Guido CARPI, Virginia PILI
POETIC SYNTAX OF THE EARLY MAJAKOVSKIJ AND THE PROBLEM OF LITERARY TRANSLATION:
V. V. MAJAKOVSKIJ AND ANTONI SŁONIMSKI
This article focuses on the rhythmic-syntactic organization of poetic discourse in Vladimir Maiakovskij’s early poetry using the mathematical-statistical toolkit developed by the exponents of the “exact method of literary analysis”, from Boris Iarxo to Maksim Shapir. The article also focuses on the problem of poetic syntax in the context of literary translation.
The starting point of the analysis is the rhythmic-syntactic structure of Maiakovskij's Levyj marsh (Left March, 1918). The general evolution of the rhythmic and syntactic structures of Maiakovskij’s pre-revolutionary poetry was described using poems not subdivided in quatrains in order to determine its specificity. The prevailing interlinear syntactic link (“S”) is S1, in which the line corresponds with an asyndetic sentence (according the classification of Shapir). This type of link occurs in 51.3% of all line transitions. The general rhythmic-syntactic structure of Left March confines itself to the parameters of Maiakovskij’s pre-revolutionary lyric, although with some aberrations. To locate the most problematic aberrations (that is, the types of links that appear in Left March in an unusual percentage compared to the standard of the poet’s pre-revolutionary lyric), we computed standard deviation (σ) for each category of S, based on all pre-revolutionary lyrics. In Left March we found 5 categories of S that fell outside the standard bracket, a similar rhythmic-syntactic pattern prevails in the poem Nichego ne ponimajut (They Don’t Understand Anything, 1913).
The authors formulated the following hypothesis: starting with They Don’t Understand Anything a number of particular interlinear syntactic trends are gathered and strengthened in Maiakovskij’s lyrical poems (and perhaps narrative poems), becoming the defining character of Left March. In the previous works these trends appear, but only sporadically; to locate them we have to switch from the deductive to the inductive method and focus on concrete interlinear syntactic sequences in Left March. The inductive approach confirmed the initial intuition, allowing the authors to detect the same characteristic rhythmic techniques in Maiakovskij’s earlier productions and describe their evolution throughout his career.
In 1922, Left March was translated into Polish by the poet Antoni Słonimski, who accompanied the translation with his polemical Kontrmarsz (Counter-March). This circumstance made it possible to compare the interlinear syntactic links in the original, its translation, and in Słonimski’s pastiche, with a focus on the problem of transforming rhythmic-syntactic structures as a phenomenon of style.
It turned out that in his translation, the Polish poet managed to reproduce only the most eye-catching features of Maiakovskij’s verse (such as the fact that in Left March the links S1 and S16 are quantitatively predominant), and even exaggerated them. But Słonimski apparently did not “see” the concrete micro-links and the sequences out of which Left March is woven, and broke them up, apparently with no recognizable strategy. The numerous transformations reveal Słonimski’s inclination to transform and make more “classical” Maiakovskij’s verse, even if his undeniable subjective intention is to keep (or rather to highlight) the rhythmic features of the original.
It is not surprising that the “neoclassic” trend is even more noticeable in Kontrmarsz, which is not linked to Left March by the tight strictures of a translation but only by a generic stylistic similarity with a polemical purpose. We might call this a “return to order”, or “normalization” in the traditional sense, both on the level of ideology and of verse construction.
Key words: poetic syntax, rhythmic-syntactic organization of poetic discourse, exact method of literary analysis, literary translation, comparative metrics, theory of versification, Maiakovskij, Słonimski.