Berichte vom Anglophonen Tag 2002 in Straelen

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Straelen (sprich: Strahlen, es handelt sich um das berühmte rheinische Dehnungs-e) ist ein Städtchen am Rande unserer Republik mit mehr Blumen als Einwohnern (wie Organisations-Multitalent Reiner Heard betonte), Stammsitz des Tiefkühlspezialisten bofrost und heimlicher Mittelpunkt der world of literature. Diesen Mittelpunkt konnten wir am Freitagnachmittag besichtigen: Das Europäische Übersetzer-Kollegium Nordrhein-Westfalen in Straelen e.V.
Von außen eher unscheinbar versteckt sich das EÜK hinter einer hellgelben Fassade in einer gepflasterten Straße nahe der Kirche. Aber schon zwei Schritte hinter der Eingangstür geht es los. An allen Wänden entlang stehen Regale mit Büchern, 105 000 sind es zurzeit. Dr. Regina Peeters, Geschäfts- und Fremdenführerin des Kollegiums, erläutert die Geschichte, die Finanzierung und den Zweck der Einrichtung. Die öffentlichen Gelder schaffen einen Rahmen, in dem Literaturübersetzer aus der ganzen Welt arbeiten können. Sie finden Computer, Nachschlagewerke und kollegiale Unterstützung. 30 Appartements stehen als Wohnraum zur Verfügung, auch hier sind alle Wände mit Büchern voll gestellt. Da kann man in der Theologie schlafen oder bei den Russischen Werken. Und wer nachts dringend etwas recherchieren möchte, muss halt einen Kollegen wecken, um sich an seiner Bücherwand zu bedienen. Nicht immer bleibt es bei diesen ehrenvollen Absichten …

Spätestens nach der Diskussion über die Vergütung von Literaturübersetzungen und die Ausführungen von Radovan Charvát zu dem Thema wissen wir, warum früher Übersetzungen in Klöstern verfasst wurden. Dort erwartete man nicht mehr als Gottes Lohn für die Bemühungen – und viel mehr gibt es auch heute nicht. Da ist es schon verständlich, dass im Übersetzerkollegium die Bibliothek zwar den Mittelpunkt, nicht aber das Herzstück der Einrichtung darstellt. Das ist wohl eher die Küche, in der das Weinschwein fleißig gefüttert wird, damit beim gemeinsamen Futtern auch das Nachspülen nicht zu kurz kommt. Welche Kreativität von Zeitnot geplagte und von knapper Kasse beschränkte, in babylonischer Ausnahmesituation befindliche Menschen abends noch in der Küche entwickeln können, ist im EÜK-Kochbuch „Über Seezungen“ eindrucksvoll dokumentiert (siehe Rezension). Das Werk befasst sich, wenngleich am Rande, auch mit den Recherchebedürfnissen in Sachen Zutatenbeschaffung.

Über das Wie und Wo, besonders aber auch über das Warum der literarischen Recherche referierte Dr. Peeters am Samstagmorgen am Tagungsort. Wer sind Betty Crocker und Ty Cobb (in dieser Zusammenstellung eher ungewöhnlich), wer wirbt mit dem Spruch „Packen wir’s an“ und wann sollte der Übersetzer „Tesafilm“ statt „Scotch-tape“ schreiben? Die Botschaft hörten wir wohl, allein einigen Teilnehmerinnen fehlte der Glaube an die Notwendigkeit wochenlanger Recherchen zu einem Namen, dessen Bedeutung vielleicht allein deswegen im Verborgenen liegt, weil sie nicht existiert.
Ungleich eingängiger waren da die Ausführungen von Dr. Abdel Salam Ismail, der über die besonderen Probleme bei der Übertragung englischer und deutscher Literatur ins Arabische sprach. Der beabsichtigte Weckeffekt nach der Pause wurde durch den Vergleich von Übersetzungen und Frauen zwar erreicht (entweder schön, dann nicht treu oder treu, dann nicht schön), wäre aber gar nicht nötig gewesen. Das geneigte Publikum verzieh schnell und folgte den Ausführungen aufmerksam. Neben den allgemeinen lexikalischen und syntaktischen Problemen entstehen durch die ganz unterschiedlichen Kulturen besondere Probleme. Die Übersetzung der Worte „Schwarzbrot, Dauerwurst, Glatteis oder Türkenschwein“ ist nicht in erster Linie lexikalischer Art. Vielmehr gibt es diese Dinge nicht im arabischen Sprachraum. Für Schwarzbrot oder Dauerwurst mag das nicht tragisch erscheinen, ja vielleicht noch nicht einmal bedauerlich sein. Aber was ein Türkenschwein sein soll, muss in der Übersetzung des Werkes „Ganz unten“ von Günter Wallraff deutlich werden, ansonsten bleibt das Buch unverständlich. Anmerkungen, die in englisch-deutschen Übersetzungen möglichst unterlassen werden, sind hier an der Tagesordnung. Wird das Werk umfangreicher und bildhafter, wie König Lear, so schwellen die Erläuterungen auf die Länge von 47 Seiten an, die den arabischen Leser erst in die Lage versetzen, den Text zu verstehen.

Nach dem Mittagessen stand „Truths and falsehoods perpetuated by literature“ auf dem Programm. Der etwas dröge Titel bereitete die nicht Eingeweihten, deren nicht viele dort vertreten waren, in keinster Weise auf die bühnenreife Darbietung vor, die Sally Lamm und Jadwiga Bobrowska zum Dessert servierten. Nach dem Quiz zur Reanimation der schläfrigen Hirnzellen räumten die Damen gnadenlos auf mit großen Lügen und kleineren Unwahrheiten aus der Literatur. Der Erfinder von Dracula war nie in Rumänien, tschechische Schriftsteller erfanden eine vergangene literarische Hoch-Zeit und legten so den Grundstein für“wieder-„erwachendes Selbstbewusstsein. Der immer wieder beschworene Londoner fog existiert schon lange nicht mehr und das Landleben scheint in eine eigene Daseinsform mutiert zu sein, die so nie war und heute schon gar nicht mehr ist.

Einen (k/b)ritischen Blick auf die Deutschen um 1900 gewährten Stellen aus „Three Men on the Bummel“ von Jerome K. Jerome. Selbst stellenweise aufkeimende Selbsterkenntnis konnte die durchschlagende Heiterkeit nicht ernstlich gefährden. Soweit befasste sich der Vortrag mit der allgemein zugänglichen Literatur und kann daher gefahrlos wiedergegeben werden. Aber dann kam Janice und plauderte über ein Erlebnis, das sie kürzlich mit ihrer Mutter hatte. Dies weiter zu erzählen verbietet die Höflichkeit, denn dem gemeinen Klatsch geben wir uns nicht hin. Nur so viel: Janice’s Mum mag keinen Euro, keine Franzosen und wir denken noch drüber nach, ob wir sie wirklich mögen…

Die Nachfolge im Programm trat Sue Young an, die über „EU translation and jigsaw puzzles“ referierte. Neben der Schwierigkeit, in Texten aus der Industrie die EU-Terminologie überhaupt zu erkennen und das festgelegte Vokabular zu verwenden, ergeben sich besondere Schwierigkeiten aus den oft aufgeblähten, umständlichen oder gar nebulösen Formulierungen der Ausgangstexte, z.B.: All fish exhibited a 100% mortality. Die FIGHT THE FOG Kampagne bekämpft diese sprachlichen Wucherungen und schlägt stattdessen vor: All the fish died. Das von Sue Young vorgestellte Buch „Translating for the EU institutions“ ist, neben vielen anderen Hilfsmitteln und Websites, auf ihrem Hand-out zu finden. Die Hölle und die Heinzelmännchen bemühte John D. Graham zum Abschluss des Tages, um über die „Localisation of literary texts illustrated by the translation of lyrics“ zu sprechen. Während in der Bibel ursprünglich 25 verschiedene Worte für „Hölle“ existieren, benutzt die englische Übersetzung nur ein einziges. Eine Unterscheidung verschiedener Höllen ist in unserer Sprache nicht mehr möglich. Die Übertragung des Heinzelmännchen-Gedichts ins Englische (für japanisches Publikum!) hingegen ist möglich – wenn man die Übersetzung am Rhythmus und am Reim festmacht. Der Beweis wurde vor Ort angetreten und war durchaus überzeugend.

Bei herrlichem Wetter am Sonntagmorgen brach ein Autokorso mit 15 der Teilnehmer des Anglophonen Tags in Richtung Bedburg-Hau bei Kleve auf. Nach einem kleinen Schlenker erreichte man das in einer schönen Parkanlage gelegene Schloss Moyland.

Auch für diejenigen, die keine Beuys-Anhänger waren, erwies sich die sachkundige fast zweistündige Führung durch die dortige ständige Ausstellung als recht aufschlussreich. Anhand einzelner Werke versuchte die gelernte Archäologin – wie sie sagte – die Tür ein bisschen aufzumachen. Sie erläuterte die Fett-und-Filz-Legende und die Form-und-Nichtform-Philosophie des Künstlers. Es wurde klar (bzw. bestätigt), dass man die Werke von Joseph Beuys ohne das nötige Hintergrundwissen nicht würdigen kann.

