An alternative line would "Why tell these lies in vain?" but that just strikes me as being unnecessarily clunky.


neha vish said...

Erm. Just don't make it sound like I put my own translation at least?


km said...

"Jingling caress"? Sounds like a cash register with tentacles :)

Ok, serious question: is there a book of Faiz's poems (preferably in Devnagri) with semi-decent translation?

Falstaff said...

Neha: Sorry, didn't realize it came out like that. Fixed now.

km: Ya, I know, I know. Those two lines - "Hothon ki lapak / bahon ki khanak" - are actually the hardest to translate.

The best book of Faiz translations I know of is Agha Shahid Ali's Rebel's Silhouette. The advantage Shahid has over everyone else is that he's an incredible poet in his own right, and really understands how poetry in English works. His translations have a tendency to overembellish Faiz, but they're stunning poems in their own right.

No Devnagri scrip though.

km said...

Ooh, I simply must get that book. Thanks for the recommendation.

elizabeth said...

I'm so used to hearing people kvetch about the inaccuracy of the Shahid translations--but that book was my introduction to Faiz (on the page, anyway) and at least until I know enough Urdu to read the original, I'll continue to treasure it.

(I'll admit I've complained myself about the version of Hikmet's last poem in that book, but I'm mostly too delighted by the game of interlingual poetic Telephone going on there to complain all that loudly.)

Anonymous said...

Your translation's definitely better..i agree with your changes to maintain the true 'feel' of the poem.
its great work, loved it..

Falstaff said...

km: You're welcome.

elizabeth: Entirely with you. To begin with, the kvetching is greatly exaggerated: there's a lot that Shahid gets exactly right, and even where he doesn't it's not so much that he's inaccurate as that he goes a little over the top, a little over-lyrical. Even where he does overembellish, Shahid remains largely true to the sensibility of the poem, just not to its actual content. In any case, his book of translations is by far the best rendition of Faiz in English I've read.

Sam Black: Thanks. Glad you liked it.

Anonymous said...

Almost all of Faiz's poetry is available in Devanagri in 'Saare Sukhan Hamare', brought out by , IIRC, Rajkamal, Delhi.

Falstaff said...

Anon: Thanks. I had actually pointed that out in an earlier post. Unfortunately, Saare Sukhan Hamare has no translations.