Δευτέρα, 16 Μαρτίου 2015

Ο Ζορμπάς σε νέα αγγλική μετάφραση

Zorba the Greek review 

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Bien's new translation of Nikos Kazantzakis'Zorba the Greek -- noteworthy because it's the first English translation from the original Greek. 
       Yes, you might have thought that what is perhaps the most famous modern Greek novel (admittedly thanks in no small part to the very successful movie-adaptation) would long have been available in a translation done from the language it was written in, but, no, US/UK publishers have long played fast and loose with translations, and they certainly did with this one. Now, at least, Simon & Schuster have belatedly tried to set things right (Faber, with their UK edition ... apparently not so much yet ...). Still, that took a while. 

       Note also that in the back-cover information about the author Simon & Schuster say Kazantzakis was: "nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Literature", but actually they're selling him (or the Nobel-nominators) short: he was nominateda total of fourteen times (and apparently came very close to winning it in 1957 -- inconvenient though that would have been, what with him dying between the announcement of the prize and the actually ceremony). 

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

The complete review's Review:
       Despite the fame of Zorba the Greek -- in no small part thanks to the 1964 film-adaptation -- for more than half a century the novel was only available in English in Carl Wildman's translation -- problematic because, as Peter Bien explains in the Introduction to his new (2014) translation:
The earlier translation was made by someone who did not know Greek and who worked from a previous translation into French.
       Bien notes: "omissions sometimes of many sentences, obvious errors, even commissions" (material not in the original) in the previous translation, and offers what one would have hoped for from the start: a complete translation of and from the original, rather than a Zorba the Greek refracted through a French lens. 
       The novel's thirty-five-year-old narrator, self-conscious about being described as a "paper gnawer" by a close friend of his who sets off on greater adventures decides to shake up his life a bit as well, setting forth to Crete to mine for lignite (brown coal). Before his departure he encounters Alexis Zorba, already well into his sixties but still full of life. Zorba seems to have seen and done it all, but still itches for new experiences, and easily convinces the narrator to hire him on. From the first, the narrator is taken by the old man:
Using the simplest human speech, this workman made clear for me the meaning of art, love, beauty, purity, passion.
       The narrator understands that he could use the company and influence of someone who lives for the moment and has such genuine love of life (and women), to get out of his own rut:
My life had taken the wrong path; my contact with fellow humans had ended up as an internal monologue. My degeneration was so great that if I were to choose between loving a woman or reading a good book about love, I would choose the book.
       Zorba, on the other hand, knows that life is for living -- and though the narrator has difficulty imitating Zorba's ways, he is convinced:
"He has discovered the truth," I kept thinking; "he is the way forward."
       Nevertheless, the bookish man continues with his own writing-work. Buddha-obsessed for several years now, he's working on a play -- and continues to do so while in Crete:
     Writing my play Buddha ceased to be a literary game now; it became a struggle against a cataclysmic force inside me, against the massive denial consuming my heart. Upon this struggle my life depended.
       [Kazantzakis did, in fact complete a Buddha-play; see the good overview here. He also went lignite-mining, in 1916-7, with the man the Zorba-character is based on, Yorgis Zorba.] 
       Yet the narrator is torn, too:
"I need to escape," I thought, "to escape all the nightmares. Buddhas, gods, fatherlands, ideas. Woe to whoever does not escape Buddhas, gods, fatherlands, ideas."
       Zorba, in fact, is an almost Buddhist ideal -- albeit most definitely not of the ascetic sort:
I admired the gallant simplicity with which he and the world intermeshed, how body and soul were united in him, how all things -- women, bread, intelligence, sleep -- became happily coupled at once with his flesh, turning them into Zorba. I had never seen such a friendly connection between a human being and the universe.
       Much as the narrator admires Zorbas, he can't really emulate him. Admirable though Zorba's philosophy-of-life may be, it doesn't fit the bookish writer who can't quite get out of his own skin. He allows Zorba to lead and push him some, but can't quite follow suit. 
       Zorba sees where his friend's problem lies
     "Yes, you do understand -- with your mind. You say: true/false, this way/that way, right/wrong. But what's the result ? I watch your arms, feet, chest while you talk, and they all remain silent, say nothing, as though they're bloodless. So, you do understand, but with what ? The head ? Phooey.
       Throughout, Zorba's insistence on trying to live life: "Full blast no matter what !" makes for an eventful and lively story. There are several violent deaths (and some natural ones, too), a decent amount of womanizing, and some sharp portraits of the locals, from the decadent monks of the nearby monastery to a variety of the villagers. There are also the business-ventures: the lignite mining goes reasonably well, but Zorba has grander ambitions too -- a logging undertaking -- which he plans meticulously, but which doesn't work out as hoped for. Along the way, Zorba also recounts bits and pieces from his very colorful life. 
       Larger-than-life Zorba can seem too good to be true, but -- despite the original Greek title of the novel being The Saint's Life of Alexis Zorba -- Kazantzakis' portrayal isn't simply adoringly simplistic. While much about Zorba seems exaggerated, Kazantzakis adeptly humanizes the portrait with a dose of self-doubt and the occasional uncertainty. 
       Wisely, the book also only goes so far with Zorba, limiting the extent to which he can dominate the life of the narrator (and reader), as the narrator and Zorba eventually part ways, the narrator understanding that he can not follow in Zorba's footsteps, and that he can't abandon his own bookish ways but rather must follow these through -- though perhaps pushing them and himself to Zorba-like limits. 
       Zorba is, indeed, a very memorable character, and Zorba the Greek an entertaining, lively romp that also has considerable depth. Theory and practice, and life and art are tossed against each other, over and over, but Kazantzakis doesn't let his story bog down in the clash(es). Admirable though Zorba is, he also represents an extreme -- as does, if generally slightly less obviously, the chronicler -- and if their examples are hard to follow, they nevertheless encourage and allow the reader to at least consider broader and different horizons. 
- M.A.Orthofer, 15 March 2015

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια: