This is the fourteenth 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.
Du aber sitzt an Deinem Fenster und erträumst sie dir, wenn der Abend kommt. (Kafka 1994, 282:6–7)
You, however, sit at your window and dream of the message when evening comes. (Kafka 2011)
Ang nedrasava nārya silvenoya vana nay ri sitang-tivāng budangas mangan tadayya si apanjo perinang.
‘You, though, sit at your window as usual and create the message yourself with a dream when the sun descends.’
Notes on translation
One interesting thing I can think of to comment on for this passage is the habit of both nārya ‘but’ and naynay ‘also’ to differ slightly in meaning depending on their position in the phrase. If nārya precedes the verb it works as a concessive adverb with a contrastive meaning – essentially, ‘but’. If it follows the verb like in case of today’s sentence, however, it has a stronger antithetical meaning: ‘however, though’. Similarly, naynay, literally ‘and-and’, preverbally has a meaning of ‘and also’, while postpositioned means something more like ‘furthermore, in addition to that’.
Note also that Ayeri does not like to introduce relative clauses with question pronouns like English does, which is exemplified here by how “wenn der Abend kommt” (Kafka 1994, 282:7; “when evening comes”, Kafka 2011) is relativized as a noun-phrase construction with the regular relative pronoun si connecting the attributive main clause: tadayya si ‹CLAUSE› ‘time-LOC REL ‹CLAUSE›’.
A notable difference between the German and English translation in this sentence is that in German, the message is created by the recipient within a dream by and for themselves since the messenger won’t come (cf. Kafka 1994, 282:6–7), while in English, the message is merely dreamed about, as though it was general knowledge (Kafka 2011).
Other than that: We’re through! This was the last sentence in the text. On Saturday there’ll be a round-up, in spite of the Easter holidays.
- 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›