Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scrupulous Germans? Nein!

Reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in German translation, Stolze und Vorurteil by Ilse Krämer, I was struck by an observation that even the German translators are not scrupulous in fidelity as they ought to be.

I made such discovery in Chapter 5 when "Mein Gott" was uttered by Mrs. Bennet. I don't remembered that she cried out "My God" in Pride and Prejudice, therefore I compared the translation to the version I have and then with an online version, and discovered more sloppiness and laziness, and even unforgivable incorrectness.

Below are a few examples from the first five chapters alone. Jane Austen wrote short chapters. For such a short novel, she divided the texts into sixty-one chapters.

In Chapter 3, in the ball, Mr. Darcy commented on Elizabeth Bennet as "tolerable", yet the German translation gave us "leidlich hübsch", namely "tolerably pretty". It is correct, in essence of its meaning, but not the way of expression. This was repeated in Chapter 5, when the Bennet women and Lucas women discussed the ball.

The example of a grave incorrectness is at the beginning of Chapter 3. English version says: "To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained."

German: "Wer gerne tanzt, ist schon auf halbem Wege, sich zu verlieben. Die kühnsten Hoffnungen in Mrs. Bennets Herzen fanden Nahrung."

Jane Austen described a general excitement amongst Misses and Mrs. Bennet in the hope of winning Mr. Bingley's heart. The German translation made us believe that it is a hope in Mrs. Bennet's heart we are witnessing being stirred.

However correct this particular translated sentence in broad stroke, it is utterly wrong.

Scrupulous Germans? Nein!

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