Text: Thomas C. Carlson, “Romanian Translations of ‘The Raven’,” Poe Studies, December 1985, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, 18:22-24


[page 22, continued:]

Romanian Translations of
“The Raven”

Memphis State University

Thanks primarily to the strong cultural ties between France and Romania in the nineteenth century, Poe was recognized in this Balkan country early and with an intensity equal to that of Baudelaire and Mallarme, whose translations inspired such devotion. Poe’s initial reputation in Romania was based on his work as a poet and theoretician. This emphasis was due in large measure to the efforts of Titu Maiorescu, an influential critic who enjoyed Emersonian status in nineteenth-century Romanian literary circles. In his early essay, “Critica a Poozii Romane la 1867” [“A Critical Examination of Romanian Poetry, 1867”] — in fact the first critical reference to Poe in Romania — Maiorescu enthusiastically endorsed Poe’s “Corbul” [“The Raven”] and its theoretical origins in “Filosofia Compozitici” [“The Philosophy of Composition”] [column 2:] (Pillat-Saulescu 175-176; Streinu, “Titu Maiorescu si Edgar Poe” 85- 105).

It is curious, then, that the Qrst extant Romanian translation of “The Raven‘’ appeared in 1890, a relatively late date considering that Czech, Hungarian, and Russian translations were available in the 1860’s and 1870’s, and that Romanian translations of Poe’s tales were published as early as 1861 (Lupu, S,tefanescu et al.). Perhaps the authority imputed to the French translations of Baudelaire, Forgues, Meunier, Mallarme, and others discouraged Romanian translators; to be sure, many of the post- 1890 Romanian translations of “The Raven” owe a significant debt to their French models. It is more likely, however, that earlier Romanian translations exist, but have not yet been discovered. Certainly, from the beginning in Romanian circles, Poe and his famous raven were referred to almost interchangeably. In fact, a number of early translations of the tales are identified simply “pe autorul Corbului” [by the author of “The Raven‘‘l.

In any case, since 1890, ‘‘The Raven” has been the most frequently translated work from the Poe canon. Between 1890 and 1915 alone, fourteen different translations of “The Raven” were published in Romania. All but one were rendered in prose, after the manner of Baudelaire and Mallarme. The only early translation which attempted to follow the meter and rhyme of the Poe original was done in 1895 by luliu C. Savescu, himself a well known symbolist poet. While Savescu’s version of “The Raven” has flaws in both form and content (the initial stanza contains twenty-eight lines, followed by twelve shorter stanzas ranging in length from four to seven lines), it remains the best of these early translations.

The eighteen versions of “The Raven” published in Romania since World War I have attempted to approximate Poe’s poetic meter and form, the only exception being Al. T. Stamatiad’s 1945 translation rendered in what might loosely be termed free verse. In recent years, the continuing stream of translations has touched off a lively debate, enjoined by a number of Romania’s major critics, on the problems of translating Poe. The argument often focuses upon “The Raven” and in particular on what critic Nicolae Steinhardt pronounced ‘‘versul cel mai greu de tradus” [the most difficult line to translate]: the poem’s refrain (63).

Until the 1930’s, Romanian writers uniformly translated ” Nevermore‘’ as ” Niciodata,‘’ the Romanian word meaning “never.” Perhaps even more than the French “Jamais plus,” the Romanian “Niciodata” appeared to meet Poe’s requirements for an effective refrain: it was a single word; it was “sonorous and susceptible of protracted emphasis;” and it even contained the long ‘‘o,” which Poe considered “the most sonorous vowel.‘’

In 1938, however, Emil Gulian offered a version of the poem which broke with tradition by retaining the English “Nevermore.” Anticipating critical complaints about an American raven speaking English to a Romanian audience, Gulian made a brief prefatory defense: [page 23:] there is no lexical equivalent for “Nevermore,” he argued, and the poem is so well known in Romania that the English word would easily be recognized by most Romanian readers (17). In Gulian’s defense, the noted critic Vladimir Streinu argued that neither the rich sound nor the philosophical resonance of the English word could be captured in another language (“Poemele lui Edgar Poe” 356-57). Nicolae Steinhardt agreed. The traditional “Niciodata” [never] was inadequate: “[‘Nevermore’ represents a word which is at once more comprehensive and more precise and definite. ‘Nevermore’ is more than ‘niciodata’ because it [‘Nevermore’] is not simply a statement, but rather it renders final judgment; it does not affirm or ‘declare’ but unequivocally determines. And . . . it expresses not only nothingness, but also a melancholy because it implies by ‘more’ [‘niciodata’ simply means ‘never’] a helplessness to reverse the tragic condition of time]” (63). George Calinescu offered a summary for the Gulian defense: “[While certainly for those with more sensitive ears, the bizarre situation arises that the raven is speaking English to Romanians, the truth is that great poetry always transcends national boundaries]” (367).

