Imperial Messages VI – “… ang bidisaya arilinya itingley …”

This is the second 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.

The text

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 second.

[…]; findet er Widerstand, zeigt er auf die Brust, wo das Zeichen der Sonne ist; er kommt auch leicht vorwärts, wie kein anderer. (Kafka 1994, 281:14–16)

[…]; every time he meets resistance he points to his breast, which bears the sign of the sun; and he moves forward easily, like no other. (Kafka 2011)

[…] – ang bidisaya arilinya itingley, ang mapaya ninaya hevenya yana sijya telbānley perin – saylingyāng kovaro naynay, ku-ranyāng palung.

Interlinear glossing

[gloss][…] – ang bidisa-ya arilinya iting-ley, ang mapa-ya ninaya heven-ya yana si-ya-ya telbān-ley perin – sayling-yāng kovaro naynay, ku=ranya-ang palung.
[…] – AF obstruct-3SM someone way-P.INAN, AF point_at-3SM messenger chest-LOC 3SM.GEN REL-LOC-LOC sign-P.INAN sun – progress-3SM.A easy also, like=nobody-A different.[/gloss]
‘[…] if someone stood in his way, the messenger pointed at his chest on which the sun-sign was; he also got on easily, like nobody else.’

Notes on translation

“To meet resistance” is such a nice idiom, I almost wanted to steal it. Let’s not do that! The German text has finden ‘to find’ here (Kafka 1994, 281:14) instead of the more current treffen auf ‘to meet upon’. After some thinking I decided to use a phrase: Ang bidisaya arilinya itingley ‘If someone blocks the way’. This is also a nice parallel to the merengye bidis ‘obstructing walls’, which were mentioned earlier: just like the walls are torn down to clear the view and spread the word, the messenger overcomes resistance from individuals in the crowd to get the Message out to its recipient. A new word is sayling- ‘to progress’, which is from sayling ‘further’.

As far as morphophonology is concerned, the relative pronoun complex sijya ‘in/at/on which.LOC’ is interesting in so far as it is a contraction of *siyayaREL-LOC-LOC’ that I introduced here: the plural marker -ye combined with a case marker that begins with a vowel or -y, like e.g. -angAGT’, -asPAT’, -yamDAT’, already contracts to just -j-, as I described in an earlier blog posting of March 2011. The decision to do this with -yaya as well, but only if both parts are grammatical suffixes, is thus rather consequential. Since this feature does not occur in previous texts, let’s assume it’s an acceptable variant.

Of syntactic interest is the rather literary conditional construction without conjunctions in this passage, which is similar to the equally literary variant of conditional phrases used in the German text, although with a twist: unlike German, which inverts the order of subject and verb in this case (“findet er” instead of “er findet”, cf. Kafka 1994, 281:14), Ayeri does not change the word order, so the fact that it is a conditional clause must be inferred from context.

  • 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. ‹›