Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Kabe (Conclusion)

Author: David Poulson
Published on:November 6, 1998

Kabe became active in the Esperanto movement in 1903 and between that date and his surprising withdrawal in 1911 his achievements were truly extraordinary. In 1906 he was already Vice-President of the "Lingva Komitato", the forerunner of the Academy of Esperanto,and also in that year he published his Vortaro. This was a dictionary but not a two-way dictionary, ie Esperanto-Polish, Polish Esperanto. In the Vortaro Kabe defined all the words in the Esperanto language, (now nearly 20 years old), in Esperanto. The definitions are very clear, very precise and very elegantly expressed.

To see a photograph of Kabe with other leading members of the Language Committee, go to: http://www-city.europeonline.com/home/zsiko/eo/falsigoj.htm

Grabowski is in the same photograph. Unfortunately,you will see that in a version of this photograph published in Z. Adam's Historio de Esperanto, published in 1912, Kabe has really disappeared! A disgraceful and inexcusable bit of censorship, but an indication of how shocked and angry at least one contemporary Esperantist was at Kabe's "defection"! Fortunately the truth will out.

(Suite 101 has its own Topic devoted to Censorship and Banned Books, written by Rick Russell, and you will find it at: http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/censorship_books).

In 1907, Kabe published his translation of Boleslaw Prus's great novel The Pharaoh, an epic story of Rameses XIII and his brave but doomed struggle to reclaim the power of the Ramides Pharaohs from the all-powerful Egyptian priesthood, and avert the impending collapse of the XXth Dynasty.

How Kabe managed this enormous amount of work in so short a space of time is a mystery to me. I have a copy of La Faraono myself and am re-reading it at the moment. There are three volumes which contain just over 950 pages. I think that any kind of translation of such a huge book done so quickly and out of, not into one's own native language would have my respect. But this wasn't just any kind of translation: it was a great translation!

Kabe's language in <="" i=""> is pure, clear, simple, elegant and free from all characteristics of the original Polish. The "spirit" of Esperanto, ie its true international quality, lives and breathes throughout the whole work and the sentences are perfectly balanced, with every word in its proper place, and easy to read. Following Kabe's example, writers of classical Esperanto now do not use the word "unu" to indicate an indefinite article ("a" or "an"), and also avoid the use of complicated compound verb forms to express past tenses.

Thank goodness! (A ponderous English expression such as, "Having been informed that..." is translated in Esperanto as "Informig^ita, ke..."

La Faraono was re-published in 1957 (this is the edition I was fortunate enough to obtain) and it still remains the definitive model of classical Esperanto prose style, as well as being a great story. (Believe me, a book of nearly a thousand pages has to be good before I undertake to re-read it).

Kabe firmly believed that, during this early period of Esperanto, translations were more important than original work. I was surprised at first when I learned this, but Kabe's explanation is convincing. He said that a writer of an original piece will always be able to extract something out of himself to get his meaning over. He simply will not use difficult expressions or will substitute for them something easier. A translation of a great work, on the other hand, confronts the translator with challenges which must be met.

This insight helps us to understand the motivation which drove Zamenhof to undertake the very difficult and laborious work of translating such works as the Old Testament, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and a four volume translation of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy stories. And it may help to explain, at least in part, the reason why Kabe abruptly ceased his work in and for Esperanto. Like Zamenhof, he was a perfectionist and a tireless worker but unlike Zamenhof he was not driven by one, driving obsession. The duality of Kabe's nature meant that he could entertain many negative (and probably well-justified) feelings about the Esperanto movement and some of its adherents, and besides his main ambitions lay outside of this field of endeavour.

However, being a perfectionist and being the sort of person he was, I imagine that for Kabe it was a matter of all or nothing. If he were not to continue as President of the Polish Esperanto Association, Vice-President of the Language Committee and a translator and prose stylist of the very first rank, he would cease all activity connected with Esperanto completely. To scale down his efforts and take a less active and less prominent part did not sit comfortably with this brilliant, energetic and complex personality. He would rather just turn his back on Esperanto. And, whether or not my explanation is correct, that is, in fact, exactly what Kabe did. As mentioned in my previous article he excelled in his profession and turned to photography as a recreational pursuit but, fortunately, not before making an invaluable

contribution to the development of an authentic Esperanto literature.

Although Kabe himself "kabeis" the legacy he left behind did not.

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IN ENGLISHPAGHOJ EN ANGLA LINGVO
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