THE GOLDEN CHAMBERPOT: HOFFMANN IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH TRANSLATION

 

 

This essay will compare two translations of the first chapter of E.T.A. Hoffmannfs eDer Goldne Topff; one into English, the other into French.1  Both are by no means untypical representations of Hoffmann into the language they represent2, and an examination of the qualities and the faults of each translation will be instructive towards an understanding of why this particular author has received the critical acclaim he merits in one of these target cultures but not in the other - a theme that will be developed in the dissertation to follow.  In brief, this is a first step along the long, rocky road to translating Hoffmann; for comparing translations of a text helps one to read that text with the depth of thought that the act of translation demands.  Moreover, the discovery of the faults in a translation and the injustice that has been done to the author of the original increases the desire to translate the text oneself.  This step is essentially technical; attention to detail is one of the key factors in this authorfs work, and that precision - of which the opening of the chapter discussed here affords a classical example - is essential to produce the desired effect.  To let the author speak for himself: gVon allem, was du da herauskombinierstc mag kein Wörtchen wahr sein, aberc [es] ist mir, Dank sei es deiner lebendigen Darstellung, alles so plausibel, daß ich daran glauben muß, ich mag wollen oder nicht.h3  When an author is so meticulous, the translator is duty bound to follow his example.

 

It is often the case that a literary translation is read with a certain amount of pleasure – a pleasure that is then diminished somewhat by acquaintance with the original text.  The fact that the demerits of the translation are thus exposed to view is not of the utmost importance; providing, of course, that this text was intended for those unfamiliar with the language in which the original was written, and that it stimulates interest in the author.  However, few excuses can be proffered for a translation that is unsatisfactory when judged purely on its own merits and spared comparison with the text it is introducing to a new culture.  The rendering by Kent and Knight fails both tests.

 

They do, it must be said, gain some plus marks, as with the first contentious issue: the impression created on the eye by sweeping over the pages.  Hoffmann has one long initial paragraph, with dashes serving as pauses; this is broken up into several paragraphs in English, at places where common sense would dictate that a break could occur.  The chapter summaries contribute to the ironic humour of the work; their omission would entail a loss (as we notice in the translation to be examined later).  A Märchen is not exactly a fairy-tale, but the difference is best left to the specialist; for practical purposes, this term suffices.  They are also right to stress that the places mentioned in the story are historical; this is an important factor in the creation of a realistic background, against which the seemingly impossible becomes plausible. So the omission of period details such as gSandbüchseh is difficult to justify.

 

The correspondence of the sentences suggests that they represent the unit of translation.  Of course, the pitfall of translating in this manner is the sacrifice of the cumulative effect created by larger units.  Whereas the German sentence often moves two steps forward, one step back, occasionally, as it were, pausing for thought, the English sentence is much more direct; thereby obeying one of the major rules for translating German prose: avoid the hanging sentence.  However, this is no newspaper report or business communication, where immediate clarity is of the essence; this is literature, and the same rules do not apply.  This is especially the case with this particular author; it has been said that gObscurities, roughnesses, inconsistencies, these are the very stuff of which style is madeh4, and with few writers is this observation more apt than with Hoffmann.  Bearing in mind that gDie Welt Hoffmanns kann nur in ihrer Dualität verstanden werdenh5 and that this is a mutually antagonistic duality, a smooth, flowing, classical style would be inappropriate.  A translation of his work should not be intended to read like a translated text; its principal aim should be to tell a story, for Hoffmann was, above all, a storyteller of the first rank.  He employs his idiosyncratic style to create his own world and to tell the story in the most effective manner; a study of the techniques he employs actually makes the translatorfs task easier.

 

There are, however, occasions on which the sentences do not correspond; hence that beginning with gDie Tränench [gTears were aboutch (41)] is divided into three sentences in the English.  The original reflects Anselmusf emotionally upset state; the italicised gerh  conjures up the impression of a child who has not got what he wanted; and the gjah (often translated as gindeedh or here giving the sense of g - why, he hadch) serves as a quick, short link between the initial statement (wanting to enjoy the felicities) and the development of that statement (the manner in which he would have enjoyedc).  We have an outburst, a stream of intentions and hopes, brought crashing to earth by the following terse sentence.  In the translation the long sentence is broken up, and the short sentence is slowed down, so that the effect is completely lost.

