Sunday, 16 February 2014

On Loving Machine Compassion

I love the idea of Hunger To Hunger, a project to translate a poem in and out of English several times. Many people have done similar things with Google Translate, which makes it easy, though it lacks the linguistic elegance brought by a human translator with some poetic skill.

I used Google Translate to take Richard Brautigan's poem All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace (which seemed an appropriate choice for such an exercise) from English to French to Czech to Danish to German to Japanese to Hebrew to Indonesian to Hindi to Arabic and then back to English. I was impressed by how well the poem held  up, a testament to how well Google Translate works these days. I played with this sort of thing years ago and it used to destroy the original completely.

The original and translation are listed below. I tried to set the two versions side by side line by line, but of course this might be messed up on your browser. The only change I made was to delete the word 'In' from the end of the translated title. 

No one would say the translated version was an overall improvement from the original, but I do believe that some of the simple spare prose in the translation is the way to go. For example, I think Brautigan's ponderous lines

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology

where we are free of our labors  

are better rendered as  

I love 
(A must!)  
Environment cybernetic  
Where we are without work

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace        Grace Loves Almost Every Machine
I like to think (and                                                              (I like to think
the sooner the better!)                                                      The more the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow                                             
      Pasture cybernetic
where mammals and computers                                      Computer with mammals
live together in mutually                                                    I live with one another
programming harmony                                                     Programming and harmony
like pure water                                                                 Clean Water
touching clear sky.                                                           Touched the sky is clear.

I like to think                                                      
             I love
(right now, please!)                                           
             (Now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest                                          
           Forest cybernetic
filled with pines and electronics                         
            Filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully                             
             Where deer go in peace   
past computers                                                      
       By the computer
as if they were flowers                                        
          Such as interest
with spinning blossoms.                                
                Spinning with flowers.

I like to think                                                          
         I love
(it has to be!)                                                           
      (A must!)
of a cybernetic ecology                                                 
Environment cybernetic
where we are free of our labors                                    
Where we are without work
and joined back to nature,                                       
     He returned naturally
returned to our mammal                                               
Back to our mammals
brothers and sisters,                                                     
Ladies and Gentlemen,
and all watched over                                                     
View All
by machines of loving grace.                                   
      I love machine compassion.

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