Have you ever tried to read Ulysses

DIE ZEIT / Feuilleton, No. 6, January 30, 1976, pp. 33-34

Title: "Difficult to scream - How the new translation of Joyce's colossal novel came about"

© 1976 DIE ZEIT and Dieter E. Zimmer

 

 

 Difficult to scream

By Dieter E. Zimmer

 

TO THE DOOR he had pinned a Joyce photo, and when he passed it in the morning on the way to the work table, he would shake his fist in his face. "Given the difficulty of the translation, I was so resigned at the beginning that I was really angry with the book and the man," says Hans Wollschläger. Joyces had it for eight years Ulysses employed, four of them exclusively. Now that the new German Ulysses finally available in print, the anger has subsided. Wollschläger still feels far removed from the human Joyce; but his first anxious question to the reader of his German version is: If you tell her that the Ulysses is a really big book?

June 16, 1904: two Dublin citizens spend an uneventful day. One: Stephen Dedalus, a twenty-two-year-old poet, his pockets empty, his head crowded with far-flung education from his Jesuit upbringing, and also full of a haughty, harsh rejection of his Catholic-nationalist-provincial homeland. The other: Leopold Bloom, a thirty-eight-year-old advertising acquirer, curious about the practical things in life, what appears to be a banal, good-natured, idiot man who has shaken life. A common day in Dublin: people work little, walk around a lot, observe, think, make mistakes, discuss, eat, not to forget: drink. Stephen and Bloom meet in the evening: the elder brings the younger from a brothel fight to safety, the normal person the genius, the practitioner the artist, the father the son, Odysseus the Telemach.

The barren story turns out to be the richest of all, enough for a thousand pages of a novel. Firstly, because it is accompanied by a meticulous reconstruction of what we would say today, the Dublin scene of that day: a city portrait of unique accuracy. Then, because in their quiet progress the innermost characters are slowly turned outwards: a deep portrait of the soul. And finally, because it is related in a relaxed but multiple way to the wanderings of Odysseus and other monuments of Western cultural history (Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare, Vico): a historical portrait of the Occident.

The novel is so full of realities, full of interrelationships between its motifs, full of allusions and quotations, that a busy philological industry has been hunting for symbols and meanings for over half a century with no end in sight. Joyce was of the opinion that literature should be made of the most ordinary stuff and not rely on spectacularly dramatic occurrences. The Ulysses is proof of that. He enriches the trivialities of everyday life in a city on the edge of Europe with so much meaning that they acquire a mythical quality. Ulysses- Readers visit Dublin today like classically educated ghosts visit Troy.

That is how colossal the one published in 1922 stands out Ulysses from the literature, not only of this century, that the usual superlatives will be put to shame. The "book of the century", "the world book of our time" - what does that mean? Joyce biographer Richard Eilmann called it the most difficult of all entertaining novels and the most entertaining of all difficult novels. The Joyce researcher Jean-Jacques Mayoux wrote that in no other book has a person ever given a similarly large amount of information about himself. Arno Schmidt attested that it was "not readable to the end of Anglo-Saxon". "I wish, for my sake, I had never read it," wrote T.S. Eliot in 1921 after reading the manuscript to Joyce as if he were personally threatened.

At that time the Ulysses to more normal minds, especially as a shock: as "the most obscene book in world literature". The American magazine Little Reviewwho preprinted parts of it was drafted as "obscene, lewd, lascivious, dirty, offensive and disgusting". No English publisher dared to print the novel. So he appeared in Paris and from there penetrated to the clairvoyant spirits of the world. The first specimens were smuggled across the Canadian border into the USA; It was not until 1933 that District Judge Woolsey lifted the ban in his historic judgment: Ulysses, he decided, was by no means obscene, but nothing less than the draft "of a new literary method for the observation and description of mankind".

The Ulysses still looks like the total novel, in which all possible novels, including the "more recent" ones, are already contained and in a certain way exhausted in advance: desolate and delicate, open to the outside and inside, modern and steeped in the past. In this respect, as the French critic Edmond Jaloux wisely said, it is "above praise". It had unpredictable consequences, but no successor.

This impression of totality comes from, among other things, that Ulysses relates a radically new relationship to language. Here it is no longer just a tool for repeating a story: it itself is the subject of the book. Ulysses is, among other things, an encyclopedia of styles: from solemn heroic song, the idioms of theology, philosophy, natural science, commerce, politics, sport, journalism, through old and new realism, kitsch, vaudeville to the most broken slang. Joyce - that is above all a unique ear of speech that absorbs and processes all language stages and language layers.

 

That is why a superlative is definitely not wrong: Ulysses is the most difficult-to-translate novel in world literature - apart from its intensification, Joyce's late work Finnegans Wake; but that is beyond translatability.

