Jones responds to Smyth:
Done with chapter one. At this rate — one chapter every 6 days — I think I was perhaps a little optimistic when I targeted Christmas as a completion date for translating Seelig’s book. Next Christmas, maybe. This Christmas, mmm — not so much.
The good news is that I am speeding up a bit as I get into my routine. When I started I could spend a whole evening on a single sentence. Now I’m up to a paragraph or two.
Here’s the drill: I laboriously translate word-by-word using Cassell’s. (Thinking all the while of Nabokov’s Pnin: “The 1954 Fall term had begun… Again in the margins of library books earnest freshmen inscribed such helpful glosses as ‘Description of nature’, or ‘Irony’; and in a pretty edition of Mallarmé’s poems an especially able scholiast had already underlined in violet ink the difficult word oiseaux and scrawled above it ‘birds’.”) Then I put that down and translate the same paragraph, with marginally less difficulty, from Kriess’s French version. Then I use the translation from the French to test the sense of my translation from the German. Then I do about a thousand searches here and hereÂ to refine my German translation. As my brother Pat often says after we conclude some particularly fraught endeavor: nothin’ to it.
So you discovered Walser via the annual International Books of the Year issue, huh? That’s my favorite issue of the TLS, along with the one that includes the winners of the TLS’s annual poetry competition. I love that rag, as you know. I’ve long considered writing a post called “How to Read the TLS,” which would reveal secrets I’ve discovered over the course of my 24-year acquaintance with that newspaper. (By the way, editor Stothard stopped by the other day to remind us that Caesar never called his civil war a Civil War either. Excellent point.)I don’t remember the citation by Ashbery that led you to Walser. I do recall seeing an Ashbery poem around that time that included some oblique Walser references. I should really track that down. Only a Walserian would have noticed. It was a secret-handshake kind of poem.
BTW, the 2006 Books of the Year edition is on the newsstand now, in the US that is. It’s a little disappointing that only a fraction of the title article is on the web this year. Two years ago, as I recall, they didn’t publish any of the list online. (I had to help out.) Last year they published the full text. This year, just a few crumbs. Which reminds me — I haven’t picked up my copy yet. I’ll have to go out at lunchtime.
I discovered Walser in a book review too — when Ronald De Feo reviewed Selected Stories in the October 24, 1982, edition of the New York Times Book Review. (No link, you’ll notice. So much for the NYT’s claim that you can “Search Book Reviews Since 1981″ on their site. Well, you can search, that’s true. You just can’t find. Not the first time we’ve caught them shading the truth.Â But don’t get me started.) I got my first Walser, Selected Stories, as a Christmas gift that year.
Many observations to share from my translation of the first chapter, but they will have to wait until next time.