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Skyfrostt

Help with Translation of HPL's Stories to Other Languages

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Skyfrostt

Hello everybody,

I'm new in this forum, so I don't know if I'm following right way to solve my problem (or those who are in the same situation). I would like this topic is used for those who like to translate HPL's work to their mother language. So we can ask for help from native, professional speakers here. However, I have already translated five stories into Persian. Currently, I started to translate "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", and I faced with problem just at the beginning. Is there anybody here who can help me with the meaning of "lyke Method" in following paragraph:

'The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an
ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and
raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by
the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher
may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead
Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.


Thank you.

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yronimoswhateley

Hi Skyfrost!  Great topic, I hope we can help!

 

You'll probably have some strange difficulties whenever Lovecraft starts writing in quotes, because the versions of English he'll be using there will be archaic and outdated, or sometimes fragments of dialogue altered to try to capture an unusual accent, and these are sometimes hard for native speakers of English to follow - I bet this won't be the last difficulty you run into!

 

In this case, "lyke Method" is an archaic spelling for "like method", or "same method" - the same method that the clever alchemist might use to store and raise any number of animals in his laboratory can also be used to summon the ghost or spirit of a dead human into its restored "essential salts" (dust and ashes).

 

In modern English:

 

The "essential salts" of animals can be so prepared and preserved, that a wizard may store all the animals of Noah's Ark in his laboratory, and raise the phantom of any of those animals out of its ashes whenever he wishes.  By the same method, from the essential salts of human ashes, the alchemist might be able to call up human phantoms, and technically this can't be considered criminal necromancy!

 

 

It might also help to know from this quote:

  • "Essential" in this sense means basic or vital - this is the "salt" or dust that apparently contains the human spirit after death.
  • "Studie" refers to the room known as a "study" - you can think of it in this case as a library or laboratory.
  • "Lyke Method" - same method; it might be useful to note here that Lovecraft is hinting at a subtle blasphemy: Lovecraft was an atheist among Christians in his era and neighborhood, and would have been well aware of the implications of both humans and animals being raised from the dead in exactly the same way:  to Lovecraft (as well as his wizards and alchemists), human beings are identical to any of the animals from the "Ark of Noah", and possess no souls nor any afterlife, save (in this story) that of being trapped in "essential salts" until being resurrected from the dead to serve amoral necromancers in their experiments, or perhaps finding some horrible way of extending their own lives as amoral wizards do, such as stealing a living person's body....
  • "Philosopher" and "Ingenious Man" are another way of saying "Alchemist", "Sorcerer", or "Wizard".
  • "Humane" in this case is an outdated spelling for "human".
  • "Ancestour" is identical to "ancestor", but I believe in this case would apply equally to any long-dead person, whether related to the wizard or not (today, the word implies a long-dead relative from an earlier era, but in an earlier era might have had a more general meaning for any long-dead person from an earlier era).
  • "Shape" can normally be thought of as a kind of ghost or spirit (note the reference to Necromancy), but in this case one bound to a reconstituted body formed from the "Essential Saltes" (the alchemist who wrote that passage seems to think that he has found a "loophole" to avoid punishment for laws against necromancy, but I doubt that witch-hunters and angry mobs would be impressed enough by the distinction that they wouldn't burn him at the stake as a necromancer anyway if he gets caught!)
  • "Bodie" is an outdated spelling for "body" or "corpse" - the alchemist apparently prepares the body in some unrevealed manner, burns the body, and then further prepares and preserves the ashes in some secret way, and can then use those ashes to bring the dead back to life for a time....

 

Note that the spelling and language are artifacts of a much earlier century - the writer is a product of another era.  (It has been many years since I've read this story, but I believe that the outdated language re-appears elsewhere in the tale, as clues to an unsettling plot twist or two!)

 

 

I hope that helps in your translation, let us know if you have any other questions! 

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Skyfrostt

First of all, it's been very very helpful. Thank you so much dear Yronimoswhateley, 

 

Yes indeed, translating HPLC's works is a very tough job, especially the way he used the words, and his so extensive use of adverbs (even sometime fabricated ones) that I cannot find any synonym for them in Persian, so I have to use some words repetitively. 

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JeffErwin

"Salt" as the integral element of matter - absent "sulphur" (soul, emotion) and "mercury" (spirit, thought) is from Paracelsian alchemy; by "essential saltes" the quote means the dead body, reduced to ash. In theory, by an act of alchemy, spirit and soul could be re-enfused into a body and revive it. 

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yronimoswhateley

As always, great catch, Jeff!

 

I think that might make the difference between these re-animations, and ordinary necromancy (which, presumably, uses magic and traffic with devils to contact a departed disembodied soul and spirit - the alchemists here are reuniting the three "elements" to reform the human being after death, and the soul/spirit are "properly" embodied....  And, as I mentioned, it might technically not be necromancy, but I think most non-alchemist casual observers would be unimpressed by the distinction:  in the story, the results of one are just as horrible as the other!

 

I couldn't imagine the difficulties in translating Lovecraft to other languages!  English provided Lovecraft with a wide palette of words to choose from, and, like Edgar Allan Poe (whose writing Lovecraft admired), Lovecraft often chose words for the way they sounded:  words like cosmic, eldritch, gibbous, ghoul, doom, Dagon, and cyclopean sound weird, alien, and menacing in English....

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Shimmin Beg

Yes, the use of outdated language is very much important to following what's going on in the story - and in particular, who is speaking at any given time.

 

I've had a lot of... interesting... difficulties with my own translations, given massive linguistic differences.  My Manx translations have to struggle with things like a far more limited vocabulary (English having borrowed a lot of synonyms), and working out how to represent the long and convoluted sentences beloved of Lovecraft.  Could be worse though; I could be trying to translate puns.

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Skyfrostt

Hi again, 

 

I can't understand the whole sentence "...and red heels and periwigs set off the painted pediments whose signs of wear were now becoming

so visible" in following excerpt: 

 

On the eastern side they were set high over basements with railed double flights of stone steps,

and the young Charles could picture them as they were when the street was new, and red
heels and periwigs set off the painted pediments whose signs of wear were now becoming
so visible.

 

what red heels and periwigs refer to? What is painted pediments? I think he tries to refer to a kind of wearing style in that time?

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yronimoswhateley

I'm sorry I didn't see your question sooner.

 

Yes, you've got a reference there to dated fashions of the 1600s and 1700s in "red heels and periwigs".

 

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Basically, a men's fashion of white wigs and high-heeled shoes....

 

"Painted pediments" refers to an architectural detail:

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The triangular face of a building's roof supported by columns or arches are pediments....

 

 

The section could be simplified as something like....

 

On the eastern side the buildings were set high over basements from another era, and the young "Charles" (Lovecraft) could imagine them as they were when the street was new in the 1700s, before the buildings became worn with time and neglect.

 

 

Of course, the contrast in imagery of the elaborate fashions and ambitiously classical architecture of America's pre-Revolutionary youth, and the wear and neglect that Lovecraft would have noticed and attributed to the chaotic and fallen decadence of his own era would be lost in the simplification, but hopefully it still helps get to the heart of what Lovecraft was saying....

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