|The second volume of the four-volume selected works of Olga Sedakova consists of translations and the author’s reflections upon the writers and works translated. The range of material translated by Sedakova is unusually wide, and her choice of writers and texts often unexpected. The combination of spiritual writing and secular poetry in a single volume will be new to both lovers of poetry and readers of edificatory literature. The volume opens with renderings for children of the Christmas story from the Gospels, ancient ecclesiastical texts (fragments of the Epistles by St. Anthony the Great, founder of monasticism), and stories and parables from the Sinai patericon. These are followed by translations of Old Church Slavonic divine services, which aim to convey to the Russian reader the poetic nature of these liturgical texts. Next come examples of translations of Latin poetry, both classical and medieval. The volume continues with great examples of early and Renaissance-era Italian poetry: hymns by Francis of Assisi and sonnets by Dante and Petrarch. European poetry of various centuries, from Ronsard to Jaccottet, is represented by an anthology of individual poems and small collections – selected mini-volumes, as it were, of twentieth-century poets: Pound, Rilke, Claudel, Eliot and Celan. The volume opens and closes with a lecture and discussion on the art of translation.|
Each translated text is presented along with Sedakova’s reflections on it. The most significant of these (the work on Celan, Rilke and Dante) are profound explorations of authorial form and poetic message, grounded in a careful reading of the original, a rejection of the usual distortions inherent in translation and a meticulous adherence to the movement of word and meaning. As the reader progresses through this space of insight, the essence of the poetic gift and spiritual life of Sedakova herself is ultimately revealed.
The overarching idea behind this work in translation and scholarship is an expansion of the potential of Russian poetic language. In this sense, Sedakova is continuing the work of V. Zhukovskii and other Golden Age poets.