Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The first translation into Mongolian of American literature in the modern era was made in 1930 by the founder of our own modern literature, D. Natsagdorj. He translated, albeit from an initial German translation, Edgar Allen Poe’s story, “The Gold Bug.”
Although the history of American literature in Mongolia has been relatively brief, its impact has been great. Starting in the 1960s, my teacher, the famous poet and translator Dorjiin Gombojav, translated Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” from the Russian as a kind of reference manual for Mongolian poets. At the same time, G. Luvsantseren translated Robert Frost’s poem, “Birches”. In respect to Native American culture and history, D. Sandagdorj made a translation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s lyric poem “Song of Hiawatha,” which was also published during the 1960s. This was the period during which the flowers of American literature began to grow in Mongolian soil even as these translations were made not from the original English language, but Russian.
However, when the free spirit of American poetry encountered the closed attitudes of Mongolian socialist ideology, a period of stagnation set in as precious few translations were made from the original English. With the openness of the 1990s, however, there was an enthusiasm for studying English which led to an increasing number of original translations of American literature.
Many years have passed since the idea of putting together a large anthology to illustrate the contemporary influence of American literature. Three years ago, I discussed my idea with Mark Minton, US Ambassador to Mongolia and poet, and it was this discussion which opened the door to our book. However, to select and translate from the various styles and forms of American poetry through the ages was no small task.
We worked with many of our American friends in order to properly select the works to be translated only to realize that when our work was finished, not everything was ready. Only after we had negotiated translation rights, could the work be published. The US Embassy schooled us in the importance of protecting the intellectual rights of the poets presented here which has aided Mongolia in the development of our own system of copyright laws.
With the exception of “Song of Myself,” by the great voice of American democracy and freedom, Walt Whitman, this is the first time that these poems have been translated into Mongolian from the original English. This work reflects the great effort of G. Dombojav, B. Maksarjav, D. Byambaa, Sh. Tsog and M. Shagdarsüren as well as our young transltors Ts. Oyuundari, S. Sumiya, O. Mönhnaran, S. Soyolbold and G. Delgermaa.
Support for this book has come from the US State Department and the US Embassy in Mongolia. It is clear that the economic and political relations between our two countries have expanded through this cultural, literary and intellectual venture. I am deeply grateful to Ambassador Mark Minton, to the poet David Lehman, to Marissa Maurer of the US Embassy, and to Yo Otgon, who have valiantly labored to create this book of American poetry.
Amerikiin Yaruu Nairag then, American Poetry, this book of parallel texts, is one way in which young people might improve their English, but it is also an avenue to satisfy those interested in savoring literary translation. Moreover, it offers us the chance to refine the infelicities of translation and we await future works of translation from our readers after they have investigated, discussed and absorbed the intricacies of American literature.
There are many sides to poetic translation. Translators have individual approaches to the craft. Some are strict with meter and language while others express what has been absorbed into their hearts. Nonetheless, I trust that the world of American poetry will welcome this eighth volume in the Mongolian Academy of Poetry and Culture’s series, World Poetry.
May goodness spread and may the virtue of books increase!
15 June 2010