Monday, 26 July 2010

Thundering on

I am so close to finishing Satantango. There are only some nine pages to go and I have been working hour after hour on it the last few days till my eyes are like saucers. Coming to the end of a translation is a hallucinatory feeling. Everything is rushing past you yet you seem to be creeping along at snail's pace, looking at the same word over and over again, trying to keep your focus.

As with all his books LK has some stylistic twists at the end. It is like leaving the story before you've really left it. I say story, but the story as plot seems to me beside the point as I translate. It is microcosm after microcosm. Someone lifts a spoon to their mouth. Another is trudging along a road. One person is turning over a memory that is no more than a fragment. Two figures appear in a room. There is laughter, then someone shouts. That's a poet thinking, not a novelist. But then Satantango is far from a straightforward novel.

I work for an hour or so, then stop for fifteen minutes, then return. It almost feels as though I were writing with him, but I am only going where he has already been.

I can't read other things when the work gets to this stage. I just want to flush out my mind for a while. Any old rubbish will do. I play electronic Scrabble. I put a clerihew up on Facebook then respond to those that come in in reply. Occasionally I dash off a new one by way of answer. It has to be done in under five minutes. I play with Lily, who has been strangely happy and affectionate today. It's partly the cat Prozac, partly keeping out of Pearl's way.

Now it's 9:45 and I think I have driven the translation as far as I can take it for tonight. I repeat: nine pages to go. In the meantime invitations from Hungary to add to the one from India. The diary is filling up and there are some scary weeks in it. Plus the Stephen Spender competition and the National. The Respond / Reply collaboration with the three artists goes on but I am not returning to it till LK is finished.

Wrote one song lyric to commission - to a tune. A car snores by outside. The Chinese restaurant is empty. (Earlier today I heard cymbals again in memory of the mother.) It's lovely and quiet.


Tim said...

Will it be released soon after you are finished, or will it go to the back of the line at ND?

Also, are you going to, or do you know whether anyone will be, translating any of LKs other works?

George S said...

Not sure in either case, Tim. I have a lot of other translation on at the moment, but we'll see.

Anonymous said...

In regards to ND, you (both) might have already seen this, but when film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum was asked to talk about Satantango's (the film) 15th anniversary, he spent half of his brief write-up discussing the book. The pertinent paragraph reads:
"Congratulations to Sátántangó on its 15th anniversary. Now that it’s a teenager, I’m happy that English-speaking fans can finally, at long last, look forward to an English translation of László Krasznahorkai’s novel. As a member of PEN, I was invited last year to suggest literary works for English translation. After I proposed Sátántangó and they published my response, I received a note from Barbara Epler of New Directions: 'We are waiting on the delivery of its translation by the great George Szirtes, eagerly waiting, and will publish it as soon as we can. (We already have his translations of László’s The Melancholy of Resistance and War & War.)' So once it appears, I’ll no longer have to depend on the French translation by Joëlle Dufeuilly (2000) published by Gallimard, which I’ve owned for many years." (

I'm not sure if their "as soon as we can" relatively translates to "end of the line," but I will remain optimistic for a quick release as I would like to put it on my Christmas list this year (or birthday if they get to it quickly enough).

Either way, congrats on finishing! May ND get it out with all due haste.