A group of theorists, philosophers and linguists, starting from the belief of Wilhelm Humboldt that language is an expression of the national spirit and that, existing itself on the principle of thinking it objectivizes those deep and essential differences that are present in the spiritual world of certain nations, support a theory that the translation is in principle an impossible undertaking. Indeed, if one insists that a piece of literature can fully adequately, “innocently” fit in another language clothes, it is obvious that this is a demand impossible to fulfill. Translation is not a mechanical act, translation does not only mean a group of rules, but in itself it carries a powerful creative incisiveness and we will only look at it as creativity, co-creativeness. Still, we do not support the ultimate thesis of “improving” translations given, for example, by the Czech theorist Jerzy Levi.
In his 1923 text “The Task of Translator” Walter Benjamin says: “The translation, instead of being similar in its meaning to the original, must, on the contrary, with love and in detail in its language, build the way of thinking of the original, making in this way both the original and the translation recognizable.”
We should also not forget what George Mounon, a French theorist of translation and linguist of international reputation says: “No theory of translation can give the translator his talent. It can only teach him to analyze the exact linguistic nature of the difficulties that he encounters in the lexicography, syntax, style” (“Теоријата на преводот овозможува појасно согледување на проблемите” in: “Огледало”, no. 74-75, p. 4).
The name of Blaže Koneski is related to translations in various ways. Not only that he worked on specific texts, which is the main interest in this paper, but in several occasions he also was a theorist of this activity.1F Besides this, a significant part of his poetic heritage has been translated in a significant number of international languages, which is one of the ways of intercultural encounter. “Translation is one of the instances via which the inter-literary communication act of the Macedonian literature with other literatures takes place, and a first sign of getting out of the semi-anonymity and narrow national frames” (Лидија Капушевска-Дракулевска, Поетика на несознајното, p. 114).
Somewhere in 1948, Blaže Koneski concluded that “our language is mostly shaped in the furnace of translation”. Therefore, it can be clearly concluded that translation can not be reviewed individually, but it is in a close connection with the issue of the language.
Immediately after World War II and the codification of the Macedonian language and alphabet, our standard language develops precisely via translation through some functional (popular) styles. This imposed the issue of adjusting Macedonian terminology in some areas. Then, via the translation literature, there was a big progress in the application of the Macedonian language in various areas of life. What in our context was an effort to create Macedonian poetry and prose, also found its analogous support in what was adopted by translation of other nations. The main difficulty in this process was that the vocabulary of our standard language was to be shaped. It was necessary to activate a big, new, lexical material, it was necessary to move towards new stylistic synthesis and in a short term develop the language.
Blaže Koneski used and mastered material in a big number of languages and in the course of his life translated from various languages. Because of the space/time economy here we will not deal with all of his translations, because there are many of them, but we will mainly look into the technique and philosophical scheme of his translation activity, using some most indicative examples.
Working as a language instructor at the Macedonian National Theatre, immediately after World War II, Koneski was given the task to translate from Russian the play Platon Krecat, that opened the Macedonian National Theatre on 3 April, 1945. Because some Russian pieces were “in” then, Blaže Koneski worked on several more texts such as Zoja Kosmodemyanskaya by Margarita Aliger (Koneski translated the verses, and Kiro Hadživalisev the other part). Later, for the needs for MNT (in 1951, that is, 1954) Blaže Koneski started the translation of Twelfth Night and Othello by William Shakespeare (using the Russian translation, but also Bulgarian, Croatian, German, and din the other printed editions he also consulted the English originals).
Besides the translation of the Old Slavic language (Tikveš Collection), in the translation “file” of Blaže Koneski, there are also other translations of short plays, prose (Ivo Andrić – New Short Stories, Vjekoslav Kaleb – The Brigade) and popular literature, but still his basic translating preoccupation is poetry.
He was translating poetry from German (poems by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich Heine), from Russian (poems by Alexandr Block, Valerij Brjusov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Eduard Bagritzki, Leonid Martinov, Surkov), from Serbo-Croatian language (Gorski Venac and other texts by Petar Petrović Njegoš, then poems by Desanka Maksimović), from Czech (Karel Jaromir Erben, Karel Hinek Maha, Jan Neruda, Petar Bezruch, Jirzy Wolker, Viteslav Nezval), from Polish (Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Zigmunt Krasinjski, Kazimjezh Psherva-Tetmaer, Leopold Staff, Julian Tuwim, Tadeusz Różewicz), Slovenian (France Prešern), and Bulgarian (Lazar Pop Trajkov, N.J. Vapcarov).
Some of these translations are master pieces and lasting models for the translators to Macedonian. Here, there is a special place for “Lyric Intermezzo” by Heine, Gorski Vjenac by Njegoš, then the works of Shakespeare, Block, Prešern…
It is interesting that in several collections of poems by Blaže Koneski, besides his original verses, there are also his translations. In Nebesna reka, in the cycle “Mourning” there are five poems by five German classics. In his last collection of poems Black Ram under the title “Messages from East” we can also read the titles of four poems coming from the Far East. In Collected Works the poems and translations of Koneski have the same treatment as his other verses.
The response to the questions why this is so will clear up many misunderstandings that occur not only about the topic of this essay, but also about the phenomenon of translating poetry in general.
Because of the prosodial limitations that are set to the poetic speech, translation or poetry seems impossible. In the beginning, we have already stated the thesis that says that translation is almost impossible. However, there is another thing we must not miss, and it is that in all of human experience the need and desire to express in one’s own words (read: in one’s own language) an important art message, primarily given in a foreign language was always present.
In the process, except for the transmission of the contents from one language to another, the translation also has an interpreting, hermeneutic note. Roland Bartes also said that translation is a creation of a new text and in itself it implies an act of interpretation. Therefore, the idea of a “pure” translation has long ago been discarded.
Blaže Koneski stands for a more liberal approach to the translation activity. It is obvious that in every translation he tried to create a text that would sound valid in our language. Therefore, the translation motto of “Nebregovo genius” is the following: only poetry can be the equivalent of poetry!
1. “On Poetic Translation”, “Comment on the Translation of Lazar Pop Trajkov’s Poem”, former unpublished essays, reviews of some of the first translation of literary texts in Macedonian, Published in “Nov den”…