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On a Paradox of the Impossibility of Poetry Translation: English Translations of Tu Fu’s Spring Prospect

LEE Hyung-jin 1

1숙명여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The problem in translating poetry often derives from poetic abstruseness, such as meter, implication, conciseness, symbolism, polysemy. These complexities inevitably hinder poetry’s approach to general readers, and eventually trigger a heated debate between translatability and untranslatability. Spring Prospect, a famous poem by Tu Fu, a prominent Chinese poet of Tang Dynasty, has been continuously translated into English. While each translation, analyzed in this paper—the alienating nature of McCraw’s translation, explicative nature of Hawkes’, emphatic nature of Hung’s, and much refrained and controlled nature of Watson’s—falls short of a full-fledged picture of Tu Fu’s poem, a comparative approach to the multiple versions of translation leads to a deeper and wider understanding of the unique characteristics of the poem. While novel intends to search for narrative communication with readers, poetry prioritizes an introspective dialogue with poet, which would result in more personal, implied reading. Thus, the English translations of Tu Fu’s poem demonstrate the importance of prioritizing the value of multiplicity in its approach, and this is the very juncture where translatability of poetry could be revived.

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* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.