Re-thinking on Grass

Briefly following up on Tobias’ post below: DeLong has re-thought and amended his remarks on G?nter Grass.

(Thanks, Henry, for the pointer.)

For what it’s worth, I didn’t think much of the translation that DeLong had to go on. It’s serviceable, but it loses Grass’ rhythm, tone and more. Just as one example, it translates Dummkopf as “naive.” Considering that sentence is the one that talks about 17-year-old Grass’ belief in German victory in 1945, using a word as soft as “naive” could easily lead to a false impression among people not already familiar with his history. Why not just leave in Dummkopf? I think that most New York Times readers have a pretty clear idea what the word means. If it had to be translated, why not “idiot” or “fool”?

I don’t want to tear the translation apart, but between the timing issues that Tobias raises and the mediocre translation, misunderstandings about what Grass was up to by people who don’t know his work that well become much more comprehensible.

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About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

One thought on “Re-thinking on Grass

  1. This might be a valid explanation if Brad had given the article a semblance of a fair reading. But it’s quite apparent from the sections he didn’t cross out that his modus operandi was to get pissed off, then to go back and scan the article for even the flimsiest support for his preconceived notion. The translation might have been sloppy, but to blame it for Brad’s outburst is to blame the flea for the rabid dog.

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