Monday, February 14, 2011

Read it in the original

No translation should ever be regarded as an adequate substitute for the original. Any literary translation is successful only if it directs attention to the original and makes access to it seem desirable. The editor still remembers a bar mitzvah present he received almost five decades ago in the city where Karl Kraus had died but a few months previously: a selection from the Hebrew poetry of Chaim Nachman Bialik in German translation. let an adaptation of the final message of that book's translator conclude these remarks: "Learn German, gentle reader, and read Karl Kraus in the original!"
-- Editor Harry Zohn, in his introduction (p.27) to In These Great Times, a Karl Kraus reader published by Carcanet Press in 1984. Emphasis mine; the image above is taken from the same books.

While one is acquiring sufficient Hebrew to read Bialik and German to read Kraus in their original languages, the translated writings available in editions by Penguin and University of Chicago Press, respectively, are a good place to start for a taste. (Cross-posted from The Wonder Reflex)


A.Z. Foreman said...

Or read my own translations of Bialik at this link

Karl Kramer said...

It is an ongoing debate whether literature and of course especially poems are "translatable". But then there are examples of translations that might actually add to the original, that might introduce a pun or a play on words that could not be rendered in the source language. Translators, I think, can be able to feel and to understand the writer (not in every case of course) and to render what he or she wanted to express without losing any of the message such as the amazing Turkish translation of Virgina Wolf “To the lighthouse” by Naciye Öncül.