Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Radetzky March: Translations

I read two translations of The Radetzky March, The Overlook Press edition with translation by Joachim Neugroschel, which I’ve been using in my posts, and Granta Publication’s edition with translation by Michael Hofmann. I wanted to provide a few short quotes from both versions to give a flavor of their differences and similarities. Here are three passages regarding the following characters:

Lord von Winternigg
Joachim Neugroschel translation (page 20): Sometimes the hooves of the two horses taking Lord von Winternigg for a ride clopped along the broad road from north to south, from the landowner’s castle to his immense hunting preserve. Small, ancient, and pitiful, a little yellow oldster with a tiny wizened face in a huge yellow blanket, Lord von Winternigg sat in his barouche. He drove through the brimming summer like a wretched bit of winter.

Michael Hofmann translation (page 23): Sometimes the hooves of the horses went at a brisk clip, as Herr von Winternigg was driven down the wide avenue from nort to south, from his manor house to his vast hunting grounds. Small, old and pathetic, a yellowed old man under a large, yellow blanket, with a tiny, wizened face, Herr von Winternigg sat in his calèche. Like a pathetic remnant of winter he drove through the plenitude of summer.

Frau von Taussig
Joachim Neugroschel translation (page 188): But old age was approaching with cruel, hushed steps and sometimes in crafty disguises. She counted the days slipping past her and, every morning, the fine wrinkles, delicate webs that old age had spun at night around her innocently sleeping eyes. Yet her heart was that of a sixteen-year-old girl. Blessed with constant youth, it dwelled in the middle of the aging body, a lovely secret in a ruinous castle.

Michael Hofmann translation (page 207): But age drew nearer with cruel and silent tread, and oftentimes in treacherous disguise. She counted the days that ran past her, and each morning the delicate wrinkles—the hair-fine mesh that old age had spun overnight round her innocently sleeping eyes. All the while her heart remained the heart of a sixteen-year-old girl. Blessed with everlasting youth, it dwelt within an ageing body, a beautiful secret in a crumbling castle.

Onurfrij (Carl Joseph’s orderly)
Joachim Neugroschel translation (page 263): Onurfrij sat down at ta brown worm-eaten table and began writing his name at the bottom of a document. He removed his hat. The sun was already high up in the sky. It managed to send its burning rays through the tiny windows of the peasant hut where the mayor Burdlaki officiated. Onurfrij was perspiring. The beads of sweat grew on his low brow like transparent crystal boils. Every letter that Onurfrij wrote produced a crystal boil on his forehead. These boils ran, ran down like tears wept by Onurfrij’s brain. At last his name was at the bottom of the document.

Michael Hofmann translation (page 289): Onurfri sat down at a worm-eaten brown table, and began to sin his name on a document. He pulled off his cap. The sun was already high in the sky. It was able to thread its already burning rays even through the tiny windows of the peasant hut where the burgomaster of Burdlaki had his office. Onurfri was sweating. On his low brow, the beads of sweat grew like transparent crystal boils. Each letter that he formed caused a crystal boil to stand out on his brow. The boils ran down, ran down like tears that Onurfri’s brain had shed. At last his signature stood on the document.


Melinda said...


I would be most interested to know which translation you prefer. From your examples here, I tend towards Neugroschel's translation. I have not as yet read Roth's great novel, and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,


Dwight said...

Hi Melinda,
I don't know if I have a preference, but I do tend to lean toward Neugroschel's translation. Hoffman has been wonderful in reviving much of Roth's writing by translating it, but I recall reading about his embellishing some of Roth's writing. Whether that's true or not I have no idea. It is such a wonderful novel that I think you'll enjoy whatever translation you choose. Would love to hear what you think about it when you finish.