Friday, 15 April 2011

Perfect - Autobiografia - the third stab at it

These days, where ordinary pulp stands for popular music it's good to look back on the days I can't even remember and reminesce the timeless, magnificent songs. Those with lofty lyrics, carrying several messages between the lines, telling remarkable stories, memorable, embedded in deeper cultural or historical context, are particlarly hard to translate into a foreign language.

One of such songs is Autobiografia, by Perfect. The song was released in 1982, in the dead of martial law and tells a story of one man's life, set in the gloom and hopelessness of socialist Poland.

I've long planned to translate it into English. The task was to be particularly difficult, a few times I set out to do it, to no avail. Just a few days ago I discovered other English-language bloggers had read my mind and had done the job. Pacze Moj dedicated two posts, with two different translations, one more literal, the other more poetical. Then it turned out Pan Steeva had another try on it. As native speakers they've done a great job, I, as a Pole, would not be capable of. But after all I read Pan Steeva's version and decided to enhance it a little bit.

The final translation below (copyrights generally attibuted to Pacze Moj, Pan Steeva and Student SGH).

I was only ten:
We first heard about him then;
In my basement was our club.
My pal's radio played:
Then 'Blue Suede Shoes' I first heard
And I couldn't sleep that night.

Wind of change would blow
The imprisoned were let go
Once again, we laughed and joked.
Café’s buzzing scene,
Like tornadoes, jazz blew clean:
Just to play
My wish was.

Father, God knows where
Those days he would go astray.
Me? My finger nail came off,
Shavings out of picks
Played the guitar, learnt the tricks.
And I found the thrill of sex.

Music Postcard craze,
Found five hundred in those days;
Not a single pair of jeans
Come Saturday night
Was Luxembourg, drinks, free house
And we felt
Lust for life!

There were us three.
Though in our blood we were free,
With one goal stuck deep in our minds:
In several years,
Have the world at our heels,
Never hard up.

Alpaga plonk,
And discussions 'til dawn,
Our spirits were always awake.
Who punched whose nose?
And whose tears for this flowed
Things happening.

Separated us,
Perfect Pola Raska's face;
All ready to lay down our lives.
On a summer night,
On a blanket in moonlight,
What I wanted then, I found.

She said quick to me that our problems they might be.
I just had my homework done;
She turned up the heat.
After some time, we don't meet.
Once again,
Me alone.

Roles go in vain,
they can't relieve my pain
Life has taught me much more than they did.
Dossed on the floor,
I was wasting my time.
My greatest time

Pub far away
Klezmer asked me to play;
So much rubbish that still I go red.
One certain day,
Figured out that I knew:
Nothing at all.

Hearing my past,
Overcoming at last
Coming real was my greatest dream then
The thousandth crowd,
Drinking words from my mouth,
All loving me.

A hotel, a fan,
Saying "recorder I ran
That's just how a real throat should sing".
I open the door,
Saying nothing at all:
Walls never can

So it was doable. Are there still untranslatable songs, or does it just take a skillful translator to render the lyrics, rhymes, subtexts?

Hats off to all skillful translators (no, not to me).

Another busy weekend ahead, next posting comes probably on Thursday, when I'm taking a day off.

No comments: