Monday, 25 May 2009

Primary colours...

In the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament I pause for a while to turn back, gaze into the past, dwell upon the present and try to foresee the future.

Ode to Joy – the final part of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the lyrics written by Frederick Schiller, in 1971 adopted as the anthem of the European Union. My reference to it is partly a belated marking of the fifth anniversary of Poland’s accession to the European Union, partly a short exploration of a translation case study. The whole poem, here in German and English, consists of 108 lines, I’ll confine it to eight first, the most known ones.

Original in German
Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium!
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, Dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt,
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo Dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

English translation 1
Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium!
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magic again binds
What custom has firmly parted.
All men become brothers
Where your tender wing lingers.

English translation 2
Joyful spark of hope and glory
Unity with the divine
Drunken under fire, goddess
We approach thy holy Shrine
Thy magic shall unite, ever,
Those nations that which were not
Every mortal becomes one
and your rule shall not be forgot

Both renditions above were found on wikipedia. Both might give a significant contribution to the attempts of answering the question of the gist of translation. The first one is a rather strict, but non-poetic, the second departs a bit from the original, but the author broke rhymes and more or less retained the original message. However, the first four lines are to my mind incomparably better than the last four – had the inspiration forsaken the translator? I’m probably the last person who’d take up translating poetry, but maybe as the examinations are over I’ll break my back over it…
The Polish version, by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, as for me outshines the English one.

Polish translation
O Radości, iskro bogów,
Kwiecie elizejskich pól
Swięta, na twym świętym progu
Staje nasz natchniony chór
Jasność twoja wszystko zaćmi
Złączy, co rozdzielił los.
Wszyscy ludzie będą braćmi
Tam, gdzie twój przemówi głos.

After a series of heated discussions I made up my mind on whom should I vote for. I’ll back somebody who has already spent some time in Brussels, knows the onions and won’t bring shame on Poland. For the hesitant ones I suggest looking in on the website Kandydaci 2009 which includes the information about some of the runners, based on the questionnaires they had filled in. Believe them or not, the site however may be the evidence in case they fail to keep their promises…
And another topical oddity – a new spot of Law and Justice – “Show the government a yellow card” (original title: “Daj rządowi żółtą kartkę”) – a quintessence of populism, along with the catchword “ciemny lud to kupi” (meaning more or less “dumb people will fall for it”). Our government is indeed not flawless, but put a blame for the
a) roadworks (during Lech Kaczyński’s mayor term Warsaw wasn’t clogged up, cause streets weren’t dug up and under repair – nothing happened),
b) inflation (the rising prices are the typical effect of the last phase of boom, if the economy is not cooled down early enough by raising interest rates),
c) and problem many Poles face – difficulties with paying off the (mortgage) loans (banks are independent institutions, they are only subject to the Supervisory Body, the construction boom began during Law and Justice parliamentary term, deputy Kurski would probably complacently put it down to the economic policy of Law and Justice, LaD would probably be proud of their accomplishments, heedless of ramifications, i.e. too many loans denominated in foreign currencies which in long term might be a time bomb!)
is a misconstruction.

…of the European Communities seems to be up in the air… They were devised after WW2 to unite Europe and most of all to prevent the reprise of war carnage. At least the part of Europe lying west from the iron curtain was meant to evolve into more or less uniform entity… Time has borne out some of the pre-assumptions, some were brought down by the cruel reality along the way. Poland draws benefits from the membership in the EU, but it doesn’t mean we should forget about all the downsides of that mighty, bureaucratic structure. I’m not thinking now about our shipyards, but I recall the absurdities of such as curvy cucumbers, crooked carrots, numerous limits, standards (they’re partly legitimate). Further on I see the bigger fault, one English commentator described it “Drifting apart”. Indeed EU with its structures drift apart from its citizens. EU with its sprawling bureaucracy has become a bundle of organisations which appear to be created chiefly for themselves, just for fun of the thousands of officials holding onto their stools there there. Piles of paper, tones of documents – decrees, directives, circulars, bills – for whom – in my eyes more and more just for itself? If the process is not ceased, the costs of keeping the whole machine running might exceed the advantages and who’ll be then to switch it off and what are going to do then? The first warning signs were given by the French and the Dutch who rejected the European constitution in June 2005, later on (in June 2008) by citizens of Ireland who rebuffed the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum. They gave voice and expressed their anxiety about the shape of things going on, the growing, maybe even yawning gap between EU officials and common people – in fact EU authorities have lost their common touch (had they ever have it?) and started playing at important men in tailor-made suits…

Maybe I gripe about all those minor in fact absurdities - I’m far cry from euroscepticism – I’m trying to analyse the flip side of the coin…

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