This is the first half of the fifth posting in a series on the process of translating the short story “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft” by the Praguer writer Franz Kafka (*1883, †1924). The individual installments will go through the text mostly sentence by sentence, quoting from the German text as well as a translation of it into English. Following these quotations, I will discuss and comment on newly coined words and thoughts I had on grammar while doing the translation.
This is a rather long sentence (though not the longest of the piece yet!), so I’ve split this passage into two parts. This is the first.
Der Bote hat sich gleich auf den Weg gemacht; ein kräftiger, ein unermüdlicher Mann; einmal diesen, einmal den andern Arm vorstreckend schafft er sich Bahn durch die Menge; […] (Kafka 1994, 281:11–14)
The messenger set out at once; a strong, an indefatigable man; thrusting forward now this arm, now the other, he cleared a path though the crowd; […]. (Kafka 2011)
Ang saraya edauyikan ninaya sasanyam: ayonang mico nay pisu tadoy – ri tiya itingley manga luga ikananya pinkasān tinuna patameng yana menanyam, tinuna nuveng yana palunganyam – […]
‘The messenger immediately left for the road: a strong and never tired man; by pushing (out) his right arm once, his left arm another time, he made a path through the crowd; […]’
Notes on translation
Following the pattern of the previous stages, let us have a look at words first. Potential difficulties were posed by “unermüdlich” (Kafka 1994, 281:12) or “indefatigable” (Kafka 2011), respectively. Instead of making up a new word, I chose to translate this straightforwardly as pisu tadoy ‘never tired’. A word I had not expected to be missing from the dictionary was ikanan ‘crowd’, which is a nominalization of ikan ‘much, many, very’. “Vorstrecken” (Kafka 1994, 281:13) or “thrusting” (Kafka 2011), respectively, made me think a little, too, and in the end I chose to use pinka- ‘to push’ for this purpose. I chose to use the habitative aspect for this verb because this action would go on habitually for a while, until the messenger would have left the crowd behind.
As for grammar, “einmal diesen, einmal den andern Arm vorstreckend” (Kafka 1994, 281:12–13) was slightly tough to deal with and I chose to name the arms by their sides, right and left, and use menanyam ‘once’ and palunganyam ‘another time’ instead of repeating the word for ‘once’, for stylistic purposes. An interesting grammatical feature in this passage is the use of manga ‘MOT’, which is an auxiliary preposition in a way, and which makes otherwise stative prepositions like luga ‘among’ active, i.e. have a sense of motion, so manga luga as a compound means ‘through’.
- Kafka, Franz. “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft.” Drucke zu Lebzeiten. By Franz Kafka. Eds. Wolf Kittler et al. Frankfurt a. M.: S. Fischer, 1994. 280–82. Print.
- ———. “A Message from the Emperor.” Trans. by Mark Harman. NYRblog. The New York Review of Books, 1 Jul. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2012. ‹http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/jul/01/message-emperor-new-translation›