''Drunken boat': Samuel Beckett's Translation of Arthur Rimbaud's 'Le Bateau ivre''

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper examines in detail Samuel Beckett's translation of Arthur Rimbaud's famous poem 'Le Bateau ivre' in order to reveal the former's extraordinary linguistic skills and facility for moving between French and English. Beckett actually creates a new poem in its own right rather than simply producing a version or rendering of the Rimbaud text. Beckett's translation is remarkable for its verbal ingenuity, its rhythms and euphony and its endless flexibility which all set it apart from other stilted attempts to render 'Le Bateua ivre' in English. Beckett's work exposes salient features of Rimbaud's poetic expression while throwing light on his own linguistic inventiveness and amazing lexicon. The paper divides the translation into fours sections for the purpose of stanza by stanza analysis of its twenty five units - 'Setting Sail', 'The Voyage', 'Deceleration and Disenchantment', 'Closure'. Beckett shows a great receptivity to the entire tone of Rimbaud's work and his translation demands to be read aloud. It is remarkable for its fusion of accuracy and fidelity to the original with a flair that reflects both the Rimbaldian and the Beckettian aesthetic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)141-166
    JournalStudies in 20th and 21st Century Literature
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


    • translation
    • fidelity
    • ingenuity
    • poem


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