Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lost in translation, part 94

The Guardian follows up John Carey's speech condemning the lack of new foreign translations by asking "some experts" for recommendations. Unfortunately, the last person one should ask, after John Carey himself, is the only one to nominate THREE names. Of course, not one of my pet names is mentioned.

Apropos of this, I thought, despite the many books I have already on the go, I would read Thomas Bernhard's Extinction again, for the fourth time. So I read the first page, with its long, exquisite, wrenching opening sentence. After that, the narrator goes on to list five books he wants his pupil to read. I realised that three of them don't seem to have been translated: Jean Paul's Siebenkäs, Robert Musil's The Portuguese Woman and Broch's Esch or Anarchy. At least, I couldn't find any editions.

The other two are Kafka's The Trial and Bernhard's own Amras, the latter of which can be found in the recently-published (though not in the UK mind) Three Novellas.


  1. It's not as bad as you think. Esch, the second part of Broch's Sleepwalkers trilogy, is reduced to The Anarchist in the Penguin version. However, Musil's story, originally part of Drei Frauen, becomes one of Five Women, I think, in the English version with the addition of a couple of stories. Whether anyone reads them is another thing entirely.

  2. Thanks Michael. And I remember the Jean Paul thing appearing in a compedium of his work; out of print now.



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