A new judge, Charles Riddell, asks for a translation of a French poem by Gisèle Vallerey – Vallerey (1889-1940), born Juliet-Marie Chandon, is still widely read – but not for her poetry. She was a highly successful translator of English classics into French for children (Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and many others). She used a variety of pseudonyms, but Vallerey was her married name (her husband was another translator, and a science fiction writer). Since she was only 39 at the time this competition was set, it is just possible that she was known to Riddell. Her poem’s title means ‘Struggle’
Riddell gets into an enthusiastic excitement about this poem, which he reckons is as good as Racine, and had a particularly great last line, after a stready crescendo. So he is more than a little huffy about the struggles the competitors have had with the poem, ad the last line in particular. The end result is a narrow first victory for L.V.Upward (Leslie Vaughan Upward), who has been edging closer for a while. Second is A.J.Perman.
Translations, and not always from extant languages, were a staple of competitions of the time, and continued to be. Unless memory fails me, the last person to set a New Statesman translation competition was Derek Mahon, the Northern Ireland poet who was briefly deputy literary editor in the second half of the 1980s. (It was a sixteen-line French sonnet, and I think quite possibly by Mallarmé.) Here is Upward’s effort:
Riddell spots that he’s missed out the first half of line 7. Here is Perman’s shot:
As I’ve suggested before, the writers, readers – and judges – of The Week-end Review are firmly of the Georgian persuasion. Interesting that both the winners use the not-everyday phrase ‘the morrow’s task’.
26B is another particularly literary endeavour., with a French twist. Shakespeare and Moliere meet ‘in the Elysian fields’ and discuss Comic Acting. As Riddell remarks, it’s odd that the competitors tended to depict Shakespeare as the champion of comic buffoonery (not much evidence of the spirit of the speech of Hamlet to the players, or of Shakerspeare’s alleged objections to Will Kemp, then). The winner is Non Omnia, one of the signatories of the letter printed in the first edition of The Week-end Review. Second prize goes, only after some serious thought, to W.G. Here are their efforts: