Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Walser and Bernofsky

There's a lovely essay by Benjamin Kunkel on Robert Walser in the August 6, 2007, issue of The New Yorker. Check it out, but more importantly, read Walser. He's good for you.

Kunkel raves about my German-English translator colleague Susan Bernofsky's translation of "The Assistant":

'Walser’s clerks and layabouts are perhaps the nicest, most considerate people you can meet in modernist fiction, but they can also be cuttingly ironic in the way of only the very polite: that “cozy” bridge to sleep under, that “masculine and human” rationality. Susan Bernofsky reproduces this effect and others with impressive fluency and naturalness, and she must also have enjoyed dusting off words like “swillpot” and “thunderation.” It’s only too bad that, for want of such a translation, Virginia Woolf never learned that the desire she expressed in her 1919 essay “Modern Fiction” for a more impressionistic and less narrowly empirical modern novel, a novel of floating sensibility rather than fixed characters, had been, to such a remarkable degree, anticipated a dozen years earlier by a Swiss writer living in Berlin.'

Swillpots and thunderation! Actual praise for a translator in an article about a translated work!

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