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John Gledhill (Erfurt)

Thomas Mann's "Tonio Kröger" in English translation: a comparison of the Lowe-Porter and the Luke version.

Although in the past the art of literary translation may have been a neglected field, in the 1980's and even more now in the 1990's, translation "studies" or "translation theory" have been enjoying a new confidence, a period of expansion and importance. Gentzler (1993) gives a very optimistic picture: There are many flourishing schools and theories, from the Göttingen school headed by Armin Paul Frank, which has a centre devoted to translation studies, the Leipzig school, with outstanding contributions from Neubert (1986) among others, to the American - Dutch - English connection which is regarded as being based in Warwick under the influence of Susan Bassnett and also the Israeli and Czech linguists are important into this field. Theories also abound: translation as manipulation (Bassnett 1991); translation as polysystem (Toury 1978); translation as Gestalt (Snell-Hornby 1986); translation as social action (Benjamin 1963); as deconstruction (Derrida 1982); and the pragmatic approach of Newmark (1988).

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Translation theory has become a bewildering, although exciting world of conflicting theories. It is beyond the scope of this article, however, to attempt to summarise the current main theories. Nevertheless, books continue to be translated, including great literary works. Indeed, in many countries translations are more widely read than original works. This fact was a particular impetus for the Israeli school of theorists, where in the commercial and industrial world, "the survival of the nation became dependent on translation" (Gentzler 1993).

In this context, there are relatively few studies criticising actual literary translations into the English language. This is particularly marked in the case of Thomas Mann. Jochen Hellmann (1992) has written a detailed analysis of the French version of "Zauberberg", but in English there is very little material. E. Koch-Emmery (1953) wrote a short article on Mrs. Lowe-Porter's translation of Thomas Mann in which the main emphasis was on the complexity of Thomas Mann's style and how it was missed in the English version. Having shown the inadequacies of the translation, he comes to the rather weak conclusion that:

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A similar conclusion is reached at the end of Siegfried Mandel's study of the Lowe-Porter translations, where "monumental" seems to be the only adjective on which critics of her work are agreed (Mandel 1982). The scale of her work is not in dispute, as she became the standard English translator for all Thomas Mann's main works, a task to which she devoted most of her literary life. The Siegfried Mandel article does admit there are deficiencies in the quality of the translation, but as with Koch-Emmery, he reaches a similarly weak conclusion. "Despite such flaws, Lowe-Porter's translations of Mann's works throughout the decades remain monumental." (1982: 39). Mandel then suggests that her work may need revising but not re-writing. E. Koch-Emmery rightly reminds us that "the number of those who read Thomas Mann in translation must be as large as those who read the original." (1953: 275). Again adjectives abound in this article concerning the scope of her enterprise such as "formidable", "indefatigable" and "prodigious".

This very basic level of criticism (to the effect that if the authors of the articles felt that they could not do any better, they would refrain from criticism) remained unchallenged until David Luke's translation first appeared in 1970 after the copyright on the Lowe-Porter's work had run out. In the preface of his own translation "Death in Venice and Other Stories by Thomas

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Mann" he, revising his earlier comments, launches into a scathing attack: "Like all her translations of Mann, as is increasingly recognised, it is of very poor quality" (Luke 1988: xiv). His final summary is quite devastating and deserves to be quoted in full: Concrete examples ensue to justify palpable factual mistakes, and detailed analysis will be made at a later stage to highlight this point. The need for some rational assessment of the Lowe-Porter translation and perhaps, also, of the Luke versions is quite clear in the light of the contradictory judgements concerning her work. This paper will be confined to Tonio Kröger mainly on account of its relative lack of stylistic complexity in comparison with "Der Tod in Venedig",

