Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tired

I am feeling bored at office. I know, what a cliche! I wish I could be like those "men of action" that I see myself surrounded with. Instead I feel tired and exhausted, completely detached from official work and colleagues, pondering helplessly at the lowest ebb of desire, desire for career advancement, desire for accumulation of money and material comforts and even for sex(?)! The only thing I want to do is to get back home once it is evening and sink into the Kierkegaard biography or the Russian revolution book that I have been reading. What a life!

Anyway, this is the opening paragraph of Turgenev's Torrents of Spring... (this translation feels clunkier than the one in the penguin classics but it is the only one I could find on the internet). Things aren't this bad but...

Never had he felt such weariness of body and of spirit. He had passed the whole evening in the company of charming ladies and cultivated men; some of the ladies were beautiful, almost all the men were distinguished by intellect or talent; he himself had talked with great success, even with brilliance . . . and, for all that, never yet had the taedium vitae of which the Romans talked of old, the "disgust for life," taken hold of him with such irresistible, such suffocating force. Had he been a little younger, he would have cried with misery, weariness, and exasperation: a biting, burning bitterness, like the bitter of wormwood, filled his whole soul. A sort of clinging repugnance, a weight of loathing closed in upon him on all sides like a dark night of autumn; and he did not know how to get free from this darkness, this bitterness. Sleep it was useless to reckon upon; he knew he should not sleep.

He fell to thinking . . . slowly, listlessly, wrathfully. He thought of the vanity, the uselessness, the vulgar falsity of all things human. All the stages of man's life passed in order before his mental gaze (he had himself lately reached his fifty-second year), and not one found grace in his eyes. Everywhere the same everlasting pouring of water into a sieve, the everlasting beating of the air, everywhere the same self-deception---half in good faith, half conscious--any toy to amuse the child, so long as it keeps him from crying. And then, all of a sudden, old age drops down like snow on the head, and with it the ever-growing, ever-gnawing, and devouring dread of death . . . and the plunge into the abyss! Lucky indeed if life works out so to the end! May be, before the end, like rust on iron, sufferings, infirmities come. . . He did not picture life's sea, as the poets depict it, covered with tempestuous waves; no, he thought of that sea as a smooth, untroubled surface, stagnant and transparent to its darkest depths. He himself sits in a little tottering boat, and down below in those dark oozy depths, like prodigious fishes, he can just make out the shapes of hideous monsters: all the ills of life, diseases, sorrows, madness, poverty, blindness. . . . He gazes, and behold, one of these monsters separates itself off from the darkness, rises higher and higher, stands out more and more distinct, more and more loathsomely distinct. . . . An instant yet, and the boat that bears him will be overturned! But behold, it grows dim again, it withdraws, sinks down to the bottom, and there it lies, faintly stirring in the slime. . . . But the fated day will come, and it will overturn the boat.

14 comments:

Jabberwock said...

I wish I could be like those "men of action" that I see myself surrounded with.

You work in a gym?!!

Antonia said...

I can relate....so much nicer to stay at home and read a nice book instead of having ugly obligations...

Alok said...

jabberwock: nah! I am just suffering from serious "motivational issues", as these corporate types, the men of action, would say... :(

antonia: ugly obligations... yes, the bane of modern life!!

Vidya said...

I think the clunkiness kinda nicely adds to the the mood/context the world-weary feeling the passage reates. Ofcourse I have'nt read the Penguin Classics one you are referring to but still.

Alok said...

yes that might be true. I am always confused about translations, generally I prefer the anglicised ones than the ones which are literal. but sometimes those awkward sentence constructions have their own effect, as perhaps in this case.

km said...

Speaking of translations, you should read Remnick's essay called "The Translation Wars". Apparently, there are only TWO translators of ALL Russian literature. Constance Garnett (sp?) and this couple in Paris (the names escape me...)

And Alok, I pass a beautiful public library on my way to work everyday. So I know how it must feel :))

Alok said...

I have read that great article.
Some generous person had even posten it on a blog here

I think the peguin and oxford classics have their own traslators too, other than Garnett or Pevear/Volkhonsky. But yes that lady Constance Garnett must have been a woman of super-human energy.

Alok said...

ah, the spelling typos! I am still tired :(

bhupinder singh said...

Let me know if you want to take a break and come down south sometime.

Alok said...

thanks Bhupinder! I am planning to do some trips around the country. Let me see :)

Kamalakar said...

Thinking of translations, wonder if the awkwardness created by the 'literal' type signals the foreignness of the text. And would it hence become a welcome approach to translating?

Alok said...

Its an interesting debate that's been going on for long. Surely, no translation can be called successful if it is not able to give a sense of foreign-ness of the subject. But I don't think awkward looking sentence constructions are the way to go about it.

jyothsnay said...

Alok...
I am still not through with my presentation...but kept it aside n said to self one more please...searched throughout n found this column much easier for my tired system to comment on..haha!...Flaubert will wait!
at this hour, midnight, I need something effortless, yet meaningful!
....these days, this phenomenon what u depicted is happening with me too, more often than I could resist.
..it's somekind of restlessness..run back to books,hug them or hide behind them..bad,bad!career-minded woman has to be strong!huh..
I like this set a lot..."exasperation: a biting, burning bitterness, like the bitter of wormwood, filled his whole soul. A sort of clinging repugnance, a weight of loathing closed in upon him on all sides like a dark night of autumn..." the myriad of emotions ome could go through..it's rich and alive..would love to read this loud sometime again...felt restless that's why I came to your blog again...

I stood in the street.I silently watched the rustle of those shades on your window. My heart beats faster to reach the message they are carrying for you....Good Night!-Jyo

Alok said...

Take a good night's sleep. Nothing else calms the nerve as best as it does.

I hope you get to sleep in peace though :)