Moonshine in the Wagon with Me

Moonshine
A short piece by Yuri Iofe:

Agony,
In the wagon – me.
Moonshine in the wagon with me.

Written before 1940
As always, translated by me.

The original:
Агония.
В вагоне я.
В вагоне самогон и я.

So hopefully I captured the feel and essence of the Russian. I realize “In the wagon – me” is kind of lame, if not outright bad. That said I’m bored and this kept me entertained for 45 minutes. Tomorrow I’ll stop playing around and do something of some actual substance.

2 Responses to “Moonshine in the Wagon with Me”

  1. Hmm, this is a hard one to translate because it relies entirely on assonance and a play on words.

    How about:
    Agony
    On the wagon, I
    On the wagon, samogon ‘n’ I

    I think Samogon is understood and “moonshine” doesn’t have the same resonance.

    It’s like trying to translate Mayakovsky’s “Из улицы в улицу”:
    У-
    лица.
    Лица
    у
    догов
    годов
    рез-
    че.
    Че-
    рез
    железных коней
    с окон бегущих домов
    прыгнули первые кубы.

    It’s impossible, because a literal translation can’t reproduce the original at all, and a more literary translation assumes that the translator is as good a poet as Mayakovsky and that the reader isn’t interested enough to care about what the original actually said.

    Damned hard, translating poetry.

  2. mikhailych Says:

    Thanks for the comment. It can be tough, especially since my formal translation education was in prose, which, in my opinion anyway, is easier to deal with.

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