Letter to the Reviews Editor
Pernet, Davy, The Byron Journal
In his recent review of my French translations of Manfred, The Prisoner of Chillon and The Lament of Tasso in the last issue of The Byron Journal, Gilles Soubigou makes a number of critical claims that I should like briefly to address. To begin, Dr Soubigou questions my adherence to the principle of 'formal equivalence'. Might I have the opportunity of explaining to readers of your journal my reasons for translating Byron's poetry in this manner? The most important of these was the thought that it would be useful to provide French readers with a translation repeating, in another language, what Byron really wrote. This is probably why it sometimes looks like 'wordfor- word', though it is not: each word is carefully rendered, but the sentences are good and solid French. The quality that I claim for my translations is precisely the reason I did not use Benjamin Laroche's version, which is copyright free. Though it is not the worst, Laroche's translation lacks precision, tending to a Voltarian phraseology which is not Byronic at all. Furthermore, it tends in my view to deaden the verse, systematically destroying images and unique qualities of expression. I thought Byron deserved better.
Apart from questions of translation, I think it would have been fair of Dr Soubigou to recognise what is innovative in the books he reviewed. Firstly, my editions include a lot of material that has never been translated before: forgotten lines in the Prisoner and Manfred; the first draft of Act III of Manfred; letters of Byron, Shelley and others, together with extracts from studies by many Byronists past and present. …