The Blindfolded Queen a collection of poems
Translation is a form of betrayal, it has often been said, perhaps a particular form of Steiner’s idea of “aggression,” in that it is a traduction, a reconstitution made of sacrifice and revision. There are translators who would rather be original than right, and those who struggle endlessly with meaning, with pondering grand concepts behind each allusion. Others simply come up with the sum of dictionary definitions, the work of the mere “reworder.” And there are readers who pick up errors as if they had caught a criminal. Yet we also know that neither are poems approached in innocence, nor with the absence of lubricating afterthought.
This publication is a modest attempt to put together translations of Goenawan Mohamad’s poems, created by the author over the last four decades.
Fifty poems have made it onto these pages. There is no governing basis to the selection other than that the translations “exist,” and judged to have done the original justice. An effort has also been made to cover the breadth of Goenawan’s themes and expressiveness.
This selection, I believe, benefits from a range of insights: four Indonesian native speakers, one Malaysian, and three Americans. Not only have they followed intimately the trajectory of Goenawan’s writing, but, more importantly, they possess a firm grasp of the “sense and spirit” of the poet.
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