Dear Mother… Charles

Mother Pensive With Huge Glasses, JMN, photo. (C) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

Mother Pensive With Huge Glasses, JMN, photo. (C) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

Charles Behlen gave me a copy of his “translation” of Arthur Rimbaud’s “Le bateau ivre” (The Drunken Boat). I put “translation” in quotes because Charles readily admits that his version derives from other English versions of the poem, since he doesn’t know French. This is a common procedure with a lot of poets and has produced some really good English renderings of foreign poems. An example is Robert Lowell’s “Imitations.” He wants me to read his translation against the original French to see what we come to. Charles and I agree that you don’t have to know the original language in order to produce strong and viable versions in English. It’s an accepted maxim among good translators that the most important prerequisite is to be able to write well in the native language, not the “target” (or foreign) language. In other words, a good translator is foremost a good writer in his own language. This is what makes so many translations produced by “scholars” of the foreign language so worthy of neglect. They may be “accurate,” but they are also unreadable.

[JMN, Correspondence, 1987]

C) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

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“Displeasing little man”

Sincere wishes

Sincere Wishes, antique post card.

Soon Proust was disenchanted by his goddesses. As Weber notes, his “idealizing vision of his ladies changed over time into something darker.” To the Comtesse de Chevigné [Laure de Sade, great-granddaughter of the Marquis], he wrote, “What one used to love turns out to be very, very stupid.” She, he told a friend, was just “a tough old bird I mistook, long ago, for a bird of paradise.” No longer infatuated, he mocked even the divine Élisabeth [Comtesse Greffulhe] as superficial, pretentious and shallow. And in old age, she proved his point by remembering him as “a displeasing little man who was forever skulking about in doorways.”

(Elaine Showalter, “French High Society During the Belle Époque,” review of “Proust’s Duchess” by Caroline Weber, NYTimes)

(C) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

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“She’s so competitive”

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“It’s funny when they talk about women, saying, ‘Oh, she’s so competitive,’ and it’s almost a put-down… For me, what’s the alternative? To try to lose, or to not give your best? ‘Competitive’ means you’re concentrating, and you do everything to try to prepare as well as you can, and do your best out there.”

(Martina Navratilova, quoted by Ben Rothenberg, “Martina Navratilova May Be Retired, but She Still Wants to Win,” NYTimes)

(C) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

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Ambiguous Headline of the Day

“Putin Is Running a Destructive Cybercrime Syndicate Out of Russia” (NYTimes).

Hmmm… I run a raccoon out of my wood shop now and then.

(c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rabbits restrained.

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“Sonnet: Day of a Salesman”

Convergence2, JMN, photo. Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

Convergence2, JMN, photo. Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

Sonnet: Day of a Salesman

He spoke of where he had to go, greater
doings, how and when; what he was for now
he did not seem to know, knitting his brow
often over it but none the wiser.

He would face the east and feel the matter
dawning (as clear as smog and clouds allow);
he’d sigh for a post on a bireme’s prow
piloting for Byzantium, then mutter

greetings to the inevitable day
and coffee up, prepared to press his quest
for sidewalks greener than a Queen Claude plum.
By noon he’d start to knock it all, and flay

the bitch that bore us; by night call it jest,
benched and listening to the overheads hum.

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Non-natives 3, Natives 1

HJN2000L Abuelita. Oil on canvas, 16 X 20 in. Framed, signed. $1450

HJN2000L Abuelita. Oil on canvas, 16 X 20 in. Framed, signed. $1450

“English is a global language with many native and nonnative varieties. Worldwide, nonnative speakers of English outnumber natives by a ratio of three to one. Even in the United States, which has the largest population of native English speakers, there are, according to one estimate, nearly 50 million speakers of English as a second language. What does it even mean to sound native when so many English speakers are second-language speakers?”
(Roberto Rey Agudo, “Everyone Has an Accent,” NYTimes)

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

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Mono a Mono — Exegesis and Hermeneutics

St Jerome by Bellini

St Jerome by Bellini

My theology chops are modest at best. One monotheism has been dinged by another as being slightly quasi-mono because of the Trinity and the saints and mariolatry.

The dinging party severely prescribes oneness (one God, one Messenger), whereas the dinged party revels in muchness (one Godhead in three Persons, intercession, hyperdulia inferior to latria). Many large ideas in which to delve.

Does the Word wink merrily from somewhere beyond the contesting pieties? Likely as not, I hold.

(C) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.

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