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Although I have done it all these thirty years or more, although I live my life surrounded by other people who are always doing it, still I think that there are few activities so worthy of inspection as the reading of novels.

Juan Gabriel Várgas

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🦋 Inversion

So this:

Abwärts wend ich mich zu der heiligen, unaussprechlichen, geheimnisvollen Nacht. Fernab liegt die Welt - in