Monday, August 29, 2011

Lost in Translation?

After today's class, I became intrigued by translations of literature, particularly for The Tin Drum. So, once again I began looking around on the internet and found this video of Gunter Grass and Breon Mitchell:

It's a bit hard to understand Grass in the beginning, but if you listen carefully you can hear him comment on the problems of translating the Danzig slang he uses in the novel. For example, later in the video Mitchell begins speaking about how he had a lot of trouble trying to place his finger on a synonym for the Danzig word "girl" other then "girl," because it didn't sound quite right.

I think this really poses the question of how true translated literature can really be compared to its original form. We can't possibly learn every language of the world so translations will just have to do. A citation regarding the novel says, "Mitchell makes us aware that even good work, such as Ralph Manheim's respected earlier translation, bears improvement..."( This just goes to show that translations can never be one hundred percent like the original.


sara pendleton said...

I think the huge diffrences between the new copy and the old copy are also intresting. I felt like everytime Mrs. King read a quote it was like they were reading from a totally diffrent book. I mean so many little changes (from the black cook/witch to syntax changes) make a really big diffrence. The translations were so vastly diffrent it makes me wonder how accurate they could possibly be to the german.

ParkerC said...

I don't think translation for a novel such as The Tin Drum is very important. Maybe a short story and definitely poetry, but this novel has a lot of major themes that I think are more important than the fine details.

alyb said...

I like sara's point that the two books we had in clast were vastly different, espicially with the black cook thing that she mentioned. As we discussed in class the black witch is an important figure in fairytales, where as the black cook is not. Im not really quite sure about the point Grass was trying to make by adding the black witch to his story, but in our book we definitly couldnt pick up on his meaning because she was referred to as "the black cook".