A German translation of the Ulysses has existed since 1927; it was the first translation ever. The Zurich-based Rhein-Verlag had announced a competition at the time; Georg Goyert had won it. He went through the first 88 pages personally with Joyce, albeit cursory; later he asked a few (surprisingly few) written questions. The Goyert translation proudly bore the seal of approval: checked and authorized by the author. And one cannot deny Goyert even today: in view of his recklessness to deal with such a difficult text, which at the time was still completely dark even for English readers, also in view of his linguistic imagination. Only: Goyert's version did not give a sufficient idea of ​​the original. Arno Schmidt chaired her in the 1957 Frankfurter Allgemeine right, but too hard: "Ingeniously translated? A fraction. Technically useful ...: half. The rest? A satire on the grandiose original! We Germans don't yet know what it is Ulysses is! "

Goyert was initially to blame for his carefree fact-sloppiness. He made "the imperial British state" an imperial British state, which the United Kingdom must have been uncomfortable with. He shrunk a four-ounce can of tinned meat to a doll can of 40 grams. At one point is noted what an expander did to Bloom: Before it was used, his chest was 28 inches, then 29½; Goyert translates: "Chest 28, after breathing 29."

The fact that Goyert missed countless quotations and allusions diminished the value of his Ulysses decided, but with the level of clarification of the text at that time, it was hardly to be found against him; all the more, however, that it also barbarically destroyed obvious external qualities such as rhythm and intonation.

The penultimate chapter ("Ithaka"), written in the style of a scientific catechism, ends with one of the most poetic passages in literature: Bloom's small and yet large, generous spirit sinks to sleep: "... the child man tired, the man child in the womb. Mothers womb? Tired? He is resting. He has traveled. With? Sindbad the seafarer and Tindbad the tea maker ... "That's what Wollschläger now says. With Goyert, however, it said: "... the tired child man, the human child in the body. Body? Tired? He is resting. He has traveled. With? Sindbad the seafarer and Tindbad." He must have felt very close to himself at this point.

Before that, in the same chapter, there is the question of what success Bloom had "attempted to give direct instruction" to his wife Molly. Goyert: "She did not follow everything, but part of the whole, watched with interest, understood with astonishment, repeated carefully, remembered with greater difficulty, easily forgot, then later only remembered slowly, later only repeated incorrectly." Wollschläger gives the passage the appropriate syntactic and logical form: "She did not follow everything, only part of the whole, paid attention with interest, understood with astonishment, repeated with care, remembered with greater effort, forgot with ease, remembered too Doubts repeated with mistakes. "

One of the strengths of the Ulysses is the sheer extent of his vocabulary: It is estimated at 30,000 - whereas normal, thoroughly differentiated prose texts get by with a few thousand. Arno Schmidt sensed that Goyert had ten different shades of color with a "stereotypical red, boom! Red, boom! Red!" reproduced, flattening the text in such a way.

Wollschläger expands the accusation of stylistic leveling: Goyert did not notice "that Odysseus Bloom's wanderings take place in language, and not only 'too', but solely and exclusively". His main mistake was to level the whole book on a uniform tone, where the language relief would have to be worked out.

But for another reason, Wollschläger considers Goyert's translation to be inadequate Ulysses is "one of the most resounding joke books in literature".

 

It is remarkable enough that a new German translation could be undertaken at all. Importance and commercial viability have always been inversely proportional in the Joyce case. His life was in constant need of money; Without the self-sacrificing help of friends, his work could never have been created and published. And translations are usually seen as a necessary evil in German publishing; literary translators lead a poor existence.

When the Rhein-Verlag dissolved, he sold his rights to the Südwest Verlag. The Suhrkamp Verlag acquired the Joyce rights from him in 1966 for around 200,000 marks. In 1967 the plan for a new Joyce translation was drawn up: for the "Frankfurter Ausgabe", seven volumes in total, which now except for volume 4 (essays, poems, the drama Exiles, Giacomo Joyce and extracts from Finnegans Wake) are available. In about three years it should be a paperback cassette. It is accompanied by volumes of information and material; alone for Ulysses four to eight are provided. Since it is now available in citable form, the most important secondary literature can also appear; first the studies of Frank Budgen, Harry Levin, Richard Ellmann.

Siegfried Unseld, the director of Suhrkamp Verlag, was not satisfied with finding new translators: he appointed two editors for the new edition - Klaus Reichert, now a professor of English in Frankfurt, and Fritz Senn, the man "who knows everything about Joyce" .

