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The Mountain Wreath (tr. 1997)

Commentary about translation

Note on The Personé (to the reader and translator)

First of all, you need to read the Introduction by Mr. Mihailovich to understand what kind of work is in the background of this translation. “The Mountain Wreath” is impossible to be translated in all its' beauty (Mr. Mihailovich: “... neither James W. Wiles nor myself have completely succeeded in reproducing the artistic and musical quality of Njegosh's work ...”) so, any judgement from that point of view will be very wrong. Otherwise, there are very important issue which is overjumped by translator and I hope that my comments will not be taken on the wrong way: I just need to say:..


Inaccurate translation of Serbian names (Personé). The names of all heroes that are very important. Old translation (the first Mountain Wreath in English from 1930 by James W. Wiles) did that job much better (with few small mistakes only: “Vuk” vs. “Voukota” etc.). Translator [V. D. M.] hadn't one rule for all Serbian voices. The worst (quasi-; pseudo-) standard of new Serbian writers (and “writers”) who are living on the west, have been used. Serbian letter [Ч] transliterated to [C], [Ш] to [S], [Ћ] to (also!) [C] etc. It has been done (I guess) because of visual similarity with latin symbols for letters above as Č (ie. C), Š (ie. S) and Ć (ie. C). But, visual perception of letter, in many languages has nothing to do with their pronouncing. Serbs have the rule: one symbol (letter) — one voice so writing rules are very close (the same as) to pronouncing rules but that is not the case in relation between English orthography and English pronouncing. Some (additional) job with all of that had to have the place. For example:

For example:

  1. Y vs. J vs. I(i)
    1. Raya, Bayazit ...
    2. Bajko, Janko, Milija ...
    3. Voivode, Mustai, Mihailovich ...

      In Serbian language, letters {Y}, {J} and {I[i]} in all words above have the same pronouncing. So, do follow any standard you choose but do not mix-it.

  2. C vs. CH
    1. Batric, Lovcen, Brankovic, Micunovic ...
      • a) Letter {c} (all words in the line above) should be read close to {ch} as Charley (or charm, cheek etc). It is Serbian letter {cyr.: [Ћ · ћ]} ie. {lat.: [Ć · ć]}. Author of translation could write that names as “Batrich, Lovchen, Brankovich, Michunovich” or to use apostrophe for diacritical mark simulating as “Batric', Lovc'en, Brankovic', Mic'unovic'” or to use latin letter by itself as many people do when translating some known names or international terms like César, République, régime... so, line above should read: Batrić, Lovćen, Branković, Mićunović ... At the current moment, Serbian language have two official alphabet: “c'irilica (cyr)” and “latinica (lat)”; disadvantage of course (must be c'irilica only) but that kind of disadvantage which have few positive sides. So use them. He [translator] needed to tell to western reader that {c} in that words is not the same {c} as in words Captain or city.
    2. Krstac, Momcilo, Potocine ...
      • b) Similar case but much easier because pronouncing is not too specific. Letter {c} should be read exactly as {ch} as Charley (or charm, cheek etc). It is Serbian letter {cyr.: [Ч · ч]} ie. {lat.: [Č · č]}. Translator could write the line above as “Krstach, Momchilo, Potochine” or to use latin letter by itself: Krstač, Momčilo, Potočine.
    3. Bjelice, Cetinje, Herceg, Krilatica, Podgorica ...
      • c) Serbian (Russian, cyrillic...) letter {Ц · ц}. In transliteration used in Slavic countries, it is written at the same way (here mentioned because of the comparision only). West pronouncing will be something like {ts} as in (in German): “Zitaten” or “Mozart” or, as Mr. Mihailovich used it in his Introduction in the word Tsar (“Russian Tsar Peter III”) etc.
    4. Crnojevic, Kosancic, Crnogorcevic ...
      • d) As far as better... we, Serbs, in our language, have many words with combination of some (or all) letters above as in the line 4. How western reader could read that? No way of course. Should be written as: “Crnojevich, Kosanchich, Crnogorchevich” or “Crnojevic', Kosanchic', Crnogorchevic'” or “Crnojević, Kosančić, Crnogorčević”... any previous way is better than that one in this version of “The Mountain Wreath”.

      Small note: the translator family is Mihailovich — not Mihailovic. So, what is better: {Micunovic, Momcilo, Herceg, Kosancic...} or {Mic'unovic', Momchilo, Herceg, Kosanchic'...}.

  3. S vs. SH
    1. Djuraskovic, Drasko, Mandusic ...
    2. Bishop, English, Pasha, ashes ...
      • It is Serbian letter {cyr.: [Ш · ш]} ie. {lat.: [Š · š]} and is very diferent (in pronouncing) from the letter [S]. Letter {s} in the first line should be pronounced on the same way as letter-combination {sh} in the second one so, the first line should be written (obligatory of course, as everything above) like: “Djurashkovic', Drashko, Mandushic'”.

      “Petrovic Njegos” must be “Petrovich Njegosh” (or “Petrovich Nyegosh” as James W. Wiles, with high accuracy and problem importance deep understanding wrote in 1930th or even “Petrovich Negosh” but not “Petrovic {any-thying-you-like-here}egos”). I can't understand... in the words “Mihailovich” and “Bishop” everything is so clear... and it was the strong tip (hit) that translator didn't catch.


Instead of “SIRDAR”, word “SERDAR” should have the place. And why “POP MICO” in Dramatis personae but “FATHER MICO” in the text? And why “FATHER MICO” instead of “PRIEST MIC(H)O”? Njegosh could write “Otac Micho” but he wrote “Pop ...”. And why “Voivode” instead of “Voivoda” (or “Vojvoda” if “Janko” is the name of another hero...). Translator wanted to be close to old Slavic pronouncing? In Vojvoda case only?.. eh...

The names, their spelling, alphabet (pronouncing...), especially in the ultimate work (with strong language and writing style connotation!) as “The Mountain Wreath” undoubtfully is, are very important. If we [Serbs] don't care about our own names, transliterating them in the work that is close to our Bible, who else should? Today, for us, culture (means language and alphabet and their presentation out of our country) is one of the most important issues. Interesting that one Englishman in 1930th [Wiles] understood that but Mr. Mihailovich (and his publisher) didn't. I am sure that translator will not like to see the next phrase written on the way below:

     “Петар II Петровиц Негос
     . . .
     ... а у руке Мандусица Вука
     бице свака пуска убоита!”

or, as worse variant, words: Петровик; Мандусика; бике.

Hereinafter is the same translation of Mr. Mihailovich, edited by me (The Mountain Wreath 1997), taking in account all mentioned above and with some minor changes in the format to make it closer to the original (The First Edition), prepared by Njegosh himself and printed in Armenian Mechitarist monastery (Vienna, 1847).

Dragan R. Laban.
Mar. 8th, 2005, in Moscow, Russia.

P. S.

In 2004, Mirko Radojichich wrote small but very exact and nice article about mixing two alphabets: Croatian latinic and cyrillic in one language (our language: Serbian). And about the difference of visual perception (writing) and pronouncing. Here it is: M. Radojichich: Latin-script and Serbian names: “Zvati_se_Vik” (Serbian language only).