Language Hat alerted me to an interesting article and exercise on the translating of Fernando Pessoa. I’m no translator, and I’m certainly no poet, but I thought I might as well give the exercise a more thorough go by translating the entire passage instead of just a few words. Below is the original, my translation and a link to the three other translations done by real translators:
Pasmo sempre quando acabo qualquer coisa. Pasmo e desolo-me. O meu instinto de perfeição deveria inhibir-me de acabar; deveria inhibir-me de dar começo. Mas distraio-me e faço. O que consigo é um produto, em mim, não de uma aplicação da vontade, mas de uma cedência dela. Começo porque não tenho força para pensar; acabo porque não tenho alma para suspender. Este livro é a minha cobardia.
I always astonish myself when I finish anything. Astonish and distress. My perfectionism should prevent me from finishing; it should prevent me from even beginning. But I am distracted and I begin. What I make is a product not of an application of will in me, but of a surrendering to it. I begin because I have not the focus to think; I finish because I have not the courage to stop. This book is my cowardice.
And of course, the three professional translations.
Note: the extract should read alma para suspender as I have it above, not alma oara suspender as the linked-to website has it.