Senner belongs to a species that is dying out: connoisseurs with a passion and without an associated job. As a young Anglist he bought his way Ulysses-Copy; he got stuck, began collecting Joyciana, came into contact with Joyce researchers, wrote a first essay about Joyce and his hometown of Zurich, where Joyce died in 1941, was one of the initiators of the international Joyce symposia, which take place every two years, gives one of the two Joyce magazines (Wake newslitter) and today owns what is probably the largest Joyce collection in the world. He laboriously earns his living as a half-day proofreader in a Zurich printing company. Joyce became a kind of substitute for life for him; he says so himself. The University of Cologne recently awarded him an honorary doctorate. But no university has so far found itself to make use of his knowledge and give him a lectureship; no foundation to take care of its collection as the core of a Joyce archive.

One of the obsessed, who forego all professional security on the fringes of the cultural scene, but whose renunciation lives on culture, also includes the translator Hans Wollschläger, one of the most brilliant we have today. He studied music (organ), but since he was alienated from his church, he didn't want to play for their church services either. A minor job at Karl-May-Verlag took him to Bamberg. Since then he has been trying to find free time for his own literary work. A 1000-page novel about the paranoid disintegration of a person has been in his drawer for thirteen years - no publisher can calculate the typographically complex gigantic work. In the meantime he has to translate for his life, so to speak. For the Ulysses He received about three times what is considered a good translator's fee today as it was twelve years ago, an enormous sum. It means that he did four years of hard labor for about 1,300 marks gross per month.

No wonder that everyone involved has the feeling that they have made sacrifices: the moderately paid editors, the translators, including the readers, who are responsible for the new one Ulysses 140 Marks, and last but not least, the publisher. A normal publisher's calculation stipulates that the author, translation and editing fees do not amount to more than 12 percent of the retail price. With a (daring) edition of 5000 pieces, the UlyssesIf it had been calculated in real terms, it would cost around 400 marks for the amount of translation and editing required.

There are good reasons why it has become common practice to complain about the sloppiness of the translators and the careless stinginess of the publishers (and the connection between the two). In that case it would be wrong. Everyone paid on it. Siegfried Unseld only states one fact when he says: "No country, not even England, is doing this with Joyce."

The Ulysses You don't translate by putting a sheet of paper in the typewriter and preparing a few dictionaries. For Wollschläger, the work began by reading this "book of discovery" over and over in order to develop a sense of style for the individual characters. "I had to try to live like Stephen or Bloom for a while." His "never flagging passivity", as he put it on Deutschlandfunk, came close to the loss of ego. At the same time, there were piles of secondary literature that he found unhelpful, graphic representations of the linguistic contexts, special languages ​​available - for example for the most difficult chapter for Joyce and his translator ("Oxen of the Sun"). Here medical students gossip and drink in the evenings in a maternity hospital while a woman gives birth to a child. Analogous to the development of the human embryo, language moves through nine time phases.In the German version, this language movement begins with a passage heavily colored in Middle High German (more difficult to read than the original - because German has undergone more drastic changes than English in the same period) and ends with an "afterbirth" of slang dirt. Seven hundred years of language development - nobody has that actively in mind.

Then a raw text was created. It was sent to Fritz Senn in Zurich, who provided it with the most abundant comments: not suggestions for translations, but references to factual difficulties that might have been overlooked. The disputed areas were discussed in writing or orally.

This collaboration was not without tension. Two completely legitimate but widely differing translation concepts collided here. Wollschläger did not want "a word translation based on grammar", but an independent German text, "a work of art in the German language". Senn and Reichert would rather see structures translated, correspondences, connections, even if the coherence and courtesy of the individual German positions would suffer.

In addition, Wollschläger is a man with a tremendous, but also extremely logical sense of language. It made it difficult for him to reproduce the language defects of the original, which he still does not consider entirely voluntary, with German language defects - he would have liked to improve Joyce every now and then, at least he would have liked to give him the "modal particles" that did not exist in English ( like "also") added, without which a German text doesn't sound really German at all. For a while he even toyed with the idea of ​​chanting the seventy-page, punctuationless, night monologue of Molly Bloom, with which the book ends, flowing from association to association, with commas. For Senn and Reichert, pedants in a different way, extreme faithfulness to the text was the top priority - including faithfulness to Joyce's style inconsistencies.

However, translators and editors met again with the conviction that there is no such thing as a complete translation, especially not with a book like this, that the translation can only be an approximation and can never really be finalized.

