Thursday, May 29, 2014

True Translation: Translating Knausgaard's Struggle

I've previously blogged on Knausgaard, but my reason for re-blogging is more limited this time. I've just read Liesl Schillinger's review -- "His Peers' Views Are in the Details: Karl Ove Knausgaard's 'My Struggle' Is a Movement" (NYT, May 21, 2014) -- and she observes in passing:
If you are an author, editor or critic, chances are you are lining up for [the book] . . . . If you are a lay reader, you may not have heard of Mr. Knausgaard; or if you have heard of him, you may have put off tackling the books, daunted by their Proustian bulk and uncertain of what that menacing title holds in store. ("My Struggle," or "Min Kamp" in Norwegian, is "Mein Kampf" in German -- the title of Hitler's notorious manifesto.)
Interesting that the translation of Min Kamp into English is the literal My Struggle rather than the far more resonant Mein Kampf. The question I have is this: Is My Struggle a true translation? Had there been no Hitler and thus no such book as Mein Kampf, then My Struggle would have been a perfectly true translation of the title.

But there was a Hitler and a Mein Kampf, a title that Knausgaard was obviously playing upon in choosing Min Kamp, so perhaps a better, truer translation would have been Mein Kampf. Native speakers of English would recognize the title and catch the allusion. Or maybe not. They might assume it were the work by Hitler. Nobody would buy it other than racist wingnuts! (It would be a bestseller.)

Maybe the best solution would be to title it Min Kamp, as a Norwegian would. That would cast a pall and light a fire, the truest translation thus being no translation at all! The allusion would have been preserved in the play on the title Mein Kampf, but the title would also be different enough for potential readers to distinguish the two.

Or one could title it My Jihad . . .

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At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A "true translation" might require the allusion to be communicated equally overt in both Norwegian and English? If that is the case "My struggle" seems appropriate. Hitlers book is usually referred to by its german title "Mein kampf" in Norwegian, and Knausgårds title "Min kamp" has a lot more personal, psychological and less aggressive ring to it than the german title.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks. I didn't know that.

Jeffery Hodges

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