Imperial Messages XI – “… nay viturongyāng …”

This is the eleventh 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 again a rather long passage, so I’ve split this into four parts, still to be published semi-weekly to stay on schedule. This is the third part.

[…] und gelänge ihm dies, nichts wäre gewonnen; die Höfe wären zu durchmessen; und nach den Höfen der zweite umschließende Palast; und wieder Treppen und Höfe; und wieder ein Palast; und so weiter durch Jahrtausende; […] (Kafka 1994, 281:24–282:1)

[…]; and were he to succeed at this, nothing would be gained: he would have to cross the courtyard and, after the courtyard, the second enclosing outer palace, and again stairways and courtyards, and again a palace, and so on through thousands of years; […]. (Kafka 2011)

[…] – nay viturongyāng, le gamarongyāng ranya – sa rua lugongyāng mandayye – nay pang mandayēa, samanas mitanyena si midaytong – nay ehenyeley nay mandayjas sayling – nay mitanas menikaneng – nay edāre manga luga pericanyēa samang – […]

Interlinear glossing

[gloss][…] – nay vitur-ong-yāng, le gamar-ong-yāng ranya – sa rua luga-ong-yāng manday-ye – nay pang manday-ye-ea, sam-an-as mitan-ye-na si miday-tong – nay ehen-ye-ley nay manday-jas sayling – nay mitan-as menikaneng – nay edāre manga luga perican-ye-ea samang – […]
[…] – and succeed-IRR-3SM, PF.INAN manage-IRR-3SM.A nothing – PF must pass_through-IRR-3SM.A court-PL – and behind court-PL-LOC, two-NMLZ-P palace-PL-GEN REL surround-3PN.A – and stair-PL-P.INAN and court-PL.P further – and palace-P another – and this_way MOT among year-PL-LOC myriad – […][/gloss]
‘[…]; and if he succeeded, he wouldn’t have managed anything; through the courtyards he would have to pass; and beyond the courtyards, two palaces which surround it; and further stairs and courts; and another palace; and thus for myriads of years; […]’

Notes on translation

Today’s passage is an admittedly rather large chunk compared to earlier passages, but most of it is just an enumeration, which is not terribly difficult to deal with. No words needed to be coined or extended here.

As far as syntax and grammar are concerned, I could have sworn that it should be mandayēa epang ‘court-PL-LOC after’, with a postposition, instead of (e)pang mandayēa ‘(after/)behind court-PL-LOC’ with a preposition, but even in my jumbled handwritten notes I could not find anything to that effect going as far back as 2007.

A grammatical intricacy that tripped me up was the last words of this passage, “durch Jahrtausende” (Kafka 1994, 282:1), respectively “through thousands of years” (Kafka 2011). For one, Ayeri counts in units of twelve, and the word for the third power of twelve is literally ‘ten-hundred’, which is rather uncatchy here. Since the next larger unit is the fourth power, or a myriad, I went for that term because ‘hundred’ felt too weak. In addition to this decision, Ayeri usually does not inflect nouns modified by numbers or measure adverbs for plural. Without plural inflection in “pericanyēa samang”, however, the noun phrase would simply mean “a myriad of years”, but not “myriads of years”, as is intended here. In order to take plural inflection, the numeral could be nominalized and then pluralized, so that you would get samanganyeley pericanyena ‘myriad-PL-P.INAN year-PL-GEN’, which is quite a mouthful and more similar to the construction used for ordinal numbers. Thus, I decided to keep the original order with the number as a modifier, but with the modified noun exceptionally pluralized.

  • 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. ‹›