While a number of subsequent translators have adopted Gulian’s “English” solution to the refrain problem, others have continued the search for a suitable Romanian equivalent. In 1963, Dan Botta quoted the raven “Nicaieri” [Nowhere]; in 1973, Marcel Bresla~u’s raven intoned “Prea tirziu” [Too late]; and in that same year, another raven, Cassian-Matasaru’s, uttered “In zadar” [In vain]. Perhaps the most intriguing alternative since Gulian is that offered by Mihaela Haseganu in her 1971 translation. Ha,seganu’s refrain, “In vecii vecilor” [For ever and ever], contains Poe’s sonorous “o” ‘‘in connection with ‘r’ as the most producible consonant.” With its incantational tone and its strong liturgical connotations, “In vecii vecilor” offers a particularly effective rendering of the English “Nevermore.” While enthusiasm for Poe today in Romania is generated primarily by his work as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, translations of “The Raven” will undoubtedly continue to appear, and the list of extant translations offered below will have to be supplemented.

The following bibliography was compiled during my tenure as Fulbright Professor of American literature at the University of Bucharest, 1982-84. All items have been verified de visu; that is, the entries have been transcribed from their original sources of publication (existing Romanian bibliographies are incomplete and sometimes inaccurate). The translations are listed in chronological order of their first separate appearance. Bracketed notes after some entries include information about 1) translations which deviate significantly from Poe’s poetic form, such as translations in prose, free verse, and the like; 2) translations of questionable provenance; and 3) translations subsequently included in major collections of Poe’s work published in Romania. Entries followed by an asterisk indicate translations which generally adhere to the poetic meter and form of Poe’s original. [column 2:]

“Corbul” [“The Raven‘‘l. Trans. l. S. Sp|artali]. AdeueVrul 2, No. 648 (1890): 2 [in prose|.

————————. Trans. “de Gripen” [G. D. Pencioiu]. Romdnul Literar 1, No. 19 Qune 1, 1891): 146 [“Dupe Edgar Allen [sic] Poe:” prose, arranged in stanzas, loosely after the manner of the poem].

————————. Trans. anon. Colectia Revista Poporului III, No. 8 (1892): 242-45 [in prose].

————————. Trans. l. D. Ghiocel. Independentul 2, No. 30 (1892): 12 [in prose].

————————. Trans. l. Thieodorescul. AdeueVrul 5, No. 1339 (1892): 3 [in prose].

————————. Trans. anon. LiRa LiteraraV 1, No. 7 (1893): 211 - 13 [in prose].

————————. Trans. “Dor.” Lumea Noua 1, No. 5 (November 5, 1894): 2 [in prose], 6 (1895): 165-67.

1904): 2 [in prose].

————————. Trans, luliu (‘. Savescu. LiRa Literara 2, No.

————————. Trans. anon. Cronica IV, No. 833 (March 20,

————————. Trans. anon. Jara 11, No. 541 (October 19, 1904): 2; No. 542 (October 20, 1904): 2 [serialized; in prose].

————————. Trans. Dim. C. Zavalide. IJnilJersul Literar 23, No. 33 (August 15, 1905): 5 [in prose].

————————. Trans. Radu Paltin tH. Petra-Petrescu|. Samanatorul 8, No. 6 (1909): 137-40 [in prose].

————————. Trans. A. Luca. Moartea Ro,sie,si Alte Nuvele Extraordinare. Bucharest: Editura “Lumen,” 1909. 27-32 [in prose].

————————. Trans. anon. Gazeta de Transilvanici 78, No. 267 (December 22, 1915): 1-2 [in prose].

————————. Trans. Al Vitianu. Adevarul Literar,siArtistic 2, No. 56 (December 18, 1921): 2..

————————. Trans. G. Murnu. Revista Fundafiilor Regale IV, No. 6 (1937): 483-86..