This section is an excellent example of the inappropriate use of vocabulary.  The colloquial ges bis zu einerc treiben wollenh and gum so recht schlampampen,h which convey the correct tone for Anselmusf present emotional state (indeed, they are typical of his character – he is noticeable chiefly for his clumsiness, and an Orwellian lucidity or Ciceronian eloquence would sit somewhat incongruously), become: ghe had even intended to go so far as to indulge inch and gTo assure proper dissipationc.h  This is very cold and formal; especially for an immature character on the verge of bursting into tears.  Hoffmann may vary his register – alongside the above-mentioned colloquialisms we find literary, poetical or gehobene terms such as gFittichh, gGluth and gsichc nicht fügenh – but the register employed is generally relevant to the situation at that time.  The formal style of gsich... nicht fügenh is the appropriate medium for a detached, ironic humour (Fielding and Dickens spring to mind), and translating this by gwas at odds withh (30) completely spoils the tone.  Anselmusf lament: gIch wollte den lieben Himmelfahrtstag recht in der Gemütlichkeit feiernh becomes a rather stilted: gIt was my intention to celebrate a happy Ascension Day with appropriate cheerh (90-1) [my italics].  To compound the error, the translators immediately change register with gI was prepared to stretch a pointh.

 

Hoffmannfs style is not only far from classical, it is also far from perfect; but that does not excuse transgressions on the part of the translator.  The sentence beginning gOf coffee, of beer...h (48) is a German construction; more importantly, it is a German construction that cannot be carried over into English.  Likewise, geHas notcfh (77) is extremely clumsy; the theme of human beings as puppets does appear in Hoffmannfs work, but this is really taking things a little too far.  gBut isnft it a frightening fate...h (63) is another literalism – moreover in a sentence stripped of its emotion, of its right to appeal, by the omission of the concluding question mark.  gThere was something frightful about the shrill, creaking voicech (12-3) places the effect before the cause, whereas the German has the cause followed by the effect; and in this instance, the German order can comfortably be reproduced.  Changing the order can change the meaning; at the very end of the passage, gglowingh is separated from gvaporizedh (not a particularly felicitous choice) in space, and so in time.  The fact that German can use a noun such as gUnbemerktenh creates a problem the translators do not solve; geven though he had before remained unnoticedh (24-5) has an uncomfortable, slightly parenthetical feel.

 

There are some simple misunderstandings.  gKnasterh does not mean gcanisterh (53), but eweed, tobaccof; gReflexh simply means ereflectionf and is certainly not greflex reaction toh (37); and I do not understand how gkrächzendeh has become gcreakingh (13), unless this be a typographical error, for the correct term is ecroakingf - with the obvious associations.  And some phrases are, quite simply, bad English (even bad American-English): ga face whose handsomeness and expressivenessh (25-26); ggrew increasinglyh (41); gimbued with intense longingh (138-9).

 

Some renderings are too weak, too tepid: gPeculiarly enoughch (22) does not nearly convey the import of gAuf ganz sonderbare Weisech; Anselmus did not garticulate his miseryh (60), for the context sees him egiving vent to his irritationf.  Some are lazy – the image of Anselmus running around carrying his purse in his hand (47) is certainly a novel one -; and some are extremely clumsy in their context.  To say that Anselmus gslippedc past the bathsh (50), following his gTritt in den Äpfelkorbh, is an especially unfortunate turn of phrase.

