On translating “The Stalin” poem by Osip Mandelstam

Anatol Zukerman

 

 

As a bilingual poet I worked on translating this famous and fateful poem for several years. Certainly, no translation is ever perfect, but if the original poem is rhymed and metered then, in my opinion, a translator has a moral obligation to keep the original’s form and substance intact. Although my native tongue is Russian, I lived in the United States longer than in Russia and I worked hard on improving my second language. Below are the original poem and my English translation of it side by side. Please note that the original uses a simple, sometimes colloquial language and has eight perfectly rhymed couplets.  Click here to view the poem.

In God We Trust

Anatol Zukerman

 

Antelope In God We Trust I was sitting in the bar, nursing a headache, and a dollar whispered “In God we trust.” “Look who is talking!” I gagged, “You double-crossing slithering snake! God kicked you out of His good temple and you have a nerve to lie in His name!” “He threw me out,” admitted the dollar. “And for that he died on the cross. He’s up in the sky, I’m here on Earth - we work together just fine, thank you. People use me to steal and murder and him to repent and to do it again.”  Click here to view the poem.