Publié le mardi 8 juillet 2003 par admin_sat , mis a jour le dimanche 8 août 2004

Henry V in Esperanto ? The newest translation of a major literary classic to appear in the International Language is selling fast among speakers of Esperanto across the world. The work of translator Humphrey Tonkin, a British-born English professor living in the United States, Henriko Kvina, as it’s called in Esperanto, is a labor of love. “I studied this play when I was growing up in England. Laurence Olivier’s film was one of the first films I ever saw,” Tonkin comments ; “I admired the play’s poetry, its eloquence, its action. Why not render it in Esperanto, for all the world to read ?”

It’s hardly a first for Shakespeare : seventeen of his plays exist in Esperanto, beginning with Hamleto, dating from 1894, soon after the language was created in Warsaw by the young oculist Lazar Ludwik Zamenhof. The play has been performed in Esperanto several times. In fact, there’s a lively theatrical tradition, and even a Shakespearean tradition in Esperanto : as early as 1910 As You Like It was presented in Esperanto in Washington. The most recent production ? King Lear in 2001 in Hanoi, Vietnam, in a translation by well-known Esperanto poet, the Hungarian Kálmán Kalocsay. “Esperanto is easier for the Vietnamese to learn than English,” says Tonkin, who teaches Shakespeare at the University of Hartford. “Why not bring major world classics to them in this way ?”

Nor is this translation a first for Tonkin. A noted stylist in Esperanto, his translations into Esperanto include poems by Wallace Stevens and a share in a translation of Winnie-the-Pooh. Most recently he translated the Esperanto memoirs of the father of noted financier George Soros into English (Tivadar Soros, Masquerade, Arcade Publishing, 2001).

At a time when Americans seem to have turned sour on the French, is the moment really right for a play about how the English defeated its traditional enemy ? “In a lot of ways,” says Tonkin, “this is a play that questions war and examines the reality that would-be strong leaders often cut corners with the truth. Henry wins the battle, but his successors lose the war.”

“Ho, venu muzo fajra kaj ascendu / Chielon briloplenan de invento,” as Shakespeare would have said if he’d spoken Esperanto....

Publication date : April 2003
ISBN 92 9017 083 2
Review copies and further information :
Website :
Universala Esperanto-Asocio, Nieuwe Binnenweg 176, 3015 BJ, Rotterdam, Netherlands