 

Some, in their turn, are rather overblown: gurchins in the streeth (4), gespawn of the Devilfh (11), gimportant public documenth (for gRelationh) and gaura of the tragich (23).  This use of gof theh instead of a simple Anglo-Saxon genitive (especially in prose) is one of the trademarks of translated English; it rears its ugly, stilted, melodramatic head again in gthe soliloquy of the studenth (108) and yet, where an gofh would be appropriate, we have gsmoky cloudsh (59-60).  In this etranslationesef category may also be placed a reluctance to use the continuous present: gIt is only the evening wind which tonight whispersch (123-4).  Another peculiar construction is, ga voice which was hoarse and deeph (158), to which the phrase gseemed to reach Anselmush is added for no particular reason.  On occasions, the translators move along the dangerous road towards explanation, by not only exaggerating but actually adding whatever their fancy prompts them to: thus the gSinne verwirrender Redeh become ghypnotich (123); the Sanitätsknaster has suddenly grecentlyh (54) been given to Anselmus; gunmindful of all of thish (59) makes explicit what is implicit in the German and does not need to be stated; and the gswish!h (73) that Anselmus utters in his new life does not even convey the correct sound.  This tendency to expand is a sign of a translatorfs stylistic uneasiness in his own language; on occasions, it leads to purposeless repetition: gfrom all sidesh (20) is totally unnecessary, as, indeed, is gon all sidesh (22); so too gin the distanceh (57) which sits awkwardly before the relevant gin the dim distanceh (58).  It may also attempt to atone for an earlier error; gSo war erch becomes gIt was in this frame of mind that hech (38) because gseemed to beh (37) does not stress the ihm of the German – perception being an important theme with Hoffmann.  Perhaps the best example of this propensity to padding is the old womanfs speech, much more staccato and suggestive than the translators would have us believe: gins Kristall bald dein Fallh becomes ten words in English.  Hoffmann can create a character with a few bold strokes; a fact which could not be gleaned from reading this translation.

 

The sound of this text is extremely important.  Some passages are very poetic, a fact of which Kent and Knight are obviously aware from their introductory note; so it is not clear why they have made no attempt to produce a poetic effect in English on occasions when this demands relatively little effort.  For example: gum ihn her flackernd und spielend mit schimmernden Goldfadenh loses its sound and its life when rendered as gencircling him in a thousand glittering flames like golden threadsh (140-1); the long, slow, dreamlike gleisen halbverwehten Wortenh is cut down to ghalf-heard wordsh (115); grolledh and gtossedh (55) are weak substitutes for gplätschertenh and grauschten.h  Moreover, this is one of the aspects of German that is easiest to translate, for most onomatopoeic German words have an onomatopoeic English equivalent.  One of the most important sounds is the gschh, which is especially noticeable in the serpentsf speech; it is occasionally reproduced, as in gswing in the shimmerh (118) where sense is sacrificed for sound (perhaps justifiably so; the music of the words is the important feature of this passage), but often is not: hence gGliding, slidingh (169) for grischelnd und raschelndh; gsounds of dewh (119) for graschelt der Tauh is particularly hard to accept, replacing as it does a verb with a noun.  Likewise, grays of sunseth (119) freezes gAbendsonne schießt Strahlenh.

 

This failure to capture the action of the original is often evident: the image of rows of citizens entering the Linke Baths is stilled by the surprising use of gusuallyh (39); the silencing of spreading laughter is not conveyed (15); Anselmus does not gwear a coath (65) but rather puts it on; twilight throwing her veil over the area becomes gand the twilightfs veil coveredh (158).  Moreover, when the motion is maintained, it occasionally changes its nature; so a simple plunge, a straightforward plummet, becomes grushed intoh (169).

 

There are inconsistencies; gzu flüstern und lispelnh are translated first as ga whispering and a lispingh (112-3) and then as gthe whispering and the twitteringh (128), despite the repetition in the original being deliberate; gschwingen, schlängeln, schlingenh, which is soon repeated in a different order to suggest the winding motion of the snakes, does not keep the same three verbs on both occasions in the translation (116-21); gStromh is translated as gmisth (163) then as griverh (168).  Authors may occasionally use the same word in different senses throughout a work, but a reading of this passage makes that it clear that that rule is irrelevant here.

