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Translating German Novellas into English

A Comparative Study


Marc J. Schweissinger

Translation of fiction is always interpretation. This book discusses the challenges facing translators of fictional works from German into English using as examples English translations of canonical German novellas by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theodor Storm, Gerhart Hauptmann, Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka.
The author addresses the difficulties of translating in the poststructuralist era, when every fictional work potentially has a large number of interpretations and, therefore, at least the same number of possible translations. Considering interpretations of the original text in detail not only improves the reader’s understanding and ability to criticize the translated text, but it will also provide valuable insight into the possible intentions of the writer. An initial linguistic observation of a target text can therefore lead to a fruitful connection between the linguistic and literary analysis of translated works. This book offers new perspectives on the delicate negotiation of translating source texts for a contemporary audience while maintaining the values, ideas and hidden meanings from the source in relation to its original époque.
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Preface and Acknowledgements


This book has been written for multiple purposes; it is written for profound thinkers, scholars, intellectuals, and students of literature who study German literature as a foreign language, as well as for students of translation, translators and would-be translators. My aim from the beginning was to evaluate translation on a much higher level than has been the case so far. Translations of canonical literary works are hardly ever discussed, or only cursorily in prefaces, introduction, short notes or epilogues. That translation can have a great impact on how the source text is perceived in the foreign culture is hardly ever mentioned. This book will make the case for a careful consideration of translated literature and argue against the idea that they are mere replications of the source text. Moreover, any translator or student of translation studies is always concerned with choices she or he has to make, to convey the work to the target culture. With this book, I intend to give the translator some tools to deal with a source text, and discuss choices she or he can make translating the original and how this might affect the perception by the reader of the translation and the original.

In listening to public speeches, university lectures, seminars, or classes at the secondary school, high school or grammar school level, we accept too quickly the idea that literature in translation has the same value as the original and is supposed to be an equivalent in reality. This...

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