21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Back in 1998, I went to a village near Oxford, UK to visit friends and watch the World Cup on the BBC. I drank a lot of beer and also bought THE KALEVALA in one of the big, old bookstores in town. I finally got around to reading it recently. I'd been put off for seven years, thinking it would be a daunting task that I nevertheless "ought to" undertake. No, not at all, this is a most readable translation with modern fillips, yet perhaps more faithful to the original than the super-romantic, Victorian longwindedness that I admit I expected.
As part of the world's treasure hoard of mythology, this ancient Finnish epic holds its own with any. It resembles others in that it explains the birth of the world, the creation of the ur-hero Vainamoinen, and the solution of many problems---finding fire, how to sow fields, how to raise crops, what are ecologically sound practices, the origin of beer, and how a bride should behave. The human characters are intimately tied to the natural world all around them: just as in mythology everywhere, animals, birds and trees speak, magical transformations occur on many a page, and the heroes escape defeat by magic more often than by violence. The number of themes that can be analyzed psychologically or probed for cultural `inner meanings" is great. For example, the third chapter presents youth's eternal confrontation with the older generation. Joukahainen, a youth, challenges old Vainamoinen, to a singing match. He loses and has to pay up in the form of his sister. The sister drowns herself rather than marry an old man., but she becomes a fish. Vainamoinen tries to catch the fish. His mother's spirit tells him to look for another---perhaps a very early version of the phrase "there are many fish in the sea" ! The young man decides to avenge his sister and shoot Vainamoinen with an arrow, but kills Vainamoinen's horse instead. The old hero falls into the sea and is swept away, but is saved by an eagle for whom he'd done a favor once. And so it goes.
Though THE KALEVALA runs to 666 pages, the number of characters is surprisingly small. The reader has no problems keeping track of the main actors. The repetitive style owes to the fact that this ancient epic was originally sung. Many stories are grouped in units of three---three things, three times, three answers, three days. I got into the swing of it at times, thinking "I read one day, I read two, and soon I read a third." Finnish epics don't have modern plots or character development. I think you read this because you are curious, because you enjoy the creativeness of the human imagination throughout time, because you are interested in mythology and beautiful, ancient things. You may enjoy, as I did, such things as the `complaint of a boat', a musical instrument made of fish bones, a bee flying over nine seas to bring back a rare ointment to save the hero [just like Hanuman in the Ramayana], hunting a Demon's elk, an expedition to steal a 'horn of plenty', and good sayings that lie like hidden gems amongst the pages: "Strange food goes down the wrong way." or "Seldom is a serf cherished, a daughter-in-law never." Another plus is that I was able to connect with Sibelius' music, I learned, for example, what the Swan of Tuonela is. In sum, while epics may not be everybody's cup of tea, this wonderful translation and lively cycle of stories can hold your interest on long winter nights. "A hundred tried to read it, but not one made it through." Definitely untrue in this case.
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Ian M. Slater
- Publié sur Amazon.com
A reviewer proposes, Amazon disposes.
Back in 2004, Amazon had lumped together reviews of paperback editions of two translations of the Finnish "National Epic," KALEVALA (variously interpreted as "Kaleva District" and "Land of Heroes"), one in prose by Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. (1963), and the other, more recent, a verse translation by Keith Bosley (1989).
Naturally, the software would not allow the posting of more than one review by any given reviewer.
In response, I did a revised, extended, review covering both versions.
That received a good response (120 out of 122 "helpful" votes), but has been left stranded on the Magoun side, ever since Amazon, in its wisdom, decided to separate the two.
Responding to the challenge, I have rewritten the review to focus on Bosley's translation.
To begin with, Magoun's translation, now almost fifty years old, is a solid, reliable prose version, the first by a translator trained in the study of languages and literatures (mainly medieval Germanic -- but the best translation at the time was by a botanist....) It was welcome in academic and other serious-minded circles, and Magoun also translated Lonnrot's first, shorter, published version, as "The Old Kalevala" (1969), which also contained additional documentary material, and a list of proposed corrections to his main translation -- which has been included as Appendix E in more recent printings of "Kalevala," but not incorporated into the main text.
These were extremely impressive performances, aimed mainly, as indicated, at the serious student. But many find them very readable, and, as a friend reminded me, with their end-paper maps, appendices, character indexes, etc, they physically resemble editions of Tolkien.
There is also a non-coincidental similarity of contents -- Tolkien loved the old W.F. Kirby verse translation, and, typically, followed it up by studying Finnish, an influence which shows up in the Elvish language Quenya, and some of the nomenclature in "The Silmarillion."
A great many readers, however, found Magoun's prose renderings of both the "Old" and "New" Kalevala to be uninspiring, and even those of us who value it for its careful rendering of the imagery have to admit it comes nowhere close to Kirby's sprightly rendering. (Tolkien even claimed that Kirby's version of "the invention of beer" was actually better, or at least funnier, than the original!)
For those who want both the story and all of the details, but either don't care about, or don't care for, such things as meter and rhyme, Magoun's translation may remain their first choice. For those who know the epic through other translations, it is still worth consulting.
The wishes of many readers were eventually answered in the form of Keith Bosley's elegant (and careful) verse rendering, which, although not as student-friendly in layout and contents, seems to be very reliable.
"Kalevala," variously translated as "Kaleva District" or "Land of Heroes," is a nineteenth-century compilation, revision, and expansion of narratives, spells and charms, and proverbial wisdom collected (mainly, if not entirely, by Elias Lonnrot), from the Finnish-speaking peasants and fisherman of areas of modern Finland and Russia.
