Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Franzen and Kehlmann Do Kraus

I don't know what it is that fascinates me so much about it - maybe the fact that two very famous writers would enjoy the same nerdy pastime as myself. But the German press is also rather excited by the idea that Jonathan Franzen is translating the Austrian satirist and media critic Karl Kraus, with the aid of the Austrian literary poster boy Daniel Kehlmann.

The two of them gave a presentation on Karl Kraus the other day at Tübingen University, where Franzen is currently visiting eminent poet or something. According to the Schwäbisches Tagblatt, however, they didn't actually talk much about the translation process. It turns out Daniel Kehlmann had a job with the Karl Kraus dictionary project as a student (although presumably not the insults section, judging by Kehlmann's writing). And Franzen read Kraus at university too - trying but failing to translate him at the time. So when Kehlmann skipped watching Elke Heidenreich review his book on TV four years ago to meet Franzen, the two gelled.

As far as I can tell, they seem to be working on the essays "Heine und die Folgen" and "Nestroy und die Nachwelt". Where and when they may be published is a mystery to me. But the whole project is no doubt a boon on the sales front, perhaps making Jonathan Franzen a kind of literary David Hasselhoff who can do no wrong in Germany. His forthcoming novel Freedom allegedly has a German aspect to it too.


Lyn said...

Franzen appears to have translated Wedekind, too - Frühlings Erwachen. Did he also have help?!

kjd said...

Don't know whether he had help, but Michael Orthofer writes of it in The Complete Review:
"Jonathan Franzen's translation is certainly adequate, and captures the spirit of the play well enough."

I know he speaks good enough German to get by, and he did study German literature (a while back).

Harvey Morrell said...

Next thing you know, Clive James will be writing an essay on their effort (and telling them where they erred).

kjd said...

Or indeed that other British-based entertainer-translator, Rory Bremner.