Interview with Manana Antadze
Manana Antadze is a Georgian translator and the Founder and President of Tumanishvili Theater Foundation. From 1981 to 1989, Manana Antadze was a research associate at the Centre for Contemporary Literary Studies at the Georgian State University. She has been also working as a freelance translator since 1974 and her numerous translations include William Shakespeare´s Macbeth, Irving Stone´s Lust for Life, and J. K. Rowling´s Harry Potter and the Philosopher´s Stone.
MK: Interpretation of the text is a necessary part of the literary translation process. Shakespeare´s Macbeth is one of your most recent translations. Some perceive this tragedy as the discourse on evil, with Macbeth infecting the others, becoming himself the victim of it. What is your view on the murderous Scottish king?
MA: Macbeth is terrifying and shocking for everyone. It’s a bloody play, fearful, hair-raising and murky, nervously called ‘The Scottish Play’ in the theatre, not daring to pronounce the name of, as you say, the murderous Scottish king, who is getting what he deserves. Even the word ‘fear’ appears here more often, than anywhere else in Shakespeare´s work.
It is scary also because of its longstanding tradition of unlucky occurrences. On the day of the premiere I got e-mails like ´I will be crossing my fingers and turning over silver coins in my pocket seven times to wish you luck’ and ‘break your leg!’ But! I love this great tragedy!
in nature is a tyranny. It hath been
the untimely emptying of the happy throne and fall of many kings’,
says Macduff to Malcolm. Inordinate lust for power brings ruin! Temptation can defeat even the strongest human being! Guilt haunts the evildoer! You remember, after Macbeth kills Duncan, he hears voices – it is the voice of guilt. Later Macbeth and Lady Macbeth hear knocking – this is also the sound of the guilt. The knocker is Macduff, who, in the final act, kills Macbeth!
In the Holy Bible, I Corinthians /10 – 12, 13 / we read: 12.‘Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.’
What moves me is not only a story of murder, madness and death, hero’s fall from grace or supernatural phenomenon, but equivocation, tricky balance of the twin realm: comedy and tragedy, reality and supernatural, joined with mastery of language, with wit and humor, with lyricism. Shakespeare is the greatest of the poets. His later plays allow us to come very close to his deepest interests, but he ‘plays’ a game and you enjoy.
Interpretation is very important in literary translation process and takes courage, but for the first time in my life (it’s my first Shakespeare!) I came across the text with unlimited possibilities of interpretation. ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’ – the most mysterious paradox tells us that nothing is as it seems! /Evil can wear a pretty cloak! /Everything is equivocal! Shakespeare is a restless experimenter and will always remain untranslatable!
MK: Shakespeare´s plays always represent a great challenge for the translator. What were major influences and inspirations in your work?
MA: My inspiration was the director’s vision. David Doiashvili (Doi) who is now an artistic director of our Music and Drama State Theatre, is one of Tumanishvili’s best students. I was commissioned Macbeth, but before I agreed, Doi told me very clearly about his conception. It seemed so attractive, but the process turned out to be much more complicated and interesting, than I could have imagined.
It was not just literary translation. I was translating Shakespeare for Doi, his cast and his production. I published the full text (of course, it was cut in the production) with the program. Doi erected ‘stage’ in the foyer of his theatre, which is an open space with balconies, thus creating three levels: ‘earth’ – main level, ´heaven’ and ‘hell’ (that’s how they were called in the Globe). Production was stretched vertically. Premiere was on October 12, 2009. We were having International festival in Tbilisi at that time and Macbeth was a great success.
MK: So nothing unexpected happened and you broke the bad spell of Macbeth?
MA: We began working two years ago and very soon stopped. A lot of things were happening. A make-up lady left the theatre. (Some people say, she was scared of Macbeth, some say she was offered better salary at our National.) So she moved to the National. She really was offered a reasonable salary! Next day she was found dead in the pit, under the lift. How it could happen, nobody can explain. Incredible! The actor, who plays Macbeth (he was the first year student by that time!) became very ill and had to stay in the hospital for quite a long time. I thought Doi would never return to Macbeth again. He did!
MK: Being also inspired by the powerful stories of the Georgian folk tradition while translating the play, do you think that there was a particular story which might have affected the essence of the final translation?
MA: There is no particular story of that kind but you can easily find symbols of temptation everywhere. Georgian folk legends and myths have their own reality of witchcraft or enchantment, which is tied closely to paganism. Wizards are present in the lore of all people. When I was working on witches, I was reading ‘Georgian Magic Poetry’ all the time. We have such! Sure you also have some in your Slovak folk heritage. But the thing is that in the book there were no curses, just spells to avoid evil. Anyway, rhythm of the jinx was useful and helpful as nursery rhymes.
MK: Thinking back on the translation of Macbeth, what were the most difficult decisions you had to make?
MA: Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter. It is not only ten syllables in each line, but also five pairs of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables. Rhythm sounds like: ‘de-Dum, de-Dum, de-Dum, de-Dum, de-Dum’. This particular rhythmical style is natural for English poetry. As they often say ‘it’s the rhythm of heartbeat and breathing.’
Is THIS/a DAG-/ger I/see BE-/fore ME?
You can’t do it in Georgian. I did a lot of thinking. (I wanted to use iambic pentameter!) Shakespeare has been translated into Georgian many times. Best translations are done in 14-syllable verse. This metrical pattern is more popular in our poetry and I decided to use it as well.
In August I was attending the Shakespeare seminar in the ‘Globe’ and we discussed these problems. We found that many languages have similar difficulties. However, I want to stress that I am not an intellectual theorist of translation. I am a practitioner, and I feel absolutely sure Shakespeare was not counting syllables.
