A secret life, part I

Minutes, maybe hours
of your own existence
that you have forgotten
but that I remember.
You live a secret life
in someone else’s memories.

by Tor Ulven. In: Etterlatte dikt (1996)
Translated by me

___

[The Norwegian Original:]

Minutter, kanskje timer
av din egen eksistens
som du har glemt
men som jeg
husker. Du lever
et hemmelig liv
i en annens minne

– Concerning the translation:

I am not entirely ultimately satisfied with it.

For one, I was unsure whether I should take “live” or “are living” – on the one hand, there simply is no “are living” in Norwegian (afaik, my main Scandinavian language is Swedish) so the original could have meant either. On the other hand, it does sound like a very current “du lever”, on the other other hand, it’s more of a general, always “du lever”, so “live” might be a better translation. I went with it.

Also, the layout – I haven’t seen the original in printed form, only on the internet. So I don’t know for sure if the unusual breaks in the lines are intended; and if they are, then I’d rather turn around the English translation a bit too to fit it. It does give the whole poem a different feeling.

The word “minne” – memory – is singular in Norwegian. Yet I thought the image that “memories” creates rather than “memory” fits the feeling here better. I see a lot of glass-painted images floating around that show short instances of one’s life, like words one has written somewhere, something one has said in a conversation, the way one unconsciously looked while daydreaming.

Whenever I translate something I hope to do it justice. Any opinions / suggestions for this one?

3 thoughts on “A secret life, part I”

  1. I don’t have much to say except you seem to be paying just the right amount of attention to translation and that the poem is simple, keen and pleasant. ‘Live’ sounds definitely better than ‘are living’ would and ‘memories’ is more precise and straightforward than ‘memory’.

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