Mit vielfältigen neuen Erkenntnissen in beruflicher, sprachlicher und auch künstlerischer Hinsicht trat man dann am frühen Nachmittag die Heimreise an.

Jutta Profijt

Hier ein weiterer Bericht einer Teilnehmerin, der im Netzblatt des German Network (GerNet) unseres britischen Schwesterverbands ITI erschien

When the first notification of this year’s Anglophoner Tag appeared, there was quite possibly a feeling amongst at least some members of the various translators’ associations involved (ITI GerNet/DTT/ATICOM /BDÜ/IOL German Society) that the literary focus of the gathering might not be particularly relevant or interesting for them as non-literary translators, and that Straelen (“wherever’s that??”) was not necessarily a place they would be tempted to visit in the same way that Cologne or Berlin have attracted participants in previous years. I personally certainly set off for the weekend with both these thoughts in the back of my mind. But being a ‘veteran’ of four previous Anglophone Tage, I was confident that I would nevertheless come away feeling glad that I had taken part, enriched by the experience, and heartened by the renewal of contact with colleagues who, over a period of five years, have become friends. I can honestly say that in none of these expectations was I disappointed.

The actual theme of any Anglophoner Tag is of course significant, but its real value lies in the ‘Kollegialität’ engendered by its extra-curricular aspects: the anecdotal exchange of experience, enthusiastic sharing of knowledge, and sheer pleasure generated by stimulating social banter with like-minded fellow professionals persuaded to abandon their desks for a day or two and emerge into the ‘real world’.

For the uninitiated amongst our readership, the aim of these gatherings is once a year to bring together fellow translators working with German and English at an attractive venue in either the UK or Germany, for purposes both professional and social. Five organisations are now involved in these events – no fewer than four separate German groups as well as our very own GerNet – and each organisation takes turns to act as host. This was the eighth Anglophoner Tag, and was organised for the first time, and with great efficiency, by ATICOM, a fairly recently founded ‘newcomer’ which seems to be already well established as a spin-off group operating confidently alongside the others. It will be GerNet’s turn to host in 2004, whilst next year’s venue and date are already fixed: Goslar next May (23 – 25). This will be organised by the DTT, and preliminary details can be found elsewhere in ITI’s Netzblatt. Numbers attending these events vary considerably, but remain at a ‘comfortable’ level (i.e. 30 – 60), meaning that social contact is easy and friendships are rapidly established.

But enough of ‘self-promotion’; to the detail of this year’s meeting. Over a period of a day and a half, “The World of Literature” revealed to us a translation environment which many of us felt could almost be described as a parallel universe. Friday afternoon’s tour of the EÜK took us down a Carrollian ‘rabbit-hole’ into a cocooned haven of intellectual bliss for those who delight in the combined agony and ecstasy of finding means of converting leading authors’ masterworks into a form which allows them to be appreciated by readers who are not only speakers of another language, but also natives of another culture.

The EÜK was established in 1978, the eventual outcome of an idea dreamt up by a group of literary translators who met to share experiences and offer each other moral and practical support over the period of one weekend each year. They felt that this was not long enough, and drew up an ambitious proposal for a live-in centre with ample research facilities and a calm atmosphere, where literary translators from all over the world might come to work and live, free of charge. The proposal was submitted to all the Bundesländer, and it was the offer from Nordrhein-Westfalen of a base in Straelen which proved most attractive. Regina Peters, the centre’s charismatic PR ‘supremo’ and library manager, explained to us with a wry smile that, given the size of the quaint little town and the range of distractions it has to offer, it was felt that translators living in Straelen would, quite simply, find little to divert them from the task in hand …

And so the Centre came to fruition, formed by the amalgamation of a number of small adjoining cottages in the town centre. It normally houses about 20 translators at any one time, and certain sections of its 100,000-volume library have to be accommodated in each of the studio apartments in which the translators live. Another wry smile was evident as Dr Peters confided to us that the centre had been instrumental in the germination of a number of marriages … and sadly one or two divorces as well.

Translators come to stay from all over the world (the Spanish and Italians apparently signalling their presence with a marked rise in decibel levels in the communal kitchen/dining areas!) and spend between 6 weeks and 2 months working on a specific project. Those applying for places must have published at least 2 works, but German need not be a featured language. Grants are awarded to 100 applicants from Eastern Europe and the Far East each year who would not otherwise be able to afford to attend.

