It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
OPTIONAL QUESTION: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
MY ANSWER: When I was a schoolgirl and still lived in Russia, I read a lot of poetry. Of course, every poem of a foreign author was in translation. Once I read a lovely poem by Theophile Gautier, something about a pretty gypsy dancer. I liked it and noted the translator, and even recorded it in my poetry journal. Then I forgot about it.
A couple years later, I read a poem by Theophile Gauthier again. It was also about a dancer, and it reminded me about that poem I read before and liked so much, but it was totally different. I didn’t like it as much. It didn’t touch my heartstrings the way the first one did.
I started leafing through my journal, trying to find the first poem. When I found and re-read it, I recognized it as the same poem, translated by a different translator. They had the same meter, the same theme, the exact same source, but not nearly the same impact. Not nearly the same beauty.
That was when it dawned in me how important it was to select the right words, the right turn of phrase, the right adjectives, both for translations and for the original writing as well. That was when I realized that every word counted. I’m a long way now from that young, poetry-loving girl, and I write fiction myself, but that youthful realization is still with me.