06 June 2013

Sebald's ideal translator

Admittedly, he did not say too much. He was not always listening, often dozing during the papers and discussions that were so revealing to a greenhorn like me. Sebald’s appreciation of literary translation was, it has to be said, rather grudging. The highest praise I heard all weekend from Sebald was in a discussion of – what else? – the challenge of translating long German sentences into English. Sebald was adamant that these long sentences can be translated. What really annoyed him was when the beginnings of clauses used ‘that’ rather than ‘which’ as a conjunction, a failing he found in the new collected translations of Borges. Yet as proof that translators can find the right mechanisms to delay the end of the sentence’s flow he cited the translations of Heinrich von Kleist into English, saying they were “sehr ordentlich” (“as they should be”).

– "Among Translators: W.G. Sebald and Translation" by Anthony Vivis, Christine Wilson and Stefan Tobler, introduced by Jo Catling, in In Other Words, Issue 38 [download link (pdf), via]

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