MK: You had been working with Mikheil Tumanishvili (1921 – 1996) for some time and now you are cooperating closely with one of his best disciples. Could you tell us more about this legendary and charismatic icon of the Georgian theatre?
MA: Mikheil Tumanishvili was one of the most brilliant directors and teachers of his generation. He was teaching acting and directing at the Georgian State Institute of Theatre. He taught most of the best of the younger Georgian directors and actors. Tumanishvili began directing at Rustaveli National Theatre and worked there for 25 years. I met him when I was the first year student of English faculty at The State University of Georgia. The University invited Tumanishvili to direct Midsummer Night’s Dream. We were playing it in English and I played Hermia.
After leaving Rustaveli, Tumanishvili founded – in 1978 – his own studio theatre, Film Actors Theatre, where he invited me to work as a dramaturg (a literary director). Tumanishvili’s productions were always so young, so free from heavy-weight traditions of theatre! Some of them travelled a lot all over the world. Edinburgh Festival still remembers his Don Juan. Tumanishvili died rehearsing Cherry Orchard in 1996. He was 75.
MK: You said that Tumanishvili´s approach towards the theatre practices was far away from the traditional one.
MA. When Tumanishvili joined Rustaveli National in 1952, as critics say, THE REVOLUTION came! Old romantic productions vanished – there were many directors there by that time – one after another. Vibrant, new productions appeared. Everything was changing: sets, costumes, the psychology of acting, actor’s art was stressed. The creative image of National has changed; the audience and the stage united. Tumanishvili describes how it happened in his books which are available in Georgian and Russian (they are in the process of translation into English).
MK: As the founder and president of Tumanishvili Theatre Foundation, you hold the competition in ´the best translation´ and ´a new play´ twice a year to promote new material for the Georgian theatre.
MA: I founded ‘Tumanishvili Foundation’ in 1998. It is a non-governmental international organization working on different projects, but last three years we held competitions in the search of new material for our theatres.
In August, being in London, I met Elyse Dodgson, the head of International Department of the Royal Court Theatre and discussed our cooperation. Royal Court is truly an international Theatre. ‘Our job is to support and sustain new writing in other countries, particularly where there is strong theatre culture but the writers don’t have the voice that they might have’, says Elyse Dodgson, ‘and on the other side it’s to produce the best new work we can find and introduce that to our audiences.’ I will meet Elyse in Georgia in March. By that time my competition will have finals and she will meet Georgian playwrights. After that we shall see what can be done.
MK: Could you tell us more about the current theatre practices in Georgia?
MA: Georgian Theatre has very good actors and directors, most of them are Tumanishvili’s pupils. More than fifty theatres are repertoire theatres subsidized by the State, with the permanent troupe. But they are given not much money, not enough for the productions – especially regional theatres – and they are also in need of new plays as well. That’s why my foundation tries to stimulate writers and translators.
MK: The theme of this issue of Ars Aeterna is memory. Are the memories of the Georgian past somehow inspiring for you in your work?
MA: Memory is a great thing. Georgia is fond of looking back into history, as far as the XII century, when the country was united and politically and culturally very, very strong. For example, our traditional singing is an object of adoration for us. In 2002 Jeanne d’Arc’s year was internationally celebrated in Domremy. I organized our traditional singer’s concert there and all of us became honorary citizens of Domremy after that, so it really touched everybody. In the contemporary writing the past is always somehow felt. Isn’t literature the one whole process?!
MK: So to what extent do Georgian writers/ playwrights nowadays look back into the past? Are they haunted by it, do they confront it, is there something like an attempt to de-mythologize or re-write the past?
MA: Whenever they look back into the past, some are haunted, some confront it and some try to mythologize!
MK: The scope of current literary texts translated into Slovak includes mostly bestsellers and classics with just few exceptions. One of the reasons is a rather small Slovak market; another thing is that after the translation appears in the Czech Republic, it is very scarcely followed by the Slovak version. What is the situation like in Georgia?
MA: Georgian market is also very small and even the so called bestsellers are published just in about one thousand exemplars. Harry Potter was an exception and I am sure not only in Georgia! We have so many new publishers here. Authors try to get money themselves, but Art and Literature are not the source of living. In the Soviet period Georgia depended on Russia as other republics. You could translate only what was already translated into Russian and not only for copyright reasons! Now the small market has become the biggest problem.
MK: The quality and the amount of children´s literature translations have increased recently in Slovakia due to the fantasy fascination aroused by the Harry Potter series which you also mentioned. Authors such as C. S. Lewis, Michelle Paver, Philip Pullman, Ursula Le Guin and others have become quite popular. Is something similar going on in Georgia?
MA: I cannot say that amount of children’s literature has increased in Georgia. Children are ‘lost’ in the internet (my grandchildren too). Of course, there are more or less popular books in newest translation, but they are not as popular as Harry Potter.
MK: The last question for our interviewees traditionally deals with their current reading. Has there been any special (re)discovery in your reading experience recently that you would like to share with us?
MA: Frankly speaking, I didn’t have much time, since I was finishing Macbeth and then I worked on the translation of Camino Real by Tennessee Williams for my company. Now I am translating The Tempest!!! But since the Cambridge seminar in July I have read Jim Crace´s The Pesthouse, Jeanette Winterson´s The Stone Gods and David Lodge’s last novel Deaf Sentence. I intend to translate one of them.
‘ARS AETERNA’ – Art in Memory, Memory in Ar
Constantine the Philosopher University
Faculty of Arts
Vol.1, No.2 / 2009
Univerzita Konštantína Filozofa v Nitre