 

The tone of simple expressions such as geDas ist denn doch nurcfh and geWie spät mag es wohl jetzt sein?fh is lost with gIt is onlych and geWhat time is it?fh which are purely functional, rendering the basic meaning but not the implied attitude of the speaker.  When Anselmus imagines himself addressing the waiter, then gepleasefh (93) is a rather limp offering, bearing in mind that he means eif you pleasef, eand make it the best!f

 

More could be said about the shortcomings of this translation; but that would merely be restating what has already been proved.  Hoffmann deserves better than this; it is of no use to stress how gcuriously modernh his work is in the themes it treats (this phrase does not come from one particular text; it comes from many, dealing with many different authors) if a modern translation is going to expound on these themes in such an irregular style.  Moreover, they are irregularities that have no rhyme or reason; in marked contrast to Hoffmanfs work.  By a strange quirk of fate, that master of irony, it is Hoffmann who has now lost his reflection.

 

As France was much more receptive to Hoffmannfs work, it could be surmised either that French translations were of a superior quality (assuming, of course – and the assumption is not a sure one – that the influence an author has on a foreign land primarily stems through the translations of his works, rather than through the acquaintance of the authors of that country with his work in the original, or in those original compositions of theirs which owe an unmistakable debt to his œuvre), or that it was the content of his tales that they found particularly appealing.  Perhaps he did not etranslate into Englishf as he did into French.  The results of this examination left little room for ambiguity.

 

The most immediately noticeable aspect of this translation is its disjointed appearance.  There are many short paragraphs – too many; the flow of the work is broken.  Moreover, two paragraphs (gIl sféloigna furtivementch [53] and gOr, les serpenteauxch [140]) begin in the middle of the German sentence.  It is not clear exactly what the unit of translation is; indeed, there is almost the impression that this unit is based upon the target, rather than the source, text.  At the very beginning of the chapter, after successfully establishing time and place, the translator breaks up the immediacy of Anselmus running through the gate and into the basket (nor is the American-English translation satisfactory at this point6).  The gcmême avant-dernièreh also slows down the pace at which the narrative is moving; it does not have the same sweep as the German.  There are too many pauses.  Long sentences are divided, then suffer through the division.  For example, the paragraph beginning gA ses piedsch (57) represents one sentence in the original; a sentence in which the various elements have a completeness, a unity; whereas the French scene is much more static.  The sentence describing the visit to the Privy Councillor has a continuity and a certain inevitability, whereas the French account is much more prolix – indeed, much more like an account, before an audience, rather than a thoughtful young student pouring out a jeremiad.  The tone of his lamentations is further altered by reducing the questioning, gHatte ich nichtc?h and gBin ich dennc?h to mere statements of fact; like many of the translatorfs alterations, this cannot be justified as a concession to a different culture; indeed, I would have expected this process to apply in the opposite direction, if at all.

 

This continuity is also reflected in certain verbs of movement in the German; the employment of gfut projeté sur le solh (4) for ghinausgeschleuderth and gchoir, bondir et roulerh (36) for gtanzenh makes the translator guilty of the sin of completion.  Again, there are nouns replacing verbs – gDu cliquetis dech (127) for grühren.h  The movement into the crystal, demanded by the accusative ins, is not even implicit.  Throughout, the French is less active than the German; for example, gil se trouvait dépouillé de tout son avoirh (48-9) when the accident ghatte ihn um alles gebracht.h  Even sound seems to exist, rather than live: gOn percevaitc lféclat des cuivres de lforchestreh (42), when gMusik von Blasinstrumenten ertönte von innen.h

 

There is a tendency to avoid repetition, whether or not it has a purpose – and it generally does.  A prominent phrase in the opening is gso da߁h, which acts somewhat in the manner of a backbone, but is translated as gqueh (9), gaussih (16) and gdonth (25).  Likewise, gvieilleh (3), gmégèreh (15) and grevendeuseh (20) translate gWeibh; and gSatanh proves himself to be a master of disguise, developing from gBélialh (12) to gMalinh (68) to gonh (78 – which does not have quite the same ringc) before finally revealing himself in line 110.  The adjective ggeputzterh appears quite frequently, generally before gMenschenh or gMädchenh, and it becomes a comic tag to describe the ordinary Bürger.  This does come across in the humorous term gatoursh (50) but it is not sustained; initially, gla fouleh (22) is left unqualified by this adjective, and later, gbien habilléesh (102) is employed.  The cumulative effect of the original is lost.  In a similar manner, we are left in no doubt by Hoffmann that Anselmus is a student; this word appears no less than eight times in this chapter.  In the translation, it occurs three times; and Anselmus turning up late for a lecture becomes Anselmus arriving late gà aucun rendez-vous, quel qufil fûth (75-6).  Yet this is an author in whose work gthere are very few figuresc who are not created in terms of some kind of rank or statush7.  This is an important factor in the creation of irony, which tends to have a social target.

