The Curmudgeon


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch

A brave man named Michael Russell has undertaken the massive task of providing English-speakers with a full translation of Karl Kraus' monstrous magnum opus, The Last Days of Mankind. Previous translations have been abridged, and even tidied; the version in the Karl Kraus Reader is commended as an "eminently performable" three-act drama, an achievement on a par with turning out an "eminently tasteful" version of Voyage au bout de la nuit. I am a little nervous about some aspects of Russell's translation; notably the rendering of Nörgler as "Begrudger", which seems both unidiomatic and infelicitous, and the preservation of Kraus' rhyme schemes in the verse, which will almost certainly involve numerous triumphs of metre over spirit. But of course every translation requires certain sacrifices, an armistice of meanings; the best one can hope for is a negotiated piece. Still, in victory or defeat, Russell's valorous enterprise will surely help to mitigate the nightmare of pious nostalgia which will undoubtedly mark the centenary of the First World War.


  • At 8:18 pm , Anonymous Michael said...

    I hope you'll bear with me. What's on the website is very much work in progress - condensed and shortened but still, hopefully, substantial. It's partly about finding out what works for putting the complete text together. On the verse, well, some does (work) and some not so much - and I will not stick to Kraus when the form doesn't - though he doesn't move far from basics in verse, in forms that are familiar enough. As an Irishman I'll live with English begrudgery about a word that's dear to all Irish hearts daily! Curmudgeonly is, of course, all to the good - it will feel as if Kraus was at my ear; he would have hated every little bit! I would advertise what I am doing as with luck readable, with a fair wind readable aloud - but please God never, never 'eminently' anything!

  • At 10:29 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    Oh, I'll bear with you all right. The Wikipedia link to your site was the best news I've had since discovering that someone had finally translated Stanislaw Lem's Summa technologiae into English. I'm not so sure Kraus would have disapproved of the enterprise - he did, after all, do a fair bit of translating himself, including Shakespeare - though I've no doubt he would have given plenty of helpful advice. I look forward to further instalments and the full version, and then you can get going on Dritte Walpurgisnacht.

  • At 12:20 pm , Blogger Weltbuehne said...

    I've just come across this link, and my first reaction is awe. More power to your elbow, sir!

    I write a blog of translations, including some Kraus, but more Tucholsky ( Dead tricky, but long overdue.


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