Frequent reference was made to the low level of earnings of literary translators – publishers normally offer a rate somewhere between 18 and 28 DM (no euro price was mentioned) per standard DIN page (30 lines of 60 characters), with an absolute ceiling of DM 35. This covers the initial read-through as well as all proof-reading and corrections, and is usually only payable when the project is almost complete. A share of the sales revenue is rare, although increasingly sought after by members of the profession.

Feeling relatively well paid by comparison as commercial translators, we were left wondering what drives this sub-set of our profession to continue to pursue their chosen path, when it is clearly never going to be financially viable. Nevertheless one cannot but admire their selflessness and must be grateful that there arepeople who are prepared to continue to struggle to bring the enchantment of Harry Potter to children of all nationalities and enable important authors like Jung Chang to become known around the world.

Friday evening gave us an opportunity to debate our various viewpoints, and much else besides, over a meal in the very traditional Gasthof Zum Siegburger, where we were joined by colleagues who had not opted to take part in the tour of the EÜK earlier in the day.

On Saturday morning the ‘formal’ talking began (although the atmosphere of an Anglophoner Tag is never really ‘formal’), with a few words of welcome from Reiner Heard, ATICOM’s chairman, and an introduction, for those who had not already met her, to Regina Peters, who talked to us about the EÜK, focussing on the role of research in the task of the literary translator. No more than a few seconds had passed before she mentioned what a fundamental change had been brought about by the general availability of the Internet. It’s hard to envisage a profession where the ‘revolution’ can have been more keenly felt or more gratefully received, given the infinite range of problem areas such as literary and historical references, place-names, brand-names, advertising slogans, book and song titles, obsolete or contemporary idioms, with which the literary translator has to contend in your average novel. One author cited as employing an ‘above-average’ range of such allusions is Günter Grass, but he is one of the few authors who takes an active interest in the translation process, to the extent of holding workshops where particular questions can be ‘aired’. A far cry from other authors who apparently show not one iota of concern as regards the rendering of their work into other tongues, including several writers who, thanks to their translators, have become celebrities in countries other than that of the language in which their works were originally written.

One valuable resource to which Dr Peters drew our attention was Digitale Bibliothek, currently celebrating its 5th birthday. This Berlin-based company produces classic works of literature, and more, on CD-ROM (to quote their strapline – “CD-ROMs für Menschen, die Bücher lesen”). For further information visit www.digitale-bibliothek.de.

Next to take the podium was a practising Egyptian literary translator, Abdel Salam Ismail, who works from English and German into Arabic. Dr Ismail painted a rather gloomy picture of his calling in his native country, where the profession of literary translation is simply not recognised, and criticism frequently has to be endured from laymen who believe they could have done better. Dr Ismail drew our attention to specific problems presented by translation into Arabic, such as completely different punctuation conventions which mean that considerable rewriting of European structures is needed in order to render them elegant and acceptable. But he highlighted cultural differences as the greatest problem – the simple example of the concept of ‘Glatteis’ for an Egyptian readership put into a nutshell the kind of difficulty that has to be solved – along with the complexity of the different registers of German spoken today, using the example of a Wallraff novel which uses Hochdeutsch, dialect and Gastarbeiter ‘pidgin’ German, for which it is well nigh impossible to find any equivalent in Arabic.

A leisurely break followed, during which we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch in the dining room of the conference suite in the Hotel Straelener Hof, our base for the day. And plenty of time afterwards for coffee and a chat (yes, and a smoke for those who needed it) outside in the glorious sunshine.

The immediately post-prandial ‘graveyard slot’, as it was dubbed by its occupants, fell to the by now familiar duo of Sally and Jadwiga (Lamm and Bobrowska). They promised us a ‘mixture of enlightenment and entertainment’, as per usual, and this they delivered stupendously well as they regaled us with ‘Truths and falsehoods perpetuated by literature’. With no thoughts of dozing off given a chance of entering our heads, we hurtled through fascinating reflections on the Essex background of Dracula, the surprising ‘reinvention’ of long-lost Czech literature, and England’s unshakeable image of lush, green rurality surrounding a permanently fog-shrouded capital city, to name but a few stops along the way.
But the highlight of their presentation was for me the revelation, by way of illustration of their theme, of Jerome K. Jerome’s sequel to “Three Men in a Boat”, namely “Three Men on a Bummel”. One might have thought this a spoof title dreamt up by our talented twosome for this event. But no. Unaware of the existence of this literary gem though I was before, I am now the proud owner of the little novel in question, and shall be purchasing numerous copies to send to friends around Europe (published in the bargain-priced Penguin Popular Classics series, I got mine for under 2 pounds through Amazon). If, dear reader, you are already acquainted with the sardonic style of the aforementioned tome, you have dispensation to move onto the next paragraph – I simply cannot resist quoting one or two extracts to demonstrate to the rest of you why I am so amused by Jerome’s observations, penned in 1900.