What is lost Bloom gets into the circle of nationalist pub politicians. They are the one-eyed "Cyclops". The first sentence of the chapter begins with "I" (I) and ends after three lines with "eye", the most important organ for this chapter. The sentence thus executes a circular motion. "Cyclops" - that is a combination of "kyklos" (circle) and "opsis" (eye); consequently it is contained in the structure of the sentence itself. In the German language, this underlying connection is simply impossible to express because of the disparity between "I" and "eye". Such secrets, however, are not a mere peripheral ingredient to the book; they determine its essence. Nor can it be reproduced that a spelling mistake by Molly Bloom in a letter turns "word" into "world" - a confusion that is extremely significant for Joyce's view of the world as language. The translator has to fit here.

In the next few years a Wollschläger-Joyce philology will come into play that will check his text and, because it thinks too briefly or actually discovers mistakes and as yet unrecognized allusions, calculates errors for him. You can't have stayed away at all. It will hardly be possible to diminish his performance.

 

What Wollschläger's version has ahead of Goyert's can be made clear here by a single passage. At the end of the terrifying "Oxen" chapter (the drinking buddies set off and remember the funeral of their fellow Paddy Dignam, who left poor half-orphans behind), the original is the opaque, desolate slang: "ruck and turn in. Schedule time . Nix for the hornies. Pardon? See him today at a runefal? Chum o yourn passed in his checks? Ludamassy! Pore picanninies! Thou'll no be telling met thot, Pold veg! Did ums blubble bigsplash crytears cos frien Padney was took off in black bag? Of all de darkies Massa Pat was verra best. "

Book like this that the translation can only be an approximation and never really lockable.

What is lost Bloom gets into the circle of nationalist pub politicians. They are the one-eyed "Cyclops". The first sentence of the chapter begins with "I" (I) and ends after three lines with "eye", the most important organ for this chapter. The sentence thus executes a circular motion. "Cyclops" - that is a combination of "kyklos" (circle) and "opsis" (eye); consequently it is contained in the structure of the sentence itself. In the German language, this underlying connection is absolutely impossible to express because of the disparity between "I" and "eye". Such secrets, however, are not a mere peripheral ingredient to the book; they determine its essence. Nor can it be reproduced that a spelling mistake by Molly Bloom in a letter turns "word" into "world" - a confusion that is extremely significant for Joyce's view of the world as language. The translator has to fit here.

In the next few years a Wollschläger-Joyce philology will come into play that will check his text and, because it thinks too briefly or actually discovers mistakes and as yet unrecognized allusions, calculates errors for him. You can't have stayed away at all. It will hardly be possible to diminish his performance.

What Wollschläger's version has ahead of Goyert's can be made clear here by a single passage. At the end of the terrifying "Oxen" chapter (the drinking buddies set off and remember the funeral of their fellow Paddy Dignam, who left behind poor half-orphans), the original contains the obscure, desolate slang passage: "Tuck and turn in. Schedule time. Nix for the hornies. Pardon? See him today at a runefal? Chum o yourn passed in his checks? Ludamassy! Pore picanninies! Thou'll no be telling met thot, Pold veg! Did ums blubble bigsplash crytears cos frien Padney was took off in black bag? Of all de darkies Massa Pat was verra best. "

Goyert made it, and he probably only advised: "He has put his thing on nothing. So right on time for the second. To the deubber with the informers. Pardon? Did you see him today at the Buddelhof? A friend of yours buried? Rescat! Poor little buggers You don't have to tell. Wept a lot about friend Padney slipping in a black box? Of all the nigger kids, Massa Pat was the allabest. "

With Wollschläger the spot is unrecognizable, it suddenly becomes so clear: "Tip it down, and off through the middle. Police hour. Just watch out for the polyps. I beg your pardon? Did I see him today at the funeral? Buddy of yours, did deregistered from the catering? Oh, my goodness! The poor brats! You don't have to tell me that, Poldy friend! Ham wa jeflennt like the lapdogs, because friend Padney was gone in the black box? Of all the chatter, Massa Pat was his best. "

So now the German reader can finally get an approximate idea of ​​what kind of book that is Ulysses - a mountain range of language styles. It is quite possible that the idea of ​​the real Joyce conveyed by Hans Wollschläger turns out to be one of the great linguistic achievements of German literature in general. The way to Joyce is free, thanks to the feat of Suhrkamp Verlag and his own UlyssesTeams.

PS. Wollschläger left his signature at one point in the book. In the brothel chapter "Circe", where the deepest soul sentence of Bloom and Stephen takes on physical form in a kind of psychoanalytic review, after a particularly puzzling passage on Bloom's cue "I'm about to start screaming" a figure appears, the one in the original does not occur. It's called "Jack the Bower"; and a "bower" could be a "wool beater", among other things. "Bloom: I'm about to start screaming! Jack the Bower (in mourning clothes, with ruffled pubic hair, an overdrawn bank account in hand, makes an insertion): Me too. Gods themselves in vain. "

 

 

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