{Sat 17 February 2007}   “The Shoe Hunt”: Translation of “Die Skoene Jag”
For those who asked… and some who might’ve been curious but didn’t ask… here’s a translation of the Afrikaans poem Die Skoene Jag which I posted on November 16th (I’ve noticed that this particular poem keeps registering hits, presumably because it’s a bit of a curiosity as an Afrikaans poem on an English website. On the other hand, some searchers are simply looking for shoes!)

This poem is also odd because it’s the only one of my childhood poems that currently appears on the site. I wrote it when I was thirteen, for a school exercise. Like all my peers in South Africa at the time, I was forced to study Afrikaans for the entire twelve years of my schooling. My own private rebellion against the Nationalist government consisted in refusing to speak Afrikaans, even though I wrote it well. I eventually managed to matriculate with an “A” for the subject overall, but something close to zero for the final oral exam, as I had not articulated a single sentence. It was a classic case of shooting oneself in the foot, of course, because in a later writers’ group where a few of the members had Afrikaans as a first language, I discovered that it is in fact an earthy tongue that richly and directly evokes emotion and conviction. As with all languages, there are some things that can only be said in that language and translation is inevitably “lossy”.

This translation is not a work of art (not that the original could really make a greater claim!) To convey it relatively accurately I’ve made a stab at using similar rhythms and rhyme-types as those in the original, but I did resort to some half-rhyme cheating, I confess. Most of the words are literally translated, although there are some word order inversions. The final line of the first stanza should really read something like “completed his appearance nicely”. The changes in tense are in the original, and were fairly typical in the telling of this kind of joke, as I remember.

The Shoe Hunt

Van der Merwe sees old Doep
Strolling out next to his stoep.
Old Doep wears a nice new suit
Like an ostrich with his plume.
A pretty shoe upon his foot
Finishes his fine costume.

“Hi, old pal! There on your foot
“Never a nicer shoe I’ve met!
“Tell me true, where did you
“Obtain such a lovely shoe?”
“You can’t buy it in a shop,”
Is the answer of old Doep.
“You must hunt it, if you will,
Simply shoot a crocodile.”

So every night, Van went down
To the river at full moon.
Every morning, back at the house
“Saw nothing, not even a mouse!”
Then he decided one last time
To search the stream for crocodile.

And this time, to his great luck,
Crocodile on the bank turned up.
Van der Merwe shoots the creature,
Goes into the water, pulls him over.
But now Van’s luck is really out:
“The stupid crocodile is barefoot!”

TiaTalk says:

[…] the translation of this poem here: The Shoe Hunt Tia @ 1:26 pm [filed under humour, writing, poetry, Poem, Afrikaans liquidlight […]

Sinudeity says:

LOL, you could have said that joke in 3 lines.

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