The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was once asked which were the best and worst language vehicles for his poetry in translation. After pondering the matter, the poet opined that he preferred Italian, since it “comes closest (to my original Spanish), because by keeping the values of the words, the sound helps reflect the sense.” English was deemed the worst for his purposes, “being so much more direct, [it] often expresses the meaning of my poetry but does not convey its atmosphere.” Indeed, the poet added, “the accuracy of the translation itself, of the meaning, may be what destroys the poem.” It should be noted that the French language did not fare well, either: “In many of the French translations . . . my poetry seems to me to vanish, nothing is left, yet one can’t complain because they express what one has written.” Translation is clearly a complex problem, best summarized by the impression that a whole...


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Federico García Lorca, edited by Christopher Maurer
Collected Poems
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 960 pages, $50.00

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