————————. Trans. Ion Luca Caragiale. Viafa Romaneasca 29, No. 7 (1uly 1937): 39-44 ~ [provenance doubtful here; the same translation, except for slightly modernized spelling, appears in 1972 among “Unpublished Works” in posthumous collection of the works of Luca lon Caragiale, the famous poet’s son. See 1972 entry in this bibliography].

————————. Trans. Emil Gulian. Poemele lui Edgar Poe. Bucharest: Fundatia pentru Literatura,si Arta “Regele Carol 11,” 1938. 7-14. [reprinted in Edgar Allan Poe: Scrieri Alese. Bucharest: Editur~a pentru Literatura Universala, 1963. 241-46; 2nd ea., 1968; reissued, boxed and illustrated, 1969, 1971].

————————. Trans. P. P. Stanescu. Vinfa Romdneasca 37, Nos. 5-6 (May-June, 1945): 64-67..

————————. Trans Al. T. Stamatiad. Revista Fundafiilor Regale IV, No. 4 (1945): 87-90 [in free verse].

5, 1958): 9..

————————. Trans. Teodor Bo,sca. TritJuna 2, No. 14 (April

————————. Trans. Dan Botta. Edgar Allan Poe: Scrieri Alese. Bucharest: Editura pentru Literatura Universala, 1963. 233-37. [2nd ed., 1968; reissued, boxed and illustrated, 1969, 1971]. [page 24:]

————————. Trans. Mihu Dragomir. Cele Mai Frumoase Poozii: EdgarAllan Poe. Bucharest: Editura Tineretului, 1964. 96-103..

————————. Trans. Petre Solomon. Viata Romdneasca 23, No. 2 (February, 1970): xx-xxii.

“Gavran.” Trans. Dura Back. KnjizevniZivot 3, No.2 (1970): 37-38. [Serbian language version from Banat region, Romania].

“Corbul.” Trans. Mihaela Ha,seganu. Luceafarul 30 (July, 1971): 5..

————————. Trans. Luca lon Caragiale. Jocul Oglinzilor: Versuri Publicate,si Inedite. Bucharest: Editura Minerva, 1972. 247-53.

————————. Trans. 1. 46 (November, 1973): 9.*

————————. Trans. Marcel Breslasu. Secolul XX, 10 (October, 1973): 142-44.

————————. Cassian-Matasaru. Tribuna 17, No. 46 (November, 1973): 9. *

————————. Trans. Stefan Augustin Doinas. Tribuna 17, No. 51 (April 25, 1974): 12.

————————. Trans. Ovidiu Bogdan. Luceafarul 37 (September, 1975): 8.

————————. Trans. Stefan Augustin Doinas, Almanabul Literar, 1979. Bucharest Editat de Asocialia Scriitorilor din Bucuresti, 1980. 78-79.

Works Cited

Calinescu, George. “Emil Gulian: ‘T-almaciri din Poemele lui Edgar Poe‘.” Ulysse. 1938. Bucharest: Editurapentru Literatura, 1967. 373-78.

Gulian, Emil. “Talmaciri din Poemele lui Edgar Poe.” Funda¬£ia Regele Carol 11 19.90 (1938): 17.

Lupu, loan and Cornelia Stefanescu, et al., eds. Bibliografia Rela,tiilor Literaturii Romd ne cu Literaturile Stra~ine in Periodice (1859-1918). Bucharest: Editura Academici 1980.

Pillat-Saulescu, Monica. Modernitatea Nuvelei Fantastice a lui E. A. Poe. Bucharest: Universita~ii Bucharest, 1983.

Steinhardt, Nicholae. “Sub Semnul lui Edgar Allan Poe.” Viafa Romdneascit 27.5 (1974): 63-64.

Streinu, Vladimir. “Poemele lui Edgar Poe in Romane,te.” Pagini de Critica Literara. 1943. Bucharest: Editura pentru Literatura, 1968. 351-67.

———————— . “Titu Maiorescu,si Edgar Poe. ” Clasicii Nostril 1943. Bucharest: Editura pentru Literatura-, 1969. 85-105.

For their invaluable help in preparing this listing, I wish to express my gratitude to Professors Ana Cartianu and,Stefan Stoenescu of the University of Bucharest; to Mrs. Cristina Petrescu of the Central State Library; and to the research staffs at the Academy Library, the Central University Library, and the Calinescu Institute, all of Bucharest.


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[S:0 - PSDR, 1980]