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A sage once said that poetry was the only defense against the drudgery of life. Yes, it elevates and inspires. Yes, it is music to one's ears and food to one's mind. But is it translatable? Mozart cannot be translated into other kinds of music, can he? And if poetry is merely food for thought, why rhyme those rhythmic lines turning them into delectable tunes? In every attempt to translate poetry, where is the borderline, the balance between the heart and the mind? When does the beautiful yet torturous moment arrive for the translator to say: yes, now the music and meaning are in perfect harmony - I cannot do any better. But what if someone else might? What if someone else could still get closer to the original, having gained the most and lost the least?
And those are the moment and the impetus that drive translation of poetry. That's why the translator aspires to do better every time and catch a glimpse of perfection after so much strenuous work.
Enigmatically, my inspiration to translate the poetry of Boris Pasternak and Alexander Pushkin has come out of frustration with other translators' inadequacies and failures. And there has been a lot of them! All you need to do is compare with the original. But, of course, there is always the great desire to make magnificent Russian poets heard and appreciated by English speakers.
There is no one more important in the Russian literature and poetry than Alexander Pushkin. There is no task more difficult and noble than translate him into other languages. That said, Pushkin's poetry is an inseparable blend of delicious music and profound thought. Now we are back to beating our heads against the proverbial wall, which is really an elusive and obscure line for the translator to find and negotiate.
Let's see how it has worked out this time.