 

Towards the end of the passage, three voices say gDer Duft ist meine Sprache,h gder Hauch ist meine Spracheh and gGlut ist meine Spracheh – gwenn sie [ihn] die Liebe entzündet.h  In this case, the repetition not only represents a common device found in the Märchen, but it has the effect of stressing the unity of the three elements; yet the translation, by replacing entzündet with gexaspère,h ganimeh and gattiseh (156-60), dissolves this unity.  It is reminiscent of Latin oratory and Johnsonese.  Finally, the repetition of gfKristalfh by the old woman is not only typical of the irritating habit, peculiar to common speech, of repeating a statement, but is extremely emphatic and effective; the French aims for a shock effect, when the desired effect is one of uneasiness.

 

One of the most striking differences is the use in French of exclamation marks.  This is not a requisite of a literary work in this language; French literature can be as cold and as restrained as any, and French authors are capable of sang froid.  The first of these marks occurs after we learn that the old womanfs words had given a tragic turn to a trivial event – hardly appropriate.  They tend to detract from the objectivity of the narrator, and it is precisely this objectivity, this distance, that enables his irony to function properly; this applies to the French and English languages as well as German.  Because no attempt is made to translate gder ihnen der hastige Herr zugeworfenh (relating to the apples and cakes that Anselmus had ethrownf to the gurchinsh[sic]), the irony is lost; as also occurs when g(niemand anders war der junge Mensch)h is rendered as g – car cfétait luic –h (19 – my italics).

 

Yet the translator does create a kind of distance – by making the reader conscious that this is a tale being told, a story to be enjoyed; he does not seem to make any effort to make us believe it.  Persuasion may or may not be the gfirst virtue of proseh8; but if we do not believe in the reality that Hoffmann depicts with such assiduity, with such precision – and it must be stressed that he was fully aware that he was bringing the fantastic into daily life (gkeck ins gewöhnliche alltägliche Leben tretendh)9 for the first time in German literature – then his worth as an artist is greatly diminished.  Reality is the foundation of his tales; if this is removed, then his work has no purpose beyond that of ephemeral literature, read, enjoyed, forgotten.  Through fantasy he is able to plumb previously unexplored depths of reality; the two states are mutually dependent.  This reality is depicted by time, place, and consequence, and is reflected in the tone and speed of the narrative and in the syntax; there is an immediacy, to which the use of the past tense is no obstacle (it is, indeed, generally more convincing as a narrative medium than the present); for example, we are aware of the laughter of the crowd spreading, then dying; but in this translation, the order is reversed – gtandis que sféteignit le rire que les avait gagnés tout dfabordh (16-7).

 

There are certain strange constructions that make the reader only too aware that this is a translation – the reader knowing this, but not thinking about it while reading, is one of the signs of a good translation – such as the extremely awkward, gil avait projeté de prendre, lui aussi, sa part, en ce jourch (45), and gMon conseiller de hurlerch (92-3).  Moreover, gDfoù vient que le vent du soirch (133) and gPuis, comme fendant le groupech (11) are not only unusual grammatically, but the former questions when the original confirms, and the latter is simply inaccurate; the circle opens, Anselmus does not push his way through it.  With gAnselme écoutait, retenant son souffleh (119) we have not only another avoidance of repetition, but a gerund which, in French, must follow the preposition en.  It is difficult to see what the translator is attempting to do, because he is inconsistent; sometimes he adheres closely to the text, carrying over a German construction such as gIl sfétait muni, en prévision dfune telle ripaille, dfune boursech (when one would expect the sentence to begin with the en); sometimes he makes concessions to French – ggellende, krächzendeh becomes gà la foix stridente et érailléeh (15 – my italics), as if he cannot expect his readers to accept this contrast without modification –; and on other occasions, he seems to ignore the German and just write whatever seizes his fancy.