On the law-abiding nature of the Germans: “In a German park I have seen a gardener step gingerly with felt boots onto a grass plot, and removing therefrom a beetle, place it gravely but firmly on the gravel; which done, he stood sternly watching the beetle, to see that it did not try to get back onto the grass; and the beetle, looking utterly ashamed of itself, walked hurriedly down the gutter and turned up the path marked ‘Ausgang’.

On learning the language: “To Hanover one should go, they say, to learn the best German. The disadvantage is that outside Hanover, which is only a small province, nobody understands this best German. Thus you have to decide whether to speak good German, and remain in Hanover, or bad German and travel about.
On their sense of orderliness: “In Germany there is no nonsense talked about untrammelled nature. In Germany nature has got to behave itself and not set a bad example to the children.

After such a highly polished and entertaining presentation, the task of ‘following on’ fell to our own Sue Young. The title of her talk, “EU translation and jigsaw puzzles”, was intended to ‘tease’. She revealed that it was inspired by a comment made by a speaker at an EU workshop (GerNet member Keith Moffitt), that a passion for crosswords and jigsaw puzzles was a definite advantage in tackling the translation of EU texts. Sue found herself agreeing wholeheartedly and, being a devotee of both, it set her thinking, her thoughts subsequently being expanded into this very informative and helpful insight into this particular branch of our trade.

On the practicalities of obtaining work, she explained that most EU translation jobs are now placed via the Translation Centre in Luxemburg, and deadlines are often tight. It can be anticipated that the volume of into-English work will increase in future as enlargement leads to the adoption of ‘relay translation’, with English being used as the ‘pivot’ language for new Member States. This development will also, presumably, contribute to the current common problem of poor quality in an original text which may be authored in English or French, but not by a native speaker. The by now well-known “Fight the Fog” campaign promoted by the Commission Translation Service was initiated by Commission translators who were fed up with having to contend with over-lengthy, unclear texts and sought to convert the Eurocrats to the philosophy known as “KISS – keep it short and simple”.

Sue pointed out that much EU translation work is related to law in some way, and so a basic understanding of the relevant instruments and institutions is vital. She cited a wealth of fundamental facts, and a few typical pitfalls to be avoided, and recommended a book written by Emma Wagner, Svend Bech and Jesús M. Martínez, “Translating for the European Union Institutions”, details of which can be found on the very valuable sheet of information she distributed, including useful websites and book titles, which is reproduced here.

No Anglophoner Tag would be complete without an address of some kind in John Graham’s lilting Scottish tones, and on this occasion he was to share with us his views on the nature of what we define as ‘literature’, and its localisation. He quoted to us Victor Hugo’s assertion that ‘the novel’ to be defined as such must have a fixed focal point, be it a person, a date or an event, which is indeed an argument worthy of further contemplation.

But it was John’s illustration of ‘localisation’ of literature which gave us greatest food for thought – and downright admiration. Almost in passing he mentioned that he had produced for a client an English translation of the renowned rhyming fable “Die Heinzelmännchen zu Köln” in order to clarify the background of the use of the name “Kobold” for a vacuum-cleaner manufactured by Vorwerk. I gather that at the present time he is negotiating publication of his translation elsewhere, so we cannot, sadly, reproduce his wonderfully witty, alliterative, imaginative verses here. But in the fullness of time I hope Netzblattwill have the opportunity of featuring it, for the delectation of the wider audience it undoubtedly deserves. It was a complete revelation to those of us who always imagined his special field was machine tools …

The day ended with another highly enjoyable dinner at a different restaurant, and after-dinner drinks and conversation well into the balmy night (for those of us with the requisite staying power) at an outside café in the ancient market square. On Sunday morning there was an optional outing to Schloss Moyland, a neogothic castle not far from Straelen. I did not personally take part in this excursion, but I have it on good authority that it was a treat for garden enthusiasts, who delighted in the enormous park surrounding the castle and the extensive herb garden. The castle is used to host exhibitions, and the works of Joseph Beuys, demystified by a savvy guide, were there for the viewing by those who could drag themselves away from the sunny weather and horticultural diversions without its walls.

And so concluded another highly successful gathering. Many friendships refreshed, thoughts provoked, and experiences exchanged. And a mere eight months to wait until the next one!

Margaret Collier