Anna K. Nardo. Oculto a los Ojos Mortales: Introduction a "El Paraiso Perdido" de John Milton.
In eighteenth-century Spain, there were two reasons why many English texts, including Paradise Lost, were finally translated into Spanish and published. First, the Spanish Inquisition's control of censorship, which began in 1478, waned. Second, the influence of French language and culture throughout Europe resulted in many French translations of English texts, with some of those French translations subsequently translated into Spanish. The first appearance of Paradise Lost in Spain occurred in a 1772 work both scholarly and satirical, in which Jose de Cadalso translated selected passages (the invocation to Book 1, for example) and placed them along side the original English. The first translation of a complete book (Book 1) occurred in 1777, in Castilian Spanish--castellano, the Spanish dialect sometimes associated with northern Spain, though also considered standard Spanish; Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos translated Milton's blank verse into blank endecasilabos (hendecasyllables). The first Spanish translation of the entire epic was the 1802-05 rhymed edition by Benito Ramon de Hermida, though it did not appear in print until after Hermida's death in 1814. Two years earlier, Juan de Escoiquiz published his Spanish version of the epic, which he translated directly from the 1805 French translation of PL by Jacques Delille. Escoiquiz' rhymed lines are usually twelve-syllables long, sometimes eleven; further, as he declares in his "Prologo del Traductor" (Translator's Prologue), he intends to catholicize Milton by omitting anti-Catholic passages while greatly expanding other passages--the result, a polemically and aesthetically challenged poem about as twice as long as the original. Fortunately, after these belated, initial steps, other Spanish verse translations followed in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries. Some translations even participated in what by then had become an iconographic tradition: the illustrated edition of Paradise Lost. For example, in 1868 a Columbian diplomat named Anibal Galindo published a verse translation of PL in Castilian Spanish in Belgium, which was reissued in Spain in 1886 with Gustave Dore's illustrations, composed in the 1860s. A verse translation of Paradise Lost in Catalan--the language of Catalonia, in northeastern Spain and the bordering regions of France--by Boix i Selva, El Paradis Perdut, appeared in 1950. Spain in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries witnessed five translations in Castilian Spanish: Esteban Pujals (1986, Madrid), Manuel Alvarez de Toledo Morenes (1988, Cadiz), Abilio Echeverria (Barcelona, 1993), Bel Atreides (2005, Barcelona), and Enrique Lopez Castellon (2005, Madrid). With so many modern translations, which evidences a growing readership, one might imagine the present-day reader would benefit from a useful, scholarly introduction to this epic. Which is what Anna K. Nardo provides in her excellent Oculto a los Ojos Mortales: Introduction a "El Paraiso Perdido "de John Milton (Hidden from Mortal Eyes: Introduction to "Paradise Lost" by John Milton).
Nardo intends her book for first-time readers of Paradise Lost. In her "Prologo," she discusses three modern Spanish translations, those by Pujals, Atreides, and Lopez, concerning herself not only with the quality of the poetry but more importantly with the translator's ability to convey Milton's argument and ideas as accurately as possible. Any translator will face the challenge of finding an appropriate equivalent to Milton's blank verse. Nardo suggests the endecasilabos of Pujals and Lopez result in a more extended verse than Milton's--not merely the extra syllable per line, but more words and more lines overall. In contrast, Atreides' ametrico trocaico (trocaic meter) results not necessarily in shorter lines but rather in a compact form of expression. Such economy of expression allows for a more accurate presentation, say, of God's speech patterns, which tend toward the monosyllabic. As an example of God's "Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell" (3.102), Nardo offers Pujals' translation:
... libremente Permanecieron fieles los que asi Se mantuvieron, y tambien cayeron Libremente aquellos que quisieron.
Note the eleven-syllable lines, with three of the four final syllables unaccented; the internal rhymes and end rhymes in this passage seem accidental. The passage thus rendered is long-winded. Compare the Atreides' version of the same line:
Libre aguanto quien aguanto, libre quien cayo.
Although the trochaic verse seems a fourteener, Atreides manages to convey in one line what Pujals does in over three. English readers recognize God's speech as curt; Atreides' translation accommodates such speech, Pujals' does not. However, Nardo concludes that while Atreides may capture the curtness, he doesn't capture the meaning as effectively. The Atreides translation might be preferred as regards style, but as regards idea and argument, Nardo prefers Pujals' translation. She thereby chooses polemics over aesthetics, but she has three good verse translations from which to choose in the first place.
In a subtle touch, which indicates how careful and astute a reader she is, Nardo declares her preference for Pujals' grammar. In certain passages, for example, Milton employs the indicative mood to denote responsibility. But in the same passages, Atreides and Lopez employ the subjunctive mood. The difference between the indicative and the subjunctive is fundamental to the Spanish language. The effect of Atreides and Lopez not employing the indicative in certain instances is an unsound and inaccurate grammatical shift in responsibility for salvation or damnation away from Man and Angel to God. They misread Milton, particularly as regards free will. Pujals uses the indicative mood in those same instances, thereby conveying Milton's ideas more accurately.
By comparing these three modern Spanish translations, and by considering the use of language--how English translates into Spanish and to what effect--Nardo gives three reasons why she recommends Pujals' translation. First, Pujals is more loyal to Milton's meaning, albeit Pujals' translation is not always as aesthetically pleasing as the others. Second, Pujals' vocabulary, grammar, and paraphrases are more effective because they more closely resemble the original. Third, Pujals' translation is easier to follow. After the "Prologo," Nardo's book then breaks down into seven chapters, each organized around a specific topic aimed at guiding the reader through Paradise Lost.
