Rejoice in Translation
Updated: May 19
School tour in MoLI
In a windowless room with white shelves and three doorways, alphabets are arranged under umbrellas of umlauts and égouts. There are tildes but no fadas. In just twenty six letters, a Dub inked his lingua franca and the third floor room of MoLI is papered with his prose.
Chinese symbols whisper of the Wake, as Russian characters spy from the bottom shelf.
Greek Dubliners is a mythical affair. Anyone for pints with Pythagoras in Poolbeg Street? There is no Gaelic translation, perhaps the Gaelgóirs are beyond in Mulligan’s too, feeding on black beer, or down in Davy Byrne's swilling merlot and horsing smelly cheese sandwiches. Or they could be gone to the races. Wasn’t it Ascot Dear Bloom had the tip for?
A plump book will again be plucked from the shelves and fingered vigorously as eyes ogle the limbs of a foreign language. A plump boy from Pearse Street palms a Dutch one and tells his teacher that his Da was in Amsterdam last weekend and he’s going to bring him when he’s older. The stately teacher looks on and says that Holland is a flat country. The boy says his Da was flat broke when he got back; his Ma kicked him out, but only for a night.
A classmate clutches the Polish translation. Her parents are from Kraców; she was born in the Coombe. She speaks perfect Polish but doesn’t understand what the author means with his long words that fizz in and out of Finnegan’s Wake. She points one out to her teacher.
"Pappappapparrassannuaragheallachnatullaghmonganmacmacmacwhackfalltherdebblenonthedubblandaddydoodled," her pink finger traces across the two and a bit lines that hold the word.
With a teachery nod, Muinteoir says, "Think about it."
And with eyes as blue as the sky above the Iveagh Gardens, she replies, "Yes Miss, yes I will yes...."
An Italian couple pass the visiting pupils and scour the wall for a taste of home. He finds it and shows it to her.
"Ah si," she says.
There is a touch of pride in her voice. The Motherland is here, eaten pasta in Trieste not forgotten.
"Bene," he says, and rubs the first page of I Morti, lusting for his Italian language as he undresses sentences of meaning with a romantic gawk in his eye.
It'd set the heart lepping in you for a bit of the aimsir cáite but sure, there are no fadas here, only foreign tongues.