Poems

Virginity

Notes

Translating this remarkable prose poem was a real delight. The piece works on so many different levels and registers and, throughout, is infused with ironies which are rendered with wonderful understatement. The challenges we faced were how to signal the shift of tones whilst remaining true to the original's lightness of touch.

Andre, and the other native Italian speakers in the workshop, recognised certain awkward moments in the original which are clearly intentional as Ribka Sibhatu has flawless Italian. Again, we wanted to retain those anachronisms, such as the 'handsome youth' which, in English, sounds rather old-fashioned.

We also struggled with the position of the authorial voice and its distance, or intimacy, with what's being related here. Andre had used 'you' to recount what was done to violated brides, whereas a strict translation of the Italian would be 'one'. We settled on 'we' to give the sense of an impersonal, unreachable force acting upon her.

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