Favorite opening paragraph/sentence/passages etc.

Discussion in 'Books' started by Ombak, Oct 23, 2005.

  1. Ombak

    Ombak Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 19, 1999
    Irvine, CA
    Club:
    Flamengo Rio Janeiro
    Nat'l Team:
    Brazil
    Here's the first paragraph of a great novel from Machado de Assis, "...the greatest author ever produced in Latin America . . ." (Susan Sontag, The New Yorker).

    The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas. - Machado de Assis
    The book is spectacular, but this sums up what the character thinks of the importance of his efforts pretty well.
     
  2. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    ... так кто ж ты, наконец?
    - Я - часть той силы,
    что вечно хочет
    зла и вечно совершает благо.
     
  3. Ombak

    Ombak Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 19, 1999
    Irvine, CA
    Club:
    Flamengo Rio Janeiro
    Nat'l Team:
    Brazil
    At least I provided a translation!
     
  4. Excape Goat

    Excape Goat Member+

    Mar 18, 1999
    Club:
    Real Madrid
    On top of my head, I like the opening for Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.
     
  5. doppelganger

    doppelganger Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    santa cruz, ca
    In the town, there were two mutes, and they were always together

    Carson McCullers, Heart is a Lonely Hunter
     
  6. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    The pure products of America
    go crazy...

    William Carlos Williams.

    Let us go then, You and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    like a patient etherized upon a table...

    T.S. Eliot.

    Stately, plump Buck Mulligan descended...

    James Joyce.
     
  7. Howard Zinn

    Howard Zinn Member

    Aug 9, 2005
    Brookline, MA
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I recognize a few of the basic words, but still need a translation captain. ;)
     
  8. Shurik

    Shurik New Member

    Nov 2, 1999
    Baltimore, MD
    - So, who are you?
    - I am a part of the force that always yearns for evil, yet is always doing good.

    That's my translation, anyway. This is the epigraph to Bulgakov's Master & Margarita, possibly the best novel ever written in Russian.
    If I am not mistaken, the epigraph is taken from Faust.
     
  9. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Yes, its a line from Goethe's Faust, which heavily influenced M&M, of course. The Russian translation, however, is far more elegant. I've never seen an English translation rendered well. :(
     
  10. bungadiri

    bungadiri Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 25, 2002
    Acnestia
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Well there's this, from Fritz Leiber's "Ill Met in Lankhmar":

    http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/showpost.php?p=6197307&postcount=1

    Then there's this, which I also cited in the same thread:
    From Evan Connell's Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn
    And this:
    McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
     
  11. Howard Zinn

    Howard Zinn Member

    Aug 9, 2005
    Brookline, MA
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Shurik's translation sounds pretty good to me. Perhaps I will found the time to read it after I am done with my Faulkner. I'm such a slow damn reader. :(
     
  12. gaijin

    gaijin New Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Malaysia
    Conversely I've never seen an Russian translation of an English text rendered well.

    I blame the lack of synonyms.
     
  13. GringoTex

    GringoTex Member

    Aug 22, 2001
    1301 miles de Texas
    Club:
    Tottenham Hotspur FC
    Nat'l Team:
    Bolivia
    "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

    Anna Karenina
     
  14. bojendyk

    bojendyk New Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    South Loop, Chicago
    "Complacencies of the pegnoir, and late
    coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
    and the green of the cockatoo mingle to dissipate
    the holy hush of ancient sacrifices."

    --Stevens, "Sunday Morning" (might not quite be exact)
     
  15. tino11

    tino11 New Member

    Dec 15, 2004
    Karlsruhe - Germany
    1984 - George Orwell
     
  16. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    No, I meant that particular line. I think Russian fiction doesn't translate too badly into English, actually.
    Russian poetry, however, is almost worthless in translation.
     
  17. bojendyk

    bojendyk New Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    South Loop, Chicago
    W. S. Merwin's translations of Osip Mandelstam are wonderful--they're better than Merwin's own poems. However, I suspect that Merwin isn't concerned with fidelity with the originals. They thus likely fail as literal translations but succeed as poetry.
     
  18. minorthreat

    minorthreat Member

    Jan 1, 2001
    NYC
    Club:
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    "Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el Coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo."

    -Gabriel García Márquez, Cien Años de Soledad
     
  19. Shurik

    Shurik New Member

    Nov 2, 1999
    Baltimore, MD
    Lozinsky's translation of Shakespeare, I always though, was wonderful. As is Pasternak's Hamlet.
    Nabokov's Alice in Wonderland is a nightmare as far as fidelity to the text is concerned, but a hoot on its own. Instead of supplying the text with annotations, Nabokov just went and completely Russified it. You just can't appreciate Alice properly until you see her parodying Pushkin:

    Kak dynya vzmyvaetsya
    Veshchii Omar...


    Oh, brother...

    And, of course, the Litvinova's Harry Potter is a freakin' horror story. It's one of those cases when the lack of respect for the author combined with a weak knowledge of modern colloquial English come together to create something entirely unrecognizable.
     
  20. gaijin

    gaijin New Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Malaysia
    In my jaunt in Ukrainian secondary school (don't ask), the Shakespeare texts they had there, were translated terribly. That said, trying to translate from the original into Modern English and then into Modern Russian is quite hard. Similarly, many texts in French have suffered the brunt of horrendous translations to the point where you question the ability of the translator, or indeed the purpose of it being translated.

    That said there are some fine translators out there, who more than cope with the job and often improve a fairly pedestrian text and bring life to it, simply by offering it a different lexical construction or throwing some more adjectives and synonyms at it.

    Some English translations of foreign books actually out-do their original texts.

    *coughFranzKafkacough*

    :eek:

    Interesting. A lot my research concerned the translations of various texts. Some are mainly concerned with translating word for word without a care for idioms and the audience they are writing for.

    I'll have to check that out.

    Ah yes. Old Gary Potter is giving Russian kids (but mainly adults) a bum deal.

    Ah to hell with it, let's just all learn a foreign language of our choosing so we can read texts in their original format.
     
  21. gaijin

    gaijin New Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Malaysia
    For the most part they work quite well.

    I'll take your word on the Russian poetry. Pushkin lacks that certain edge when its written in English.
     
  22. gaijin

    gaijin New Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Malaysia
    Many years later as he faced the firing squad, Coronel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

    Hey I understand Spanish! (Either that or I have the English text in my drawer. :p )

    The final line oth, is the killer...
     
  23. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Ah, firing squad. That's what I couldn't understand.
    Bojendyk - I've never read Merwin's translations, I'll see if I can find them.
    As for translations in Russian - Pasternak's Hamlet, as Shurik mentioned, is absolutely brilliant.
     
  24. gaijin

    gaijin New Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Malaysia
    Hmmmm. I'm guessing Pasternak would really capture that dark introspective tone that the play has...

    I've always read Doctor Zhivago as one of the most dark and anagogical books of all time.

    Like his poetry as well.
     
  25. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    I've never liked Dr. Zhivago, but Pasternak was the most talented Soviet era poet in my opinion, ahead of Akhmatova and Tzvetaeva. Probably Mayakovsky as well.
    Oh, and miles, miles, MILES better than Yevtushenko, whose poetry sucks.
     

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