 

Most of his additions are difficult to comprehend: get loin de tirer vanité de certains regards féminins recueillis au hasard des rencontresh (36-37) is not only long-winded, but draws attention away from Anselmus towards the narrator.  gsfy écroula de tous son poidsh (3) detracts from the suddenness of the impact.  And as far as the serpentfs speech is concerned, it can only be assumed that the translator had previously been downing copious draughts of a rich, buttery Burgundy.

 

There are also several mysterious omissions.  Thinking of the various delights he is going to have to live without, Anselmus is no longer dreaming gan Musikh; the metaphor of the lemming, so appropriate to Anselmus, is neither maintained nor replaced; gIch weiß es schon, der Mut wär mir gekommen, ich wäre ein ganz anderer Mensch gewordenh and gSo ging es fort im Sinne verwirrender Redeh sink without trace.  Perhaps the translator felt he had to leave out some sections of the original; they may have come into conflict with what he wanted to write.

 

There are many circumlocutions – gdes parolesc devinées plutôt qufentendues, évanouies sitôt prononcéesh (120-1) for gleisen halbverwehten Wortenh, gUne guigne persistante et acharnéeh (83) for gmein Unsternh and gmonta le long des branches, se propagea aux feuilles du sureauh (114-5) for gin die Zweige und Blätter des Holunderbaumes hinaufglitth – which prompt questions such as: are French adjectives really so lonely that one requires constant accompaniment?  As in the English translations, there are exaggerations tending towards explanation: gfprisonfh (13) is added to crystal, nullifying these words of some of their eerily suggestive force; gfit disparaîtreh (10-11) has magical overtones, which are as relevant as the magical overtones of the verb gagrippa,h for all she does is pocket his purse.  The timing is wrong; a little patience is required.  The translator cannot just say epigtailf for gZopfh, but has to treat us to gcatoganh (89), which is as obscure as the English gCadogan.h  This is at the other extreme from the previous translation, in which gschwarzatlasneh became gblack satinh (30), not eblack atlas.f  On both occasions, the author has been ignored.

 

The tone of the original is recreated on a basis of individual words – such as gcommèresh (7) for gGevatterinnenh – but the general impression is one of very formal language, even when Anselmus thinks –  gSon programme comportait jusqufàch (46) is a different register from ger hatte es bis zuc treiben wollenh – and when he speaks: gpoint ne mfétendrai-je surch (66-7) is like saying, eI will not elaborate on,f when the German has, quite simply, gvonc will ich gar nicht reden.h  There is just no attention to detail, and it is so important; let us take, for example, the word nach.  The old woman cried gnachh Anselmus; the crowd gnachsahh him: this creates the picture of the student in the background with these figures receding into the distance – an illustration that it is easy to visualise.  And, of course, it is not reproduced in this translation.

 

There is a shift from the past tense into the present towards the end – gIl éprouvec Son cœurc défaillech (148-150).  This is a particularly artificial passage, with gSon cœur, sous lfexcès de son émotion, tour à tour défaille et bat à se rompreh thrown in by a somewhat over-excitable translator, who also offers the disagreeable sound of: gses yeux se rivent à ces yeux de rêveh (151).  Moreover, when the original contains the present tense – in the serpentfs speech – this becomes the future gfondrah and gtairah (126).  Once again, an alteration has been made which adds nothing at all.  It is not the freedom of this translator that is objectionable, but rather the manner in which he has abused this freedom.

