''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 proceedingChapter


    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
    Publication statusPublished - 2005



    • translation
    • decoding
    • prose poem
    • litany
    • anaphora

    Cite this