Venue Pearl Art Museum (Center of Light Space)
Date 2019.11.11 Monday 18:30-21:30
Performer Olivier de Spiegeleir
Organizer Pearl Art Museum

The “Go with Hugo” French Poetry Translation Contest, jointly held by Pearl Art Museum and Alliance Française de Shanghai, gained substantial support from French Consulate General in Shanghai and Paris Musées (Maison de Victor Hugo). The Contest received 326 valid submissions over the period of two and a half months. And after two rounds of fierce competitions, 16 candidates stood out and won the prizes.


The Sailboat is Leaving while the Reef is Still There, Victor Hugo (1802-1885), 1856, ink, charcoal and gouache

The award ceremony will be held in the Heart Hall of Pearl Art Museum at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, November 11th 2019. Mr. Olivier de Spiegeleir, a well-renowned pianist from Belgium, will present the award winners and the audience with an amazing “concert on poetry”. With the infusion of superb performance and poetry, the fairy of music and poems would knock open the door of each and every mind that longs for beauty.

Notes from Experts

The Hugo Poetry Translation Contest selected five of Hugo’s poems in total, a few of which are widely known among the public. For example, almost all French learners will encounter Demain, dès l'aube in their early stages of language learning. All the five poems are nicely picked. Despite the fact that overall comprehension of the poems doesn’t pose much challenges for translators, the moods in which Hugo wrote down the poems, rhythms and imageries deserve further deliberations time and again.

To my surprise, all of the translations shortlisted are of high quality. It’s plain to see that translators have done a lot of work in interpretation and recreation of the poems. There are very few mistakes made in overall comprehension with imageries fully conveyed and most rhythms and sentiments from the original poems are well reserved in the Chinese translation, which is true of the works by the first, second and third prize winners. Even judges cannot say with certainty that they can deliver a better translation themselves.

Translation is absolutely an art of regret, which is particularly true of poetry translation. Therefore, the shortlisted translations contain more or less flaws. To better grasp the very essence of the poems, it’s necessary for translators to conduct certain basic preparations beforehand. For instance, translators are expected to search for the collection from which the poem comes, the certain period during which the poet wrote it and dig into any specific events that might exert huge emotional impacts on the poet’s contemporaries.

Moreover, there are several rules that translators must follow. Although poetry translation does require certain recreations by translators, it remains unadvisable to add, delete or shift than is necessary. In this regard, there is still room for improvement as far as the translators are concerned.

By Yuan Xiaoyi