''Je réservais la traduction': decoding Rimbaud's 'Dévotion'' in Challenges of Translation in French Literature ed. Richard Bales , Peter Lang, Oxford, 2005, pp.81-96

Gerald M Macklin

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The paper sets out to consider various attempts to translate Arthur Rimbaud's prose poem 'Dévotion' from the Illuminations. It notes how the poet often invites the reader to attempt to unveil his meaning amd links this to the project of decoding the hermetic texts in the Illuminations.Fragmentation, discontinuities and verbal experimentation are some of the barriers to translating Rimbaud's prose poems and to this may be added the revolutionary approach to punctuation adopted by the poet. 'Dévotion' presents itself as an excellent example of the problematics of tramslating and decoding Rimbaud and the paper proceeds to consider three recent translations of the poem into English by James Lawler, Mark Treharne and Martin Sorrell. The poem uses litany and anaphora in its parody of the conventions of devotional prayer and its shifting rhythms and changing pace challenge the translator every bit as much as does its lexicon. To translate 'Dévotion' is to interpret it and to write a new poem in English but, ultimately, Rimbaud's linguistic daring in the poem may be beyond translation. The traduttore may become a traditore.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationChallenges of Translation in French Literature ed. Richard Bales
    PublisherPeter Lang
    ISBN (Print)3-03910-295-8
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2005

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Rimbaud, Oeuvres ed. Suzanne Bernard and André Guyaux, Garnier, Paris, 1983

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    Michel Murat L'Art de Rimbaud, José Corti, Paris, 2002

    R.Little 'Light on Rimbaud's 'Baou'', FRENCH STUDIES BULLETIN, no.7, Spring 1984, pp. 3-7

    Sergio Sacchi Etudes sur les Illuminations de Rimbaud, Presses de l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, 2002

    Atle Kittang Discours et Jeu. Essai d'analyse des textes d'Arthur Rimbaud, Presses universitaires de Grenoble, Bergen and Grenoble, 1975

    Roland Barthes Le Degré zéro de l'écriture, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1972

    T Todorov 'Une complication de texte: les Illuminations', POETIQUE, vol.34, avril, 1978, pp241-253

    Paule Lapeyre Le Vertige de Rimbaud. Clé d'une perception poétique, Editions de la Baconnière, Neuchâtel, 1981

    G Macklin 'Prayer and Parody in Rimbaud's 'Dévotion', FRENCH STUDIES, vol LI, no. 3, July 1997, pp.281-292

    Henri Meschonnic Pour la poétique, Gallimard, Paris, 1973

    James Lawler Rimbaud's Theatre of the Self, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1992

    Arthur Rimbaud: A Season in Hell and Illuminations, new translation by Mark Treharne, Dent, London, 1998.

    Martin Sorrell Arthur Rimbaud Collected Poems, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001


    • translation
    • decoding
    • prose poem
    • litany
    • anaphora


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