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for example, where the problem of translating poetic prose arises. Two typical passages will be criticised and compared, but the question is what the assumptions really are, the hidden values or agenda of the translation critic. There is a danger of theory and practice in translation studies drifting far apart as is the case in many disciplines, as the practitioners become reluctant to apply criticism because of possible attack from the welter of conflicting theories. A provisional solution is tentatively offered with the idea of "coherence". As with a philosophical argument, it is useful to check first if it is coherent, before its truth has to be established. In a similar way, a translation must first be assessed if the translation conforms both to the explicit and implicit aims of the translator. In Newmark's terminology (1988), a "semantic" translation must be assessed as to how far the translator manages to render the "feel" or the "texture" of the original language whereas a communicative translation should first be assessed if the translation conveys all the essential information and then be judged according to expectations of the target "readers" in the target language. In the case of the Luke and Lowe-Porter translations, these criteria are less relevant, because both their ostensible and implicit aims conform more to the traditional encoder/decoder model of I. A. Richards, as analysed by Gentzler, and to the sense versus word debate dating back to Cicero's famous neat formulation "non verbum de verbo sed sensum exprimere de sensu" in his work. In some of her prefaces, Lowe-Porter expounds her translation "theory" in terms of "spirit" and "letter". In her preface to "Buddenbrooks" (1924) she states:
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From the point of view of coherence, it will be seen that Lowe- Porter does not fulfil these aims, but that, in fact, she is sometimes too "literal" and at others too "free". Luke's introduction, on the other hand, where he at least shows some awareness of twentieth century translation theory in his use of the term "equivalence", very popular with the Leipzig school of translation theory, makes no reference to critics of equivalence theory as in Snell-Hornby's (1986) rejection of the term in which she shows that the German concept "Äquivalenz" is by no means identical to the English word "equivalence" and illustrates many confusions in this theory. Similarly, van den Broeck (1978) shows in his article "The Concept of equivalence" that mathematical or logical equivalence is used in a different way from equivalence in translation theory and that the use of this term has led to many confusions.

Despite this, Luke displays a similar traditional view to that expressed by Lowe-Porter and even in the 1988 version, displays a similar cavalier disregard of contemporary translation theory:

Luke does not indicate how the dilemma between the "reflecting of the complexity" of Mann's prose and "sounding natural" will be solved, but it is within these terms initial criticism must take place to fulfil the "coherence" criterion.

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Despite Gentzler's (1993: 4) disapproval of substantialism in translation criticism (ie. roughly that there is a "correct", "objective" translation) in which criteria such as equivalent/ inequivalent, right/ wrong/ good/ bad and correct/incorrect are to be avoided, they must be used in this context at the initial stage to be consistent with the "coherence" theory. Some translations even at this level, are simply wrong, incorrect or bad as is illustrated in Luke's introduction. (For example, in Tonio Kröger alone, Lowe-Porter translates "quadratisches Liniennetz" as "a square linen mesh" (p. 149), "ungewürzt" as "without roots" (p. 152), and "heiligend" as "healing" (p. 156) rather than "sanctifying"). These are simply mistranslations. Luke quotes many more examples of gross mistranslation in the other stories. Within this context, the traditional adjective "felicitous" or "infelicitous" is suitable for assessing the "naturalness" of the style of the two translations, without there being any commitment to substantialist theories in the broader context.

In an article of this scope, only two sample passages can be analysed, together with a few examples from the whole text. The opening passages are interesting to analyse because the translator immediately reveals his implicit theory. Tonio Kröger opens with the following two sentences:

Lowe-Porter's translation runs as follows:
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It will be seen that the Lowe-Porter version is incoherent in the technical sense, that sometimes neither the spirit nor the sense is rendered. It will be convenient to demonstrate this in note form:

(1) "poor ghost of itself": This is the translator's own interpolation which does not seem to be justified as it is not used consistently even with regard to the image. The "ghostly" aspect of the sun should be in contrast with the normal sun, but not with the winter sun itself so that it becomes, as it were, "a ghost of a ghost".

(2) "hung": This is possible as "hang" in this context, has connotations with being "bedraggled", but semantically, it is unsuitable for Mann's literary style with the notion of the sun "hanging in the sky".

(3) "wan": In contrast with note 2, "wan" is too poetic, creating a romantic overtone out of place with the author's clear intention troughout the work of portraying the serious, grim North in contrast to the colourful South. A neutral adjective such as "dull" or "lustreless" would be more appropriate in this context.

(4) "above the huddled roofs of the town": As in note 3, "huddled roofs" fails to capture the negative connotations of "über der engen Stadt", associated also with the "Engstirnigkeit" of the

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"bourgeois" values of the north; on the contrary, the collocation "huddled roofs" has cosy associations reminiscent of a fairy tale.

(5) "In the gabled streets": After the relatively free translations in note 4, this is a perversely literal translation producing an odd collocation in English. Houses, but not streets, can be gabled.

(6) "there came in gusts a sort of hail": This is a curiously un- English concoction failing to conform to the naturalnes of the original. The word order would even suggest that second language interference has obtruded.

(7) "not ice, not snow": This time, there is an unnecessary slavish literalism in contrast with the Luke version.

Luke's translation:

(1)"a feeble gleam": This is much preferable to the Lowe-Porter translation as it not only captures the slightly negative connotation of "armer Schein", but also has the bonus of a pleasing assonance.