 

A literary text is so much more than words, it is true; but this applies to a lesser degree to prose than to poetry; and there is a reason why an author chooses one word in preference to another.  One language gives a name to objects, actions, descriptions, which in turn are associated with that name and taken for granted; the encounter with another language, the discovery of another mode of expression, leads to reflection on the nature of the object - the great value of metaphors lies in the emphasis they place on the relationship between objects, connecting as they do the individual item to another item, and so to the world.  This new word adds something to the word in the mother tongue – an addition that cannot be carried over into translation, because a concept in its entirety is of necessity the sum of several parts.  In the Beginning was the Word; this is the first unit of translation.  It is only a beginning, but it represents a foundation that must be laid and that is conspicuous by its absence in these two translations.  They are inaccurate, inconsistent, and ineffective; and they contain many alterations, deliberate or not, which, as this essay has purposed to prove, repeatedly detract from the artistic merit of this text.

 

In the world of E.T.A. Hoffmann, there is more than one reality; the portrayal of such a world demands great artistic skill.  These translations, however, do not even create one reality.  The American translators attempt to reproduce his voice, but are not up to the task; the French translator does not even try to, but would rather narrate the tale in his own manner.  They do not seem to realise the closeness of the relationship between studying a text and translating it; if they had read eDer Goldne Topff with the same meticulousness and conscientiousness with which Hoffmann wrote the tale, they would have realised that his style, and his register, have a time, and a place, and a reason; he may not have been conscious of the reasons why a particular structure was appropriate for the achievement of the desired effect, but he must have at least been aware, during the creative process, that what he was writing had the correct feel.  He knew that eDer Goldne Topff was his best tale; that it was not merely a story, but a work of art.  It seems that France has at least been impressed and influenced by Hoffmannfs imagination; but that is only half the story.  The English-speaking world, however, cannot even claim the acquaintance of Hoffmannfs shadow, let alone the artistry with which it is illuminated and given life.




 

NOTES

 

1.                  The American-English translation is from Tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Transl. by Leonard J. Kent and Elizabeth C. Knight (Chicago, 1969).  The French is from Le Vase dfOr, Transl. by Jean Duren (Lagny-sur-Marne, 1942).

 

2.                  There are few modern English translations of this tale to compare this version with; nor is it fair to compare with something so obviously antiquated as Carlylefs version.  Nor is one overwhelmed with new French translations.  For the purpose of general assessment, a greater number of translations would of course have to be examined; but from an introductory reading, these two were selected as a representative sample to serve as a starting-point.

 

3.                  From the tale eDes Vetters Eckfensterf in Hoffmanns Werke, Vol. 2 (Berlin/Weimar, 1979), p.307.

 

4.                  L.W. Tancock, gSome problems of style in translation from Frenchh, in Aspects of Translation (London, 1958), p.48.

 

5.                  Hans Mayer, Von Lessing bis Thomas Mann (Metzingen/Württemberg, 1959), p.201.

 

6.                  Comparison of this translation with the original illustrated yet more questionable choices in the preceding translation; yet an elaboration is unnecessary.

 

7.                  J. Reddick in German Men of Letters, Vol. V (London, 1969), p.83.

 

8.                  Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, The Oxford Book of English Prose (Oxford, 1925) p.viii.

 

9.                  In a letter to Kunz of 19 August 1813, quoted in: Hoffmanns Werke (Berlin/Weimar, 1979), Vol.1, p.264.

 

 

 

 

 

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

I.  TEXTUAL

 

Hoffmanns Werke (Berlin/Weimar, 1979), Vols. 1 & 2.

 

Intro. M ANCHELOT, Contes DfHoffmann (Abridged; Lagny-sur-Marne – undated).

 

Transl. JEAN DUREN, La Vase Dfor (Lagny-sur-Marne, 1942).

 

Transl. LEONARD J. KENT and ELIZABETH C. KNIGHT, Tales Of E.T.A. Hoffmann (Chicago, 1969).

 

Transl. GÉRARD DE NERVAL, Aventures de La Nuit De Saint Sylvestre (Argenteuil, 1921).

 

 

 

II.   CRITICAL APPARATUS

 

German Men of Letters, Vol V. (London, 1969).

 

MAYER, HANS  Von Lessing bis Thomas Mann (Metzingen/Württemberg, 1959)