Monday, November 09, 2009

Oskar has a new drum

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of The Tin Drum, there is a new translation (actually, a whole series of them, worldwide) overseen by Grass himself. The translator is Breon Mitchell.

Oskar is the closest I have to a hero, so I shall be ordering my copy immediately, but it is going to be very, very strange reading a totally different version. I'm worrying that there will be bits that jar, like the Mona Lisa suddenly wearing a yellow frock, or a middle eight turning up in an Eric Satie Gnossienne...


Mark said...

I've been looking for a novel that I can try out in German. I've been reading mostly magazines at this point. I doubt my German's good enough for it, but better likelihood than with Goethe, I guess.

Tom Conoboy said...

I'd love to be able to read another language well enough to manage its literature. I had to read Marguerite Duras and Jean-Paul Sartre in French at school, but mostly I had no idea what was happening. (I'd still like to get hold of the script of Les Jeux Sont Faits today, to find out what it was about...)

What about Hermann Hesse? Siddhartha is in quite plain prose, I seem to recall, and may be okay to read in the original. Or Heinrich Boll?

The Tin Drum has some wonderfully funny bits. It'd be fascinating to read them in the original.

Mark said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I'm swinging by a bookstore in Kulmbach on Wednesday, so I will look for Hesse, Boll, and Grass.

Tom Conoboy said...

Another one that has just sprung to mind is a book I bought a while ago but haven't got round to reading yet, a fictionalised account of the life of Georg Lichtenberg, the 18th century aphorist. It is written in a simple style, mostly in dialogue, with a kind of folk tale feel to it. I think the author was fairly well known in his native Germany, so you may be able to pick up the original:
Gert Hofmann. Lichtenberg and The Little Flower Girl.
Lichtnenberg himself was a fascinating individual, a hunchback who overcame prejudice through the strength of his personality to rise in society, both in Germany and in England (he was a favourite of King George, I think).

Mark said...

Well, I went to what I thought was supposed to be a sweet local used bookstore today, but it turns out it was not that at all. It was local but basically a new-bestsellers-type place.

So the only thing they had be Hesse was a book of quotes. They had a three or four books by Grass--Die Box and Unterwegs von Deutschland nach Deutschland, Tagebuch 1990. The latter looks really interesting but seems not the place to start with Grass. And Die Box was only in hardback for 50 Euros. No clue why.

So I ordered Siddhartha and will pick it up on Saturday. Today I bought Herztier (Heart Animal, I think?) by Herta Müller. We'll see how this Nobel Prize business shapes up. I like the first two pages. Though I'm hardly one to judge the greatness of English lit, much less German in German.

And I'll probably look for Die Blechttrommel in München in a few weeks.

It was funny to see Empöring by Philip Roth and Die Hexen von Eastwick by John Updike there.

Tom Conoboy said...

I've never been to Germany, but I seem to recall from the Netherlands that they don't have many second hand book shops. Is it the same there?

And yes, it's odd seeing these books with foreign titles by familiar authors. Mostly, you can work out what they are, even if you don't speak the language, but some are baffling.

Hope Siddhartha is okay. I keep meaning to re-read it, so perhaps I'll give it a go in English. I'd never heard of Herta Muller until she won, but afterwards I read some criticism of her stuff. Very unadorned language, apparently. Not one for long sentences. (Which should be good for helping you to follow the German, I suppose).