Monday, July 06, 2009

Sangharakshita en français

Yes, Sangharakshita in French!
Three years after Vision et Transformation, the FWBO Paris Buddhist Centre, locally known as Centre bouddhiste de l’Ile-de-France, has just released his second book: Poèmes. This is a bilingual edition of 64 poems by Sangharakshita, translated into French by two mitras, Barbaralaure and Christian, and two order members, Varadakini and Vassika. In addition, another mitra and artist, Marc, drew a picture of Sangharakshita for the cover, and a friend, Gérard, did the typesetting of the book and designed the cover.

The Centre has decided to publish these books - and more will be coming in the future - as it has not yet been possible to find a mainstream publisher for Sangharakshita’s works in France. This is because he is not very well known there yet, the FWBO having only been present there for a few years and through a single Centre so far. For the time being, the books are only sold at the Centre, as selling them elsewhere would require resources and an organisation that the Centre does not have at the moment.

Christian comments: "We started to translate poems to inspire people during pujas or festivals. Then Vassika came up with the idea of translating more poems and gathering them in a book: this will now give people a fuller sense of Sangharakshita as a person. Though he came to visit our Centre a couple of years ago many people attending classes these days have not met him and may never have an opportunity to do so. They therefore only rely on the written word to get to know him, and having the chance of reading some his poetry will give them access to a different facet of him than the one they encounter through his books about Buddhism.

For us translators, it has been as great a pleasure as a challenge to translate these poems. In all cases translation is a difficult but rewarding practice of truthful speech; in the case of poetry the challenge is even greater if one wants to convey images, rhythms, rhymes and beauty as well as meaning. It was also a great pleasure – and a challenge too sometimes – to receive advice and feedback from the author (he does not speak French, of, course, but in a few places we’ve needed his clarification or explanation to make sure we got things right). It has also been an enriching process of deepening our relationship with each other, as in the end all the poems were the result of the work of two, three or even all four of us."

The poems were chosen to provide readers with as "comprehensive" an image of Sangharakshita as possible in a few pages, so there are poems old and new (from 1948 to 2006), short and long (from haikus to The Veil of Stars), with and without rhymes or metre, and showing different aspects of this remarkable man – the thinker, the contemplator, the friend, the teacher – as well as different moments of his life: his life in India and in Kalimpong, his return to the West, and his life as founder of the FWBO.

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