Reflections on the Translation of 'Tartuffe'
Juan Martin Elexpuru


To translate as prose or verse: that was the first decision to be made when I set about translating Tartuffe. Even though I knew the risks, I accepted the challenge of verse, since if I succeeded in doing a reasonably nice job, the result would be quite a bit better. Most classical theater is written in verse, and it is worth the effort to try to transmit to the reader or actor the aesthetic delight of the measures and rhymes. The measure was the second decision. I extended the twelve syllables of the original French to fifteen in the Basque translation, since French is a "shorter" language than Basque. The rhymes, on the other hand, had to be as rich as possible, even though I often had to settle for a poor one. Enjambment, moving information from one place to another, and other such tools and tricks are often used to coax rhyme, measure and content into harmony with one another. I needed a rhyming dictionary for translators. There was also the issue of form of address. How to translate speech into Basque: using the familiar "hi" for "you", or the more formal "zu", or the very formal "Berori"? More questions than answers. My answers are in the translation. Only the reader will be able to say if they are correct.