The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
“True! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.”
Recently in my literary translation class I asked the students to choose a famous short story in English and to find the translation in their source language and assess how successful the translator was at recreating tone, voice, style, word choice etc. Much to my surprise and delight, many of the students chose Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It is a story that speaks to all times, but somehow seems to especially speak to our particular time.
In French the title is “Le Coeur Révélateur” which offers a nice interior rhyme. Julio Cortázar’s translation in Spanish flows but does away with Poe’s sublime punctuation. The Arabic is beautiful to see:
But best of all for me was the Chinese translation of “Hearken!” — “侧耳倾听” literally meaning: “Turn your ear to someone and listen patiently with your heart.”
So Hearken! everyone.
And maybe stage a reading of “The Tale-Tale Heart” at the dinner table tonight?