(2) "wan": (see note 3 of the Lowe-Porter version) The author may well have been "distracted" by the Lowe-Porter translation which reveals something of Luke's methods. Levy argues forcefully that translators should avoid using previous versions (Levy 1969: 79 - 83).

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(3) "the narrow streets": (cf. Lowe-Porter note 4). The addition of streets is stylistically acceptable, but there is a loss of connotation from "Engstirnigkeit" (note 4) and also of meaning, as the streets may be narrow, but the city itself could be open and broad. "Enge Stadt" is a translation difficulty, but adjectives such as "cramped" or the collocation "small city" might be more appropriate within these criteria.

(4) "Down among": This addition does not seem to be necessary, but is innocuous as it makes a suitable contrast with the winter sun half-hidden by clouds.

(5) "the gabled houses": (cf. Lowe-Porter note 4) This is a better solution.

(6) "damp and drafty": This would seem to be a more appropriate collocation for the interior of a home rather than the town itself. The natural, alliterating phrase of "wet and windy" in the Lowe-Porter version would seem to be more appropriate this time.

(7) "showers of a kind of soft hail": "Showers of hail" may be more appropriate than "gusts of hail" as with the Lowe-Porter version, but the repetition of the preposition "of" is stylistically inelegant. Again, within the assumptions of both translations a more neutral, close translation would fit their criteria:

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"Sometimes, there was a kind of soft hail which fell onto the town, but which was neither ice nor snow." The essential rhythm of the German sentence is also preserved in the suggested version, though as an elongated version, which often must be the case if Luke's criterion of "sounding natural" is to be observed.

A similar lack of coherence in the Lowe-Porter translation can be found almost anywhere in the work, but one more passage should suffice for brief commentary. Even the Luke version often fails the coherence test in his assertion that "a translator's" equivalent in English should not try to follow the structure of Mann's sentences too closely. A well - known passage from Tonio Kröger (p. 166) can illustrate the above points:

Lowe-Porter's version is as follows:
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(1) "his fiddle": This choice is surely not in harmony with the serious poetic mood in the text. I suspect too literal a translation here (again incoherent with Lowe-Porter's "following the spirit" theory) as Mann did not use the alternative "Violine", but there seems to be a lack of awarences of some of the connotational differences between "Geige" and "fiddle".

(2) "the North Sea": This can only be a mistranslation rather than an alternative interpretation. As Luke has already shown, Lowe- Porter's work is riddled with frequent mistranslations.

(3) "within sound of whose summer murmurings": Again, Lowe-Porter does not fulfil her criterion of "not coming out like a translation". "Within sound of" unlike "within sight of" is not a normal English collocation but when combined with the clumsy double genitive "of those summer murmurings" the effect is catastrophic.

(4) "enfolded": This is again an example of gross mistranslation:
"entfalten" could be rendered by "unfolded" but "enfolded" has the exact opposite meaning.

(5) "pretty frequently": This is suddenly a drop into an unwarranted colloquialism which may be justified in "a colloquial translation",

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but as Lowe-Porter often uses archaisms such as "This vouchsafed, he gave ..."(p. 140) or "whither the sound of the music" (p. 144), the register is inconsistent, particularly with regard to the fact that it is in the context of a relatively "literary" passage.

An immediate improvement in accuracy, register and diction can be perceived in the Luke version:

(1) "to whose summer reveries": This is a literalism which is typical of the whole passage and which, contrary to Luke's avowed intention slavishly follows the German structure.

(2) "it": Again the unpoetic "it" fails to register the gentle poetic tone of the passage.

Luke's translation is certainly more accurate than Lowe-Porter's but important nuances are missed, as in "belauschen" which has more the sense of "eavesdropping" or more poetically "listening

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into". On the whole the Luke version is very accurate, but is clumsy and unpoetic precisely because he does not obey his own guidelines. To make the point clear, a suggested alternative is offered, not as a definitive translation, but as an example of a close translation which would conform to the criteria of both translators. The suggested version has a more natural English syntax and rhythm whilst conveying the information and nuances of the original, but is to be seen, as implied, a suggestion to be used for further debate. Suggested version: The suggested version is much freer and more natural whilst capturing all the main themes and nuances. It still, however, sticks too closely to the text for many translators and fails to take into account many of the more "exciting" approaches in modern theory. Nevertheless, it would be more coherent with regard to the Luke and Lowe-Porter approach.