Chapter 1, "Introduccion," begins with a suggestion as to why readers of Spanish might want to read Paradise Lost in the first place. For one thing, it is a masterpiece of world literature. For another, the poem remains relevant in our day, especially in democracies, for it addresses issues such as free will, liberty, adequate education, the limits of government power, etc. Because one might better understand those issues by learning about John Milton and the world in which he lived, Nardo promotes biography and historicism, alluding to such topics as Milton's marriages, his blindness, his participation in a rebellion, his mistrust of the bishops, England's split from the Catholic Church, as well as the fear of seventeenth-century Protestants like Milton that England might return to Catholicism. Nardo further develops the topic of politics in Chapter 2, "Los Gobiernos del Infierno y del Cielo," the governments of Hell and of Heaven. Learning Milton himself was a rebel might better enable the reader to understand the nature of rebellion and of government in Paradise Lost. How and why does Satan rebel and form a government in Hell? He expresses his motivation in the famous line, every bit as powerful in good old endecasilabos as it is in good old blank verse : "mejor es / Reinar aqui que servir en el Cielo." "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n" (1.263). (Note, by the way, the English line here also happens to be an hendecasyllable.) Discussing the government in Hell allows Nardo to transition into the subject of heroism in the epic, enabling the reader to consider Satan not as a hero but as a government tyrant. Nardo can then establish the contrast to the government in Heaven, itself based on the distinction between predestination and free will: Whereas Satan reigns by allowing his followers the illusion of liberty, the illusion of free will, God reigns by allowing Angel and Man alike liberty based on free will.
In Chapter 3, "Las Familias del Infierno, del Cielo y de la Tierra," Nardo leads the reader from a consideration of government and theology in the previous chapter to a consideration of the families of Satan, of God, and of Adam and Eve. "jQue familia tan grotesca_" Nardo observes of Satan's family. Satan's grotesque family represents "una parodia de la familia de Dios"--a parody of the Heavenly Trinity. Whereas the literary terms parody and allegory are central to the reader's understanding of the heavenly and demonic families, understanding the family relationship between Adam and Eve is perhaps a greater challenge because one must consider whether and how equality and mutual love apply to this family, which requires at least an awareness of the feminist critique of Milton; most importantly, though, one must consider the function, or purpose, of marriage, which carries over into Chapter 4, "El Lugar Perfecto." Why is the garden a perfect place and how is perfection maintained, though ultimately lost? Milton's marriage to Mary Powell taught him marriage should serve a purpose beyond procreation. Marriage partners should be compatible, a principle reflected in the very work Adam and Eve perform to maintain the garden. Satan recognizes their marriage is based on the mutual love and affection between equals, an affection and a relationship in which Satan could never participate. He learns, further, their state of perfection is symbolized in the place they maintain, which lasts only as long as they follow God's command. Satan thus learns what his task must be: to separate the happy couple from each other and from their work, to corrupt their understanding by inciting them to disobey the command, thereby destroying the perfect place. Just beyond the middle of Nardo's book, the reader has learned the outward work is symbolic of the paradise within. To this the reader must add an appreciation of the necessity of choice, as regards the internal struggle. The mind becomes the place where one works to be loyal or disloyal. Nardo thereby positions the reader to confront the concept fundamental to an understanding of Paradise Lost: Untested virtue is not true virtue. Hence, the necessity of Satan, but also the necessity of an education that prepares one to choose: Raphael's cue, for he must educate Adam and Eve via the story of Satan's fall. The significance of education via story-telling then leads into Chapter 5, "Educando a Traves de los Cuentos" (71), which concerns how education occurs through story-telling. This is where the word oculto (hidden) from Nardo's title becomes crucial, for stories convey hidden meaning, which the reader must uncover or reveal via analysis and interpretation.
By Chapter 6, "La Caida," the reader is ready to consider the three fundamental questions about the Fall: Does Eve commit a sin when she separates from Adam to work alone? How would Eve be able to respond to the serpent's temptation? After Eve has eaten the forbidden fruit, does Adam have any choice but to sin? How Adam and Eve might confront the fallen world then becomes the subject of Nardo's seventh and final chapter, "Enfrentandose al Mundo Caido." The structure of her book allows the readers to recognize their own susceptibility to, their own confrontation with, the sin which surprised Adam and Eve; they recognize, as well, the necessity of confronting the fallen world: By recognizing one's responsibility and the consequences of one's actions, reconciliation to each other and to the fallen world becomes possible. How Adam and Eve understand their relationship to each other, to their descendants, to human history, even to the concept of place now become a matter of interpretation, for which they, as well as the reader, are equipped by the end of the epic.
Anna K. Nardo's Oculto a los Ojos Mortales: Introduction a "El Paraiso Perdido" de John Milton does for modern readers of Spanish what C.S. Lewis' A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942) did, and continues to do, for readers of English. Like Lewis, Nardo offer readers encountering Milton analyses of selected passages, glances at various critical approaches, and primers of Milton's life and times. In recommending a specific Spanish translation of Paradise Lost, Nardo wishes the reader to avoid the aesthetic and polemic shortcomings inherent in certain translations, opting instead for a text best evocative of the author's intention and meaning, with an eye toward aesthetics. For although she hopes the reader will enjoy the read, much of what Nardo discusses--and thereby encourages readers to recognize and appreciate--concerns Paradise Lost as a world epic as opposed to strictly, or simply, an English epic or a Protestant epic. Nardo's achievement is her ability to universalize Milton's masterpiece for readers of Spanish.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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