Mõningaid tähelepanekuid Johannes Aaviku kirjanduslikust prantsuse-orientatsioonist ja tõlketegevuse spetsiifikast. Some Observations concerning Johannes Aavik’s French Orientation in Literature, and the Specificity of his Translation Activities


  • Kaia Sisask




Johannes Aavik’s personal preferences in the area of French literature include several authors considered to be passé from today’s perspective: Paul Bourget, Ernest Renan, Sully Prudhomme, Joris Karl Huysmans. Though stylistic virtuosity always remains an important literary criterion for him, it is not until later in his career that Aavik turns toward more mainstream, distinguished French literature. Although in his theoretical speeches on the topic of symbolism or decadence, he seems more interested in form than in content, as a translator of poetry (the ”bouquet” of French poetry in the third Young Estonia album), he is to be commended for his great precision in matters of detail. However, even when translating Aavik often omits what he considers less important; rhymes often turn out cumbersome; likewise the musical qualities of symbolist poetry often remain in the background. Aavik’s translations of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories have received considerable attention in the research literature. Nevertheless, knowing the predominant ”French orientation” of the Young Estonians, one should consider the mediation of their interest in Poe by Baudelaire, the first translator of Poe into French. Aavik’s command of the English language was never strong, and he admitted to Friedebert Tuglas that he compared his own translation with German and French translations. Indeed, it is evident that many sentences from Aavik’s translation of The Oval Portrait and The Cask of Amontillado more closely resemble Baudelaire’s translation than Poe’s original. These observations notwithstanding, I am reluctant to claim that Aavik was engaging in ”indirect translation”: rather, he was using Baudelaire to check himself, while often crossing and transcending what might be considered the ”proper boundaries” of translating from the original language. Even though there are contradictions in Aavik’s translation activities and theoretical positions on the topic, as also in those of other Young Estonians, this did not prevent the fruition of their mission of europeanization.


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