Not lost in trans­la­tion

Viet Nam News - - Front Page - by Haø Nguyeãn

Hoaøng Thuùy Toaøn has de­voted his life to trans­lat­ing po­etry by Rus­sian au­thor Alexan­der Pushkin into Viet­namese, work­ing hard to cap­ture the soul of the writ­ing.

Hoaøng Thuyù Toaøn as­pires to build a cul­tural bridge be­tween Vieät Nam and Rus­sia by trans­lat­ing the works of great Rus­sian po­ets.

The 76-year-old in the north­ern prov­ince of Baéc Ninh's Phuø Löu Vil­lage spe­cialises in Alexan­der Pushkin’s po­etry.

"He trans­lates sow­ell that I can learn a poem by heart very quickly. But more im­por­tantly, I can learn about Rus­sian po­etry through his trans­la­tions," said writer Nguyeãn Vaên Toaïi.

After grad­u­at­ing from the Lit­er­a­ture Depart­ment of the Lenin Ped­a­gogy Univer­sity in Moscow in 1961, Toaøn de­voted his life to trans­lat­ing Rus­sian po­etry.

Rus­sian lit­er­a­ture ar­rived in Vieät Nam be­fore the Au­gust Revo­lu­tion in 1945 and be­came popular in the 1950s through trans­la­tions by lit­er­ary critic and writer Vuõ Ngoïc Phan and poet Hoaøng Trung Thoâng as well as many oth­ers.

Toaøn com­posed many po­ems and sto­ries pub­lished in Viet­namese and Rus­sian news­pa­pers, but he felt his com­po­si­tions were "dim" com­pared with those by Rus­sian writ­ers.

The idea came to him to trans­late Rus­sian po­ems into Viet­namese so those who didn't know Rus­sian could en­joy them.

By his fourth year at the Rus­sian univer­sity, Toaøn had trans­lated many Pushkin’s po­ems and sent them to the Lit­er­a­ture Pub­lish­ing House. The ex­cel­lent pen­man­ship of the trans­la­tions made peo­ple think they were writ­ten by a fe­male.

"I asked my girl­friend (now my wife) to help me write my trans­lated po­ems," Toaøn re­called.

He trans­lated about 70 po­ems by the au­thor, de­vot­ing him­self whole­heart­edly to each.

Writer Toaïi said that through Toaøn's trans­la­tion he could sense a pa­tri­otic at­mos­phere and thirst for free­dom, as well as a fierce and im­mense con­cealed sad­ness.

"When re­minded of Pushkin, Viet­namese read­ers think of Thuyù Toaøn," he said.

The po­ems trans­lated by Toaøn as well as fa­mous po­ets Xuaân Dieäu, Hoaøng Trung Thoâng and Teá Hanh helped Viet­namese un­der­stand Rus­sian lit­er­a­ture, he added.

Toaøn typ­i­cally spends one night to trans­late a poem, although he has some­times done three in a night. But one poem, A Win­ter Morn­ing, took 30 years.

In 1956, he was among 20 stu­dents cho­sen to at­tend univer­sity in Rus­sia. Dur­ing the win­ter hol­i­day, a young teacher took stu­dents on a ski­ing trip. Win­ter in Rus­sia was "wildly beau­ti­ful and strange", he re­called, with "im­mense hills and moun­tains cov­ered in white snow" and "forests where some trees were bare and other pine trees were still green."

The teacher read the poem

A Win­ter Morn­ing in a very ex­pres­sive voice, mak­ing him im­me­di­ately take no­tice. That night, he took out his dic­tio­nary and tried to trans­late it to Viet­namese.

"But I got stuck on the poem's first sen­tence. I spent the whole night think­ing about it," said Toaøn.

Later he had trans­lated many Pushkin’s po­ems, but A

Win­ter Morn­ing was still not fin­ished, although he "un­der­stood its soul".

For that rea­son, the poem did not ap­pear in his first book, Pushkin’s Ro­man­tic

Po­ems, printed by the Lit­er­a­ture Pub­lish­ing House in 1966.

In 1987 on the 150th death an­niver­sary of the poet, he felt a deep long­ing for Rus­sian win­ter and each word from the poem sud­denly made sense.

Read­ing his trans­lated po­ems also made those who once stud­ies and lived in Rus­sia feel nos­tal­gic for its win­ters, said Toaïi.

Toaøn had to learn an­cient Rus­sian and col­lect more than

No­table trans­la­tor “When re­minded of Pushkin, peo­ple think of Thuùy Toaøn.”

20 dif­fer­ent mod­ern Rus­sian edi­tions to trans­late the col­lec­tion The Song of Igor’s Cam­paign, an Epic of Twelfth

Cen­tury, a very dif­fi­cult work that could push a trans­la­tor to the edge of fail­ure.

"I worked very hard month after month to con­vey the soul of the work in Viet­namese," he said.

He has trans­lated hun­dreds of Rus­sian and Viet­namese books, writ­ten hun­dreds of news­pa­per ar­ti­cles in Rus­sian and Viet­namese and held five exhibitions dis­play­ing Rus­sian lit­er­a­ture ob­jects at cul­ture cen­tres in Haø Noäi.

In 2010 he was hon­oured to be re­ceived by Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev, who pre­sented him with a Friend­ship Medal in the Krem­lin Palace.

He hopes to build a Rus­sian Lit­er­a­ture Com­mem­o­ra­tive House in his na­tive vil­lage of Phuø Löu.

"I wish to con­trib­ute a small thing to my an­cient cul­ture vil­lage, which is very sa­cred to keep such valu­able ob­jects," Toaøn said.

Pro­lific: Thuùy Toaøn has trans­lated hun­dreds of books from Rus­sian to Viet­namese and Viet­namese to Rus­sian.

Re­ward­ing work: Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev pre­sented Toaøn with the Rus­sian Friend­ship medal in 2010.

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