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 This glue is amazingly quick-setting
 sets immediately on your fingers before the glue has glued what needs
be glued namely a little wooden piece onto a bigger wooden piece where
it used to be now one more time and faster this glue repels water fire
mold rot temperature impact earthquakes hurricanes everything except
wood cardboard metal rubber plastic leather glass stone bakelite
masonite and fingers push the little wooden piece in place press for
fifteen seconds and pull away your finger and with it the little wooden
piece that is now stuck to your finger Now clean off the dried glue and
skin pieces from the little wooden piece and put glue on the clean
surfaces again and press this time with a suitably shaped stick so the
wooden piece sits where it's supposed to and after fifteen
seconds it's stuck on crooked this time really stuck and after
another fifteen seconds two questions arise: should you break the wooden
piece off again and start over or is there something more important you
could be doing? 

Translation from the Danish

By Michael Goldman

Translating Humor

Three Questions for Michael Goldman

Q Translating humor across cultures is particularly challenging. Whatdifficulties did you confront while translating this poem and how didyou resolve them?

A Lack of punctuation is the general rule for Andersen's poems,and this one is no exception. With only two capital letters, one colon,and a final question mark, placement of the line breaks is critical.There are a couple of places where I had to invert a phrase to keep theflow logical in English.

Q The New York Times quotes Myrsini Gana, saying, "I feel that when the translator islaughing, the humor will manage to get across." What in BennyAndersen's writing made you laugh?

A I laugh at the futile slapstick of the gluer in the poem. For me thehumor escalates from a smirk at reading the glue label (repelshurricanes) to head shaking at a failed attempt (the little wooden piecethat is now stuck to your finger ... clean off the dried glue and skinpieces) to smiling at another failed attempt (after fifteen seconds itis stuck on crooked) to laughing at the release in the final line, wherewe, along with the gluer, recognize the triviality of the wholeenterprise. I am laughing also at myself, though. Having been acarpenter/builder for fifteen years, I have time and again been facedwith futile cosmetic repairs that ended up causing more aggravation thanthey were worth.

Q Is it possible to fully convey the humor in the original, or are somethings simply lost in translation?

A What is charming about this translation is not so much its difficultybut its universality. The language is quite straightforward, revealingan absurd situation in which many of us have found ourselves, regardlessof national borders: manipulating the material world is not often aselementary as it appears at first glance.

Editorial note: First English translation of "Limning," copyright [c]1969 by Benny Andersen.

Benny Andersen is the foremost living poet and lyricist in Denmark. First published in1960, he has produced twenty volumes of poetry along with numerousrecordings, stories, screenplays, and children's books. His worksare renowned for their humor, expressionistic wordplay, and colloquialdepth. He has won a great number of literary and musical honorsincluding the Danish National Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement. Noweighty-three, he continues to write and to perform to sold-out audiencesin Denmark. He lives on the outskirts of Copenhagen.

Michael Goldman taught himself Danish over twenty-five years ago to help him win theheart of a lovely Danish girl--and they have been married ever since.Recently he has found another use for his love of Language--to bringacross the Atlantic yet another Danish treasure: the poetry of BennyAndersen. In addition to translating, Goldman is a carpenter/contractorand jazz clarinetist. He lives in Florence, Massachusetts.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL SECTION
Author:Andersen, Benny
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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