Imperial Messages VIII – “Ya sahongyāng simil apan …”

This is the eighth 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

Öffnete sich freies Feld, wie würde er fliegen und bald wohl hörtest Du das herrliche Schlagen seiner Fäuste an Deiner Tür. (Kafka 1994, 281:17–19)

If open country stretched before him, how he would fly, and indeed you might soon hear the magnificent knocking of his fists on your door. (Kafka 2011)

Ya sahongyāng simil apan, āh, ang nunaya ku-vipin nay ang pətangongva ankyu haruyamanas nanang megayena yana kunangya vana.

Interlinear glossing

[gloss]Ya saha-ong-yāng simil apan, āh, ang nuna-ya ku=vipin nay ang pə-tang-ong-va ankyu haru-yam-an-as nanang mega-ye-na yana kunang-ya vana.
LOCF come-IRR-3SM.A land wide, oh, AF fly-3SM like=bird-P and AF IMM-hear-IRR-2S truly beat-PTCP-NMLZ-P great fist-PL-GEN 3SM.GEN door-LOC 2S.GEN[/gloss]
‘If he came to the wide land, oh, he would fly like a bird and you would indeed hear his magnificent beating at your door very soon.’

Notes on translation

No new words had to be coined here, though I should add ‘magnificent’ as a meaning of nanang ‘great’. Both the German and English passages have “fly” here (cf. “fliegen” in Kafka 1994, 281:18; Kafka 2011) which for some reason I felt necessary to clarify as a metaphor by turning it into a simile in my translation. Notably, ku-vipin ‘like a bird’ is used here as an adverb, not as a noun phrase like earlier ku-ranyāng palung ‘like nobody else’, which is why there is no case marking here. Furthermore, I wrote haruyaman ‘beating’ instead of haruan ‘beat(ing)’ because I wanted to emphasize the process of beating as an incomplete action. This is possible here because the word is not topicalized and neither is it marked as a dative, which would also require haruyamanyam ‘beat-PTCP-NMLZ-DAT’ to become haruanyam ‘beat-NMLZ-DAT’ (the participle marker -yam is derived from the dative case ending -yam).

  • 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. ‹›