On translating a sentence from Parnicki

Here is a bit of the Parnicki prose for you.

It is true that I did fool myself for some time that I might be able to transform that boys’ – yours, Stanislaw, whom at some time I may have called Telemachos or Telegonos – that boys’ ever increasing tendency for self-love, which is to say, the most terrible sin of pride; transform it, transmute it, reidentify it into its opposite, such as noble pride rooted in two things: the understanding that to possess great intellectual gifts is not a merit, as it is an unsolicited gift of god, of which it is well to be proud but with pride no greater than is proper to an undeservedly selected vessel; and, second, in constant meditation on the divine warning: to whom more is given, from him more will be expected.

The following items are not in the original Polish:

1. The phrase that boys' -- when it appears for the second time. It is necessary to repeat it in English or else the flow of the sentence will be broken off by the interjection "yours, Stanislaw, etc." and the connection between the first that boys' and ever increasing tendency will be lost. In Polish the connection between the first that boys' and ever increasing tendency is not lost due to the handy mechanism of case agreement.

2. The verb transform must likewise be repeated in English -- though in this case I introduce the repetition earlier than it occurs in the Polish sentence -- since by the time we get to that part of the sentence (fifty words since last period) the sentence no longer holds together: the English reader will have forgotten that be able is waiting for a verb -- which does not come in the text until thirty four words later.

Of course, one could go about the translation in another way: by cleaning up the text; cutting up the long sentences into shorter ones, readily legible in English, and removing the subordinate clause interjections from the middle of other sentences and placing them on their own feet, as their own creations. In other words, by rewriting the book.

Which is not what I am trying to do, though I do not always manage: in fact, I did cut this sentence up a bit: the semi-colons are not in the original text which does not require them for clarity. Yet to me, they seemed required in English; and a smaller crime against the writer's intent than full stops.

Such a rewritten book would be more readable in English. But would it work? Would it achieve the effect which is intended here?

This sentence is part of a dialogue reconstituted from memory by a man undergoing papal judgment (the said Stanislaw named in the sentence). He is tortured by what had happened (the murder of some monks) and the issue of his own guilt and hurt (they had raised him but then cast him away). The speaker is one of the monks who had raised him but who will burn that night; the man recalls the monk's words, but also lies about them.

I believe that the convoluted prose portrays well the confusion in his head.


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