Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose


One of the two mentors I was fortunate to study under was a translator. For a while, I played with the idea of becoming one myself. I’ve always been fascinated by translation – the give and take – something added, something lost – the delicate balance necessary to pull it off.

Why such talk? For those who don’t remember, a number of us agreed to read the new Stephen Mitchell translation of The Iliad. Unfortunately, as fate (that’s what I’m calling it anyway) would have it, I ordered the wrong copy and the right one took forever to arrive in my little neck of the woods. In fact, it just got here. Everyone is so far ahead that even if I decided to stop working, and read night and day I would still not be able to catch up. If I were a speed reader it might help, but I can assure you I’m not, and have, in fact, always found the notion of speed and read in the same sentence let alone combined into one word nothing short of sacrilegious.

I have, however, been keeping myself up to date with their posts, and hopefully, through their insights I’ll be better able to appreciate the work.

But in order to do it justice I’ll first finish the books I’m reading as well as one I haven’t started but have had my eyes on. I also really do need to get working again on my second novel, which possibly might come out this year seeing that it’s about 70% finished – like the last one it was started long, long ago…

The idea is to immerse myself in The Iliad, post on it, and perhaps related subjects – depending on if and when the spirit moves.

I claim absolutely no expertise – just an immense love and respect for the written word.

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6 thoughts on “Translation

  1. It’s so hard to sync your likes and book ‘timetable’ with someone else isn’t it? My book group has folded or more correctly morphed into something else and I’ve never even managed to read the same book as my sister within the same year. I have just raided her shelves in a recent visit and came back with a Beryl Bainbridge and Sarah Walters. I limited myself to these as there’s a backlog at home. As an aside do you have a book on your shelves you know you are never going to read? Mine is the children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis. I hope if I tell enough people it will shame me into overcoming the irrational aversion I have for it!


  2. I won’t give a definite yes, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a very long time before I read Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are.


  3. I look forward to your thoughts! If and when the spirit moves you is important, though – forcing it can ruin all the fun.


  4. I’m sorry that it took your book so long to arrive. That’s lame. I believe you’ve read the Iliad before, yes? Just not this translation.

    I’m a very, very slow reader. On the plus side, I have good recall.

    It’s really interesting that you thought for a while about being a translator. I’ve never really thought about what one does to get into that line of work (other than being very proficient with a foreign language). I imagine it takes not only a thorough knowledge of a foreign language, but also a real familiarity with the author being translated and a literary disposition.

    I have and do read translated poetry and literature, but I always wonder (as you alluded to in this piece) what I’m missing from the original work. This is especially true in rhyming poetry. If you’re trying to maintain a rhyme scheme, then it would seem to me that your focus on the author’s intent would be secondary.

    How seriously did you think about that as a career? Did you focus on it at all before deciding to pursue other avenues, or get a chance to assist your mentor in his work?


    • Yes, but in a different translation. I can’t say it was all that pleasant. I seem to remember a lot of names, battles, and blood. It’ll be interesting to see what I make of it now. In contrast, The Odyssey was a different experience altogether. I found a very readable translation with an excellent and often witty (sometimes just sarcastic) commentary.

      “I imagine it takes not only a thorough knowledge of a foreign language, but also a real familiarity with the author being translated and a literary disposition.”

      That sums up things very well.

      My plan is once I get some of the books read to begin posting things i’m interested in with regards to translation before starting to share my impressions of The Iliad. I’d like to think I’ll be reading the poem by summer.

      I don’t think I’m a slow or a fast reader but have absolutely dismal recall. My problem is I don’t have as much time as I’d like to be able to devote to reading. If it were up to me I’d read, write, and listen to music all day.

      It was more than a passing thought. On a scale of 0-10 with 0 my desire to be a Mafia Don or CEO, I’d put it at 6 or 7. No, I didn’t focus on it at all.

      I never got to help him. By the time he was my professor he had stopped translating and was teaching about translation among other things. Besides, I wasn’t proficient in the languages he was.


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