quinta-feira, setembro 10, 2009

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

I finally got round to trying the English translation of "Der Zauberberg" (by H.T. Lowe-Porter). By chance I came upon it in the FNAC bookstore, and I bought it.

It's also been recently published the first European Portuguese translation of this book made directly from the German ("A Montanha Mágica" by Gilda Encarnação), and I thought it would be a good idea to read the English translation prior to that. I've wanted to do that for a long time.

To do this I had first to read the original, because I wanted to have it crystal clear in my mind. I still feel that nothing comes close to it. I had read it in German some time ago. Now it was the time to renew its acquaintance in the original...

Unfortunately the English translation by H.T. Lowe-Porter came up short. The translation is very stilted and heart-brokening for me in consequence. An example from the very beginning of the book (page 4):

"An unassuming young man was travelling, in midsummer, from his native city of Hamburg to Davos-Platz in the Canton of the Grisons, on a three weeks’ visit.
From Hamburg to Davos is a long journey—too long, indeed, for so brief a stay. It crosses all sorts of country; goes up hill and down dale, descends from the plateau of Southern Germany to the shore of Lake Constance, over its bounding waves and on across marshes once thought to be bottomless."

The original:

"Ein einfacher junger Mensch reiste im Hochsommer von Hamburg, seiner Vaterstadt, nach Davos-Platz im Graubündischen. Er fuhr auf Besuch für drei Wochen.
Von Hamburg bis dort hinauf, das ist aber eine weite Reise; zu weit eigentlich im Verhältnis zu einem so kurzen Aufenthalt. Es geht durch mehrerer Herren Länder, bergauf und bergab, von der süddeutschen Hochebene hinunter zum Gestade des Schwäbischen Meeres und zu Schiff über seine springenden Wellen hin, dahin über Schlünde, die früher für unergründlich galten."

Problems with the english version:

• The translation of the word "Gestade" is not properly conveyed in English. "Der Gestade" projects us back in time, whereas the word "shore" is sufficiently common and conversational in English not to to be able to transports us to another epoch;
• Omission of "zu Schiff" (by boat) in English, which spoils the general effect of the sentence;
• The first and second sentences are integrated into a single one, rendering by that process a compactness of the sentence structure in English, loosing the poetic and incantatory charm of the German version.

More problems found while plodding along:

• Rearrangement of the original's sentence structure;
• Omission of words present in the original;
• Adding up of words not present in the original;
• Omission of adjectives.

It goes without saying that I wasn't able to finish the English version...

I'm looking forward to reading the Portuguese version. I hope it brings justice to the original.

We need an European-Portuguese version that it’s not found wanting. As soon as I get round to read it, I'll post something here.