It is made up largely, but not entirely, of "runos," narrative songs which even then survived only in isolated, "fringe" areas; ballads with clear connections with other cultures also make an appearance. References to "The Kalevala" are usually to its second edition (1849), also distinguished as the "New Kalevala" in comparison to its shorter predecessor, the "Old Kalevala" (1835).
The material is, for the most part, clearly pagan in origin, with hints of roots in the Viking Age, if not earlier, but processed through centuries of Christianity, Catholic and Lutheran in Finland proper, Russian Orthodox in the Karelia district.
Fortunately, Elias Lonnrot, as the main collector, as well as the man responsible for this literary version, was also engaged in laying the foundations of the scientific study of folk traditions, and the collections he made or sponsored formed the basis of a major archive, the publication of which was only recently completed.
In the meantime, his popularization had become a part of the world's culture, as well as that of Finland. As one example of its impact: the American poet Longfellow adapted a German translator's adaptation of the Finnish meter for his pseudo-Iroquois epic, "Hiawatha," with the paradoxical result that the original is sometimes described, in English, as being in Hiawatha-meter.
The contents are various, but the main themes are the military and romantic adventures and misadventures of a handful of warrior-magicians, quite as quick with an incantation as with a sword. Vainamoinen, "the Eternal Sage," and a kind of demiurge who sings the Finnish homeland into being, is born an old man. His attempts -- always frustrated -- to find a young wife lead to the creation of the mysterious and wonderful "Sampo" by his friend, the smith Ilmarinen, as a kind of bride-price. However, Ilmarinen himself uses it in his own wooing -- and finds the bargain a bad one.
These two great heroes share the stage with the irresponsible Lemminkainen, a kind of combined Don Juan and Achilles, and the hapless Kullervo. Kullervo's story -- which you may know as a cantata by Sibelius -- is one of the underpinnings of Tolkien's tale of Turin in "The Silmarillion" and "Unfinished Tales," where it is combined with elements from the "Volsunga Saga."
(When the "Silmarillion" first appeared, it seemed obvious that the Quest for the Sampo, and the Sampo's ultimate fate, was a direct source as well as a major inspiration for Tolkien; the publication of his early drafts shows that most of these resemblances emerged over time, in the course of endless reworkings, but they remain enlightening. Other resemblances include the creation of the sun and moon, and attempts to harm them, and the importance of trees.)
There have been a number of abridged or retold versions of "The Kalevala" in English, and there were two early complete versions in verse, that by Crawford (nineteenth-century, from a German translation; available on-line), and the 1907 W.F. Kirby translation, directly from Finnish (in -- if you will excuse the expression -- a version of Hiawatha-meter; long available in the Everyman's Library edition, it also is in various formats on-line).
Between Magoun's prose translations, and Bosley's (1989) there was another verse translation of the "New Kalevala," by Eino Friberg (1988), which was clearly driven by love for the epic (and which I keep planning to re-read and review....). At first glance, Magoun's translation seems very different from Bosley's. Only some of the differences are real.
It should be said that Magoun, despite translating as prose, marks the verse divisions. He follows some Finnish editions in presenting the verse form as a long line with a pause (caesura), instead of as twice as many short lines. His page count therefore is much shorter, even with abundant supplemental material, but he has omitted nothing. There is no extended introduction; information is postponed to extensive appendices. It is well organized enough to be easy to use to find answers as questions arise, or be profitably consulted years later.
Keith Bosley, on the other hand, made an effort to produce a work of literature. This goes beyond translating verse as verse (which he does very well), arranged in short lines (which looks more like poetry to many). Lonnrot's prose summaries of each *runo* (for this purpose, canto) are not translated by Bosley. Magoun used them as "arguments" (in the manner of Milton's prose summaries for each book of "Paradise Lost"). For Bosley, nothing interrupts the flow of narrative and lyric, ritual and spell. The result is extremely engaging, far beyond Magoun's prosy rendition; a distinct plus.
There are, however, no glossaries or indexes to otherwise serve as a guide through the complex set of stories. Bosley offers just ten pages of brief (albeit extremely useful) notes. These are followed by a two-page appendix on "Sibelius and the Kalevala," which untangles the references -- and some non-references -- to the "Kalevala" in the titles of several of the Finnish composer's works. (A certain amount of garbling took place as his music publisher translated titles into German, and the German was turned into English without checking against the original meaning.)
Bosley's Introduction is excellent, and establishes the literary and cultural background of Lonnrot's work and the nature of the folk-poetry he collected, and makes useful observations about the structure of the completed epic. It is far better reading than Magoun's documentation. Of course, taking advantage of this synthesis means careful reading, ideally in advance of the story. The reader should take the time, but *should* is not *will.* Here, Magoun's formidable-looking book is actually more user-friendly.
The Magoun translation was available for decades as a hardcover (with endpaper maps), before being issued as an otherwise identical trade paperback. Either form should stand up to reasonable handling.
Bosley's translation apparently has been published in paperback only, in two different formats; first as a "World's Classics" mass-market paperback (1989), and then as a larger (but otherwise identical) "Oxford World's Classics" paperback in 1999. It is a very fat volume, over 700 pages long, due to Bosley's decision to treat the verse as short lines. Because of the different proportions of height and width to the binding, the slightly larger format of the OWC edition seems to me physically more stable, likely to stand up better to repeated readings and consultations; but I haven't heard of any problems with copies of the older World's Classics printings.
Lonnrot also published (1840-41) a collection of non-epic folk genres, including much material eventually absorbed into "Kalevala," as "Kanteletar" (roughly, "zither-daughter"). This has been under-represented in translation. Bosley translated a selection as "The Kanteletar," published in "World's Classics" in 1992, and currently out of print. It is an excellent companion to any "Kalevala" translation, but especially (of course) to Bosley's own. With luck, it will be reprinted sometime soon in the "Oxford World's Classics