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The Deleted World: Poems Paperback – 19 Dec 2011

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By Transtromer, Tomas [ [ The Deleted World: Poems[ THE DELETED WORLD: POEMS ] By Transtromer, Tomas ( Author )Dec-19-2011 Paperback ] ] Dec-2011[ Paperback ]

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A disservice to American readers 22 Dec. 2011
By Torbjörn Johansson - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very annoying book. It is neither fish nor fowl. British reviewers have heaped undeserved praise on what they have called "Robin Robertson's magnificent translations" but without knowing Swedish, and Robertson himself knows very little Swedish and so cannot be relied upon to supply accurate translations of our Nobel Laureate. The book's front cover and title-page calls these "versions by Robin Robertson", not translations, and when the book was first published in 2006 Robertson explained what this meant in an article for the London Guardian (which anyone can read online), quoting Robert Lowell quoting Boris Pasternak saying that "the usual reliable translator gets the literal meaning but misses the tone. I have been reckless with literal meaning , and laboured hard to get the tone." Robertson then writes: "In my relatively free versions of some of Tranströmer's poems I have attempted to steer a middle ground between Lowell's rangy, risk-taking rewritings and the traditional, strictly literal approach. I have kept the shape of the poem, opened out its sense more clearly, and tried - as Lowell rightly insists one must try - to get the tone." So by his own admission these are not accurate translations but "relatively free versions".

In his acknowledgements at the back of the book, Robertson writes: "The English versions would not exist in this form without the encouragement of Dr Karin Altenberg; I am indebted to her for her invaluable help with the original texts - though any infelicities of translation are mine alone." A line by line comparison with the Swedish reveals many such infelicities which initially I took to be howlers or misreadings but which I now understand from his pronouncements to be deliberate rewritings by the so-called translator. Therefore what the reader gets are not accurate translations of Tomas Tranströmer but this Scottish poet's versions or distortions of Sweden's greatest living poet. For example, Swedish critics have written much on the subject of Tomas Tranströmer's particular way of writing about trees, so I was surprised to see that in one poem Robertson had translated (or should it be "versioned"?) "granskogen" as pine forest instead of spruce forest. It matters which tree, so why has Robertson taken such liberties? I cannot understand this and many other changes he has made to the meaning of Tranströmer's poems.

This book does a disservice to English-speaking readers who want to know what Tranströmer wrote and not what Robertson thinks he ought to have written had he been writing in English. And since he knows very little Swedish, how can he possibly produce what he thinks is Tranströmer's tone in English? In my opinion this book has only received the attention it does not deserve because Robertson is a famous poet in the UK and an influential person in the literary world. Also, why is Dr Altenberg not credited as co-translator on the title-page or cover as is normal with co-translations? Is it because Robertson does not want his limited knowledge of Swedish to be apparent to the reader?

There are much better translations of Tranströmer available by translators who know Swedish and who are also poets themselves. They also give the reader far more than just 15 poems. In making the Nobel Prize announcement Peter Englund recommended in particular those by Robert Bly (The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, published by Graywolf) and Robin Fulton (The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, published by New Directions), both of whom worked closely with Tranströmer on their translations over many decades, and indeed Tranströmer's detailed correspondence with Bly has been published in Sweden under the title "Air Mail" and will be published in the US by Graywolf in 2013.

I give this book a one-star rating not for the translation but because it does contain 15 poems in the original by Tranströmer, so it has to get at least one star for including the Swedish originals. But the inclusion of the Swedish texts also enables readers with some knowledge of Swedish to see immediately how Robertson has not translated Tranströmer faithfully but has messed around with his poetry.

As a schoolteacher I was also appalled to see a mistake in Amazon's biographical note (presumably supplied by the American publisher) which none of my pupils would ever be guilty of. Everyone knows that the Nobel Prizes are awarded every year in December, and this year was no exception. The award of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature to Tomas Tranströmer was announced in October, but the poet received his award from the King of Sweden on 10 December 2011. I do hope someone will see fit to correct this howler.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
strong poetry but not intended as a faithful translation 11 Jan. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Robertson makes clear in the introduction that these poems are not intended to be faithful translations, rather these are "free versions" of Transtromer's poetry, and should be read and judged accordingly. If you seek the closest English version to Transtromer's original poems, this is not the book for you. But if you love poetry, then it is likely that you will be satisfied by all the poems in this slim volume. The poems are crystalline and mysterious, and the images immediate and powerful.

By the way, there is a robust tradition of free versions; for example, Ted Hughes's versions of Ovid's Metamorphoses are wonderful even if he took considerable liberties with the original. There is a place and a reason for "free versions."
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Nobel Prize in Literature 12 Jan. 2012
By Grandma Ruth - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This man is an amazing writer I am puzzled why it took so long for the world, outside Sweden to discover him. The Deleted World, Swedish and English translations of each poem, are great to see the original side by side.
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