American Latvian transforms Latvian folksongs into English

Take note – story published 3 years ago

Talsi regional television met American Latvian Ieva Sentivani-Auziņa October 12. Her dream is to transform 2,000 Latvian folk songs -  Dainas - into English during her lifetime.

The Dainas (Lat­vian Folk songs) are lit­tle four-liners of an­cient Lat­vian wis­dom cap­tured in song. Cre­ated well over a thou­sand years ago, Dainas were part of cel­e­bra­tions, daily work, re­flec­tions on life pre­served in oral form. There are more than 1.2 mil­lion Dainas. The col­lec­tion of Dainas un­der the name “The Cab­i­net of Folk songs” is in­scribed in the UN­ESCO Mem­ory of the World Program.

Sentivani-Auzina said that she doesn't translate Dainas - she calls it "transforming into English".  The process is very complicated because there is no way to say certain ancient Latvian expressions in English, such as saulīt tecēj' tecēdama  (literally - the sun was flowing).

“The sun doesn't flow in English! I fight, fight, fight, and I come to Sweetest Sun so soon is setting,” said Ieva.

“And not just the same number of syllables, but the syllables must give up to a trochaic or dactyl meter that is in Dainas. And it's unnatural for English, because in English the emphasis can dance everywhere. But the Latvian can only be pum, pum, pum...” said Ieva.

Sentivani-Auzina has transformed 450 Dainas into English over 18 years. Her second book,  in which more than 900 Dainas will be in English, is waiting for release. This means that there are only 650 missing before the dream of  2,000 is reached.

“Dainas is our bible, and they have to be part of the cultural values of the West. And if we don't show them, no one will,” said Sentivani-Auzina.

She does not only transfer each Daina into English, but also describes and explains it so that it can be understood by foreigners.

“I also don't want them called folk songs in English. Latvians say folk songs, but... In English, “folk song” means something very primitive. So I call them folk poetry,” said Sentivani-Auzina.

Ieva Sentivani-Auzina lives in the United States, but she tries to come to Latvia every year to spend half a year here. 

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