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From this study, the relative weakness of the Lowe-Porter version is becoming increasingly obvious. It is not intended, however, to be an attack on a particular translator, more on the whole literary world with its well-known disregard of the importance of translation and in this case, of revision and correction. The Lowe-Porter translations have been in existence for over seventy years in this unrevised, uncorrected form. A few more examples from the whole text should suffice to illustrate the point. Lowe- Porter (147): The relative "sanity" of the Luke version will, I hope, make the point clear (151): Sometimes, the sense virtually disappears in the Lowe-Porter translation as with page 155:

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whereas in Luke, the sense is perfectly clear:

Even so, both translators can be weak when rendering simple conversations into idiomatic English. When Tonio enters Lisaweta's studio and says "Störe ich?" - "Am I disturbing you?" or even "I hope I am not disturbing you." Luke translates this as "Do I disturb you?" (a completely different meaning) and Lowe-Porter's version is obviously absurd: "Shall I disturb you?" Both translators also miss the point of the key phrase: "Ich bin erledigt," said by Tonio after Lisaweta had defined Tonio's problem. The most obvious interpretation is that Tonio is thanking Lisaweta for her accurate advice so that the meaning is something

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to the effect of "I have been sorted out". There is an extra connotation of "finishing a matter" in the sense used earlier of finishing the theme of life by defining it so that Tonio himself feels he is now defined, but also finished. Luke's version "I am eliminated" not only contradicts the spirit of the dialogue ("I can go home in peace"), but produces a ludicrous effect, as if the protagonist were to be exterminated by some alien force. The Lowe-Porter version descends into the non-sensical formulation "I am expressed". As this could be regarded as the turning point of the novella (one of the rare places in the novella where Mann uses italics), the gross mistranslation of both authors is not an indifferent matter. It must, however, be admitted that the rather curious phrase "Ich bin erledigt" does present a translation difficulty, because the immediate normal reaction to the phrase could he expressed in English as "I am finished" or even "I am done for", but in the context, it is quite clear that "erledigt", also refers to the problem solved. "Ich kann getrost nach Hause gehn." Some of the Lowe-Porter translations produce an almost comical effect on account of archaisms or failed register (133): "gypsies living in a green wagon" (as opposed to "caravan"); "Hans Hansen was a capital scholar and a jolly chap to boot"; p. 138: "But as Hans looked into Tonio's eyes, he bethought himself"; "That bit about the king in his cabinet must be nuts." (for "das mit dem König im Kabinett muß famos sein."); p. 141: "What an unmentionable monkey"; p. 146: "He went the way that go he must"; p. 157: "Every artist is as bohemian as the deuce

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inside."; p. 151: "No. I am too full of utterance."; p. 152: "I get dazed with the triflingness and sacredness of the memories and feelings it evokes." Page 152: "I quail before its sheer naturalness"; p. 156: "The artist must be unhuman, extra-human" as opposed to Luke's relatively sensible, though stylised translation (p. 156): "One has to be something inhuman, something standing outside humanity."; p. 155: "like those unsexed papal singers" for "castrati"; "But despite - I say despite - this excellent gift his withers are by no means unwrung"; "In us artists it looks fundamentally different from what he wots of."

Many other examples of ungrammatical English, mistranslations and absurdly inappropriate style could be added to the list (particulary the conversation with the Hamburg business man: "Ab I right, sir, or ab I wrog?" etc. p. 174), but the lack of quality in the Lowe-Porter translation is not quite obvious. What is disturbing, however, is that, except for Luke, the only two articles concerning the Lowe-Porter translation have given a positive appraisal of her work, though undoubtedly with some reservation. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Lowe-Porter versions have been until 1971 the only English versions available for the public; and the general lack of enthusiasm for Thomas Mann's works in the Anglo-Saxon world must have something to do with the poor and sometimes appalling quality of the translations. Translation criticism is still an art rather than a science. It is often very difficult to make comparisons between two very good translations as there are so many possible approaches. This

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should, however, not deter the theorist from making comparison and judgements as long as the criteria are open and clear. In the case of the two translations discussed, the task is relatively easier, because both authors express similar views on translation theory, but only one of the authors is relatively consistent within the stated aims. This assessment is based on the "coherence" principle already mentioned, but there are many other possible approaches to translating Tonio Kröger from a fresh, modern "communicative" translation to a well structured "semantic" version imitating the very logical and clear sentence structure as analysed by Emmery (1953). It is important that the debate continues, not in the abstract, but with detailed comparisons so that theory emerges from the practice of applying criticism. This essay is intended to be a contribution to this debate. Translation theorists must show that they too have teeth.


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John Gledhill
Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Nordhäuser Str. 63
D-99089 Erfurt