Now that we are a few blog posts in I consider us friends. Now that we are friends it’s time that we had a talk. I want to say something about translation and why this blog is, deep down, a translation blog.
I was loathe to call The Head of Donn Bó a translation blog for a while. It will be clear to anyone who has perused any of the tales that I have posted here that we are no dealing with literal translations. Nor are we really rendering the tone and diction of the Irish into comparable English phrases. The tone is uniformly my conversational tone and the diction comes from those words and phrases I found most amusing at the time of writing. So how could I have the temerity to call anything that I write here a translation?
I call these translations because the medieval Irish called Merugud Ulix, In Cath Catharda and Imtheacht Aeneasa translations – sort of. For the medieval writer of In Cath Catharda was clear that he was presenting the story of Lucan’s Civil War to a medieval Irish audience. The story was changed in many ways from Lucan’s original but the purpose of the text was maintained. The characters were maintained. The link to Classical Rome was maintained. It is in this sense that I think I can get away with calling what I am doing translation.
What I am presenting to you are medieval tales. The plots have not be altered, characters have not been added, removed or combined, the names and places are all the same. What is missing is the medieval Irish. This is missing both as a language and as a style. What has been added is my own voice. The translator’s voice is always present in a translation but the thing is I have made no effort whatsoever to hide mine. Given that almost all of the translations I will be providing are of anonymous tales, it’s nice to have some kind of explicit authorial presence.
The whole purpose of these translations are to make the tales a bit more accessible (arguably the point of all translations). When you become aware of the brilliance, inventiveness, humour, and tragedy of the medieval Irish corpus, I hope that you will go and try and find out more. I hope you will try to find out what you have missed by reading my sketchy translations. That is why I have put links to older, more literal translations at the bottom of every post.
This blog does not have literal translations (they won’t help with your Irish homework). This blog does not have modern retellings (almost) everything comes from the medieval text. This blog has modern translations (in a very medieval sense) of old Irish literature.
I’m glad we sorted this out.