Tag Archives: Why do we read & how

The Beauty of Language — a translation series


Language, when written well, is music to my ears.

Every language has its own beauty, but I’ve been captivated by English since I immigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago.  To learn something well enough to lose yourself in, you must love it first, I suppose. Must accept it as a new part of you, let it carve its own little place in your heart. After some time, it shapes the way you see the world.

Romanian, my native tongue, is a Romance language, part of the Latin family of languages. There are Slavic influences on all levels, as the country is surrounded by mostly Slavic speaking countries, with one exception, Hungary.

It is natural, I believe, to develop a linguistic interest when living in a continent with so many spoken languages. For example, I always thought Italian sounded beautiful. Similar in many ways to Romanian, yet different and unique.

In time, studying the sound of words, the way they translate yet retain meaning, one becomes fascinated with the idea of interpretation. Especially when it comes to works of art — literature. A conversation can be easily translated, but what about a story? Now we have thoughts, emotions, action, dialect. The order of words changes. What does one do with phrases that are untranslatable? Two different skills, I would say, translating and interpreting. We move away from a mechanical act (apa means water), and try to interpret a story so readers who speak a different language experience emotions the author intended to communicate. Sees the places the author intended to show — the simple yet spectacular sight of a bird flying against the pale, blue sky.


Or very, very close.

What about poetry? The rhymes, the lyrical aspect of the work.

Recently, I found one translation (two in fact) of Romania’s most beloved poet. Mihai Eminescu (1850 – 1889).  And since I understand both languages (Romanian and English), I spent nearly a whole afternoon studying the pieces.

It’s been said that Eminescu is not translatable. But as I read the English version(s), I wasn’t so sure anymore. Intrigued, I emailed the translator, Mr. Adrian Sahlean, at Global Arts, a non-profit organization, and asked permission to use his translation(s) alongside the original on my blog. He was very courteous and said yes.

My writing friend, Edith Parzefall, a German writer who translated her English thriller into German, has also agreed to participate.  As such, a blog series was born.

So, I invite you to return and read “The Beauty of Language — a translation series,” beginning sometime next week.

In the meantime, I leave you with two quotes on translation.  Enjoy!

“Beautiful translations are like beautiful women, that is to say, they are not always the most faithful ones.”
George Steiner in After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation

“Translators can be considered as busy matchmakers who praise as extremely desirable a half-veiled beauty. They arouse an irresistible yearning for the original.”
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749–1832), German poet, dramatist. Art and Antiquity, V, 3 (1826).

Stoney Point — rock climbing paradise near busy Los Angeles freeway

2013-01-31 08.39.18 I drive past Stoney Point often. It’s a rock climbing paradise, a pilgrimage destination for hikers and those who appreciate a spectacular view, whether local residents or tourists. It was, after all, discovered by climbers in the ‘30s, and served as training grounds for mountain climbing pioneers in the ‘50s.  And while I marvel at the huge boulder formation, part of a mountain range, sitting there with the 118 Freeway to the east, Topanga Canyon Boulevard to the west, and the valley floor down below, I never stop to take a closer look.2013-01-30 17.42.22

Or never did stop, I should say.  Until I read Michael Connelly’s “The Closers,” a book describing a crime committed in Chatsworth, not far from the Point. A fiction book, of course. Still, the details so crisp — the mountain in the distance, the winding trails of Chatsworth reminiscent of the views near the Point — drove me to wonder, why not take a minute and appreciate the scenery, take pictures? Michael Connelly must have stopped by. And it’s easy to imagine nefarious things happening at night, as they did in the book; easy to see his imagination unleashed with no restrictions, here in the middle of a place both highly circulated and wild.

2013-01-30 17.42.35But the bolder formation and park are mainly known for recreational activities. Folks come here to rock climb, take photographs, hike, or just stare. Appreciate a unique view of the Santa Susana Mountains, and the entire San Fernando Valley — if you make it to the top of the rocks, that is. Not me, not yet. But even from the ground, the surrounding view is something else. Now, it’s on my list of things to do. Rock climbing, anyone? Oh, maybe I’ll hike the trails and take more pictures for some time. Enjoy the view.


seaWhen I was 14 years old, my mother decided we would take a vacation over the summer with a few other friends.

To the sea, in a tent. Camping. All summer long, so bring lots of books.

We wouldn’t be using transportation to explore the area. In fact, we would not be leaving the camp grounds, and will depend on what we bring and the bare necessities within the facility, she explained. The parents would be resting, talking. Sometimes fishing. There would be storytelling, campfires, but mostly lights out early every evening. When not playing, we, the kids, would be reading.

You can imagine my confusion. I love books, but why go all the way to the sea, five hours by train, for the whole summer …to read? But then she revealed the real reason for the trip: we spent too much time watching TV, talking on the phone, rushing to catch the bus, to pick up groceries on our way home. We lived in a world of sensory abundance and bonding poverty. This vacation would make up for that. We would be washing our clothes by hand, frying fish on those propane stoves, cooking on a grill. We would be limited to what we bring, and to a degree ration meals carefully to last all summer.  And we would be reading.

Three weeks later, I found myself on the fly infested rocky beach along the Black Sea coast, in a place so quiet I could hear the earth’s pulse. The moaning of the sea. Sitting cross-legged in a tent no larger than a closet, I read every evening. I also met kids from Bulgaria, Germany, Poland. Told stories in quickly improvised sign language. Taught them Romanian words, and learned how to say sea, wind, books — among other things — in their languages. When nothing worked, we’d attempt to speak English. What started as sensory and stimulation withdrawal, slowly turned into a heightened awareness of the elements. Sounds the wind picked up from afar and brought to us, broken, but easily heard. Sounds from the Bulgarian sea cost, my friend said. We listened to the lapping of the waves, whispering its own language or that of so many creatures inhabiting the sea. Sat on the beach for hours, and in our silly minds tried to decide if that last whistling came from a dolphin or some other fish. We laughed so much.

We were hooked.

Since then, we’ve returned for more camping, but it was never like that summer. Never such dramatic change in our mood — from a crippling fear of boredom to hilarious fun and peace.

Over time, the sensory stimulation increased beyond what my mother feared would corrupt her kids all those years ago — gadgets upon gadgets, a maddening need to constantly be connected. And when it all gets to be too much, I go sit on the beach, even if only for a couple of hours. Sometimes with a book, other times just with my thoughts. 

Ocean therapy, pure bliss.  Have you tried it?

Come on in.

Hello there!

Let me start by saying I’m honored you clicked on my blog link. My name is Silvia, and I spend a lot of time writing because … well, it soothes my heart, and there are so many stories to be shared. But I’m not going to take your time with writing advice, because Stephen King and others have already covered that market. If it comes up in a discussion, fine, but I’m no teacher. What I’m going to do is share stories. You can call this a blog about sharing a passion. Tales from a fan of the written word, a mother to a little guy who loves basketball, a wife to a man who loves and plays music, an occasional traveler, and everything in between. That, and a myriad of changes in my life after having moved from Romania to the U.S. during college, and I  just might have enough material to cover — stories, music, sports, opinions, and so much more. And my husband promises to share some of his music — songs he wrote, stories about gigs he played.

2012-12-01 17.59.12-1

My music man


In ’93, shortly after my arrival to the U.S.

So, do stop by when possible. Let’s have a conversation. I’m open to anything interesting. Life is a story, isn’t it? Sharing it makes the occasional doubt we stumble through a little more bearable. And I love to listen. Who learns without listening, anyway?

Cheers, blog friends!