This is the twelfth 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 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 last part of these four.
[…]; und stürzte er endlich aus dem äußersten Tor – aber niemals, niemals kann es geschehen – liegt erst die Residenzstadt vor ihm, die Mitte der Welt, hochgeschüttet voll ihres Bodensatzes. (Kafka 1994, 282:1–4)
[…]; and if he were to burst out at last through the outermost gate – but it can never, never happen – before him still lies the royal capital, the middle of the world, piled high in its sediment. (Kafka 2011)
[…] – nay ang pragongya panca manga agonan kunangyēa pang-vā ikan – nārya amangoyreng tadoy – ang yomongyo tarela ayromitan marin yāy, Terpeng Mavayena, sang nujyos deng idaseri avan sitang-yona.
‘[…]; and if he would finally tumble out of the very last gate – but this will never ever happen – still the residence city, the Center of the World, which has been poured full with its own sediment, would still be in front of him.’
Notes on translation
Words that had to be made here were prag- ‘to tumble’ – which is coincidence and not related to the German name of Kafka’s home town, Prague, since I wanted a word that sounded somehow tumbly to me – and idas ‘dirt’, which I derived from the adjective of the same shape and meaning. Kunangye is also taken to mean ‘gate’ here, not just plainly ‘doors’, which is the definition of kunang that is in the dictionary, to wit, the entry to a house. I’ve translated “die Mitte der Welt” (Kafka 282:3–4) as a title here, “Terpeng Mavayena”, which is used attributively, so that terpeng ‘middle’ is not inflected for case. As for grammar and style, I used a double negation for emphasis in “amangoyreng tadoy”, which I have never done before. However, I think it fits quite well here.
- 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›