Thursday, 14 August 2008

Translator on Translation ... in Translation?

The Secret Informer, let's just call him IM King, has been at it again. He has - unwittingly, I suspect - something to add to Brave New Words' interesting post on Books with Translators. In fact IM King recommends not just a book with a translator in it, but a book about the relationship between an author and his literary translator, written by a literary translator. It's Hans-Ulrich Möhring's Vom Schweigen meines Übersetzers. My informer tells me it's a "brilliant novel" - I personally started it and got bored almost instantly, but don't let that put you off. Dorothea Dieckmann, author of Guantanamo, is very impressed in her review in the NZZ. Two very different personalities clash and the (patient) reader apparently learns a great deal about their cultures, their languages and their work. Note the interesting style, not entirely atypical of German reviews:

Between the wealth of stations through which the narration passes – the material and technical plains of the work of translation, the mountains of linguistic theory from the German romantic tradition and the wilds of European modernism to Tibetan lotsawas, the low valleys of history – wends the river of language, on which the translator conducts his business as a ferryman between the two banks.

Arggh! It's foreign rights catalogue translation season for me right now, so that quote is a bit of a busman's holiday I'm afraid. Anyway, it would be interesting to see a book written by a translator about a translator in translation, don't you think? Quite a challenge...


kjd said...

My informer has corrected his use of the word "brilliant":

The book "has several very strong passages that moved me to use the above adjective; however on the whole, in retrospect, it does not succeed as a novel."

I'm rather disappointed to have gained the upper hand in our dispute, I have to admit.

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