(urth) BotNS in German

Hmpf MacSlow hmpf1998 at gmx.net
Sun Dec 5 15:01:06 PST 2004

>I'm just curious if that word, and others that Wolfe is using, could be 
>said to be slightly more 'common' in English than they are in German, or 
>if they're just as obscure.

I just thought of one thing that seems to indicate that 
'Barbakane/barbican' may be more obscure in German than in English: the 
fact that my English-German dictionary (PONS Globalwörterbuch in two 
volumes) does not know the word 'Barbakane' - I tried to look it up in the 
German-to-English volume - but *does* know 'barbican'.

This, of course, would confront the translator with an interesting 
conundrum: choose the exact translation, 'Barbakane', and risk that (if 
cases like that are frequent) the resulting German text will be hugely more 
obscure to German readers than to English readers; or choose an approximate 
translation that will lose the special flavour but possibly convey the 
meaning better to German readers? I've always held that, even or perhaps 
especially in the light of my not understanding quite a few words in 
TBotNS, these words still were essential to the book's effect. Like Elvish 
and other strange languages in Tolkien's works, the obscure and archaic 
words in Wolfe's help to create *atmosphere*, they help to make Urth feel 
strange, different from our present world, but real, as well. Since they 
are real words that even if we do not understand them anymore carry a kind 
of diffuse memory of past times, they also give us an impression of the 
depth of time. I wouldn't want to lose that in a translation, but on the 
other hand, I wouldn't want a German version of the text be that much more 
inaccessible than the original...

Well... fortunately for me, I'm only doing this translation for myself and 
not for other readers. This way, my decision doesn't really carry that much 
weight. *g*


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