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First sentence of the novel Solaris


zzjing    
30 Nov 2018  #1
This is a question about Stanisław Lem's novel Solaris. The first sentence of the book reads:

O dziewiętnastej czasu pokładowego zeszedłem, mijając stojących wokół studni, po metalowych szczeblach do wnętrza zasobnika.

In the 1970 English translation, which is translated from French, the sentence looks like this:

At 19.00 hours, ship's time, I made my way to the launching bay. The men around the shaft stood aside to let me pass, and I climbed down into the capsule.

There's also a new English edition that came out in 2010, translated directly from the original Polish. And it renders the same sentence as:

At nineteen hundred hours ship's time I climbed down the metal ladder past the bays on either side into the capsule.

I also looked up the German translation, and here is the first sentence translated into English by Google Translate:

At nineteen o'clock on board, I climbed over the metal rungs into the interior of the capsule, past the people who surrounded the shaft.

As you can see, the new English translation is quite different from the other two, especially the "mijając stojących wokół studni" part. Which one makes more sense to a native Polish speaker?

Any help is appreciated.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,109    
1 Dec 2018  #2
I climbed down the metal ladder ...

This "past the bays" looks strange in reference to the original. I think the closest is the translation from German.
Lyzko 18 | 5,325    
1 Dec 2018  #3
The last sentence looks to me closest in meaning with the Polish original (not having read the book). Only question would be concerning how to translate "studni".
mafketis 16 | 6,322    
2 Dec 2018  #4
O dziewiętnastej czasu pokładowego zeszedłem, mijając stojących wokół studni, po metalowych szczeblach do wnętrza zasobnika.

As literal as I can get to the original and just be a little awkward rather than flat out wrong.

At nineteen hundred hours ship's time I descended, passing by those standing around the shaft, by the metal rungs into the interior of the capsule.

Massaged a bit for the benefit of English syntax:

At nineteen hundred hours ship's time, I moved past those standing around the shaft and climbed down the metal rungs into the interior of the capsule.

And while here, I thought "zeszedłem" was an error and should be "zszedłem" is the non-standard form used on purpose?
Lyzko 18 | 5,325    
2 Dec 2018  #5
Aha, I see what I was missing the other day with "studni". As it's translated often as "a well", for instance an "artesian well", "shaft" makes perfect sense, since a well in the ground is nothing other than a shaft upward from which (as well as downward, of course) water is transported:-) My oversight. Skimmed the sentence too fast.

"Zeszedlem" is correct according to my PIW. For example, in spoken slang, I've sometimes heard spoken "poszlem" instead of "poszEDlem" however as far as I learned, the latter is the grammatically correct form. "Poszlem" would not be acceptable in written language.
mafketis 16 | 6,322    
2 Dec 2018  #6
"shaft" makes perfect sense,

Technically I'm not sure if I like 'shaft' (usually szyb). I'd need to know more about ship vocabulary and have some idea of the physical layout (as described by Lem).

I think maybe the best option is to leave it out...
skysoulmate 14 | 1,293    
3 Dec 2018  #7
Personally I prefer the second or the first English translation but then again, my Polish isn't the greatest as I've forgotten many words and phrases. (was quite young when we left) My vocabulary is probably at a teenager's level.

Solaris was one my very first sci-fi novels and Lem is the reason I became interested in the genre.
mafketis 16 | 6,322    
3 Dec 2018  #8
prefer the second or the first English translation but then again, my Polish isn't the greatest

well the translation should take into consideration the preferences of the target audience first and foremost... and the elements of good style differ in different languages. There's also the question of how close the author adheres to normative styles of the language (and how native readers perceive that).

Yet another question is that for a polycentric language like English, styles can offer differ from one variety to another. A translation that reads wonderfully well for a British reader might be clunky and awkward for an American (and vice versa).
OP zzjing    
3 Dec 2018  #9
Thanks all for responding. So the new English translation seems to be incorrect.

BTW, this scene is supposed to be happening on a large spaceship.
Lyzko 18 | 5,325    
3 Dec 2018  #10
@Maf,

Always a super tough call when translating, isn't it. Omitting original text in translation can of course sometimes substantially alter the intended meaning.
Being a translator, I'm faced with these issues on a regular basis. Providing a viable alternative is critical. Perhaps "szyb" IS the dictionary version of "shaft", yet the author apparently wrote "studni" ( if transcribed accurately by zzjing) and so one would have to be creative rather than stuck in the limbo of the translator's eternal enemy, dictionary translation:-)
mafketis 16 | 6,322    
3 Dec 2018  #11
Always a super tough call when translating, isn't it.

It's one of the most interesting parts.... anyhoo, after some googling..... it seems that a studnia on a ship is a moon pool* (or at least one use of the word in relation to ships) which makes me think that maybe 'hatch' might be a better translation than shaft... of course there might be other things on ships that could be referred to as 'studnia' and who knows how that translates into the context of a space ship...

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_pool
OP zzjing    
3 Dec 2018  #12
I think you nailed it. Even if this is not exactly what the author had in mind, the analogy is quite apt. Here's it's a launching mechanism for a landing capsule headed for the planet below.


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