Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Translating Jelinek

Much has been made of Nicholas Spice's favourable article on Elfriede Jelinek in the London Review of Books. It is very much worth taking the time to read, very well informed and interesting. But people seem to have picked up on what is little more than an aside, Spice's criticism of Martin Chalmers' translation of Gier/Greed. In fact, Spice goes into barely any detail, condemning the translation without naming a single flaw by name - just as he fails to name the translator, perhaps out of a false sense of politeness.

If you're actually interested in the art of translating Jelinek, take a look at the website of the Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre at the University of Vienna. The site features essays in German by eight of the author's translators, including the irrepressible Lilian Friedberg, who has translated several of Jelinek's plays into American English. In fact, you can access several English translations (although none by Martin Chalmers) via Jelinek's own site (scroll down to 2007 and 2008 on the left). But remember - no quoting! Elfriede doesn't approve...


David said...

Translating Jelinek strikes me as "mission impossible". Nearly every sentence contains some play on words or a literary allusion that only works in German. I take my hat off to any translator that takes on such a daunting project.

BTW, today's New York Times contains a something very rare and wonderful: a review of a new Heine translation.


kjd said...

Thanks David! I'll put that link in big letters at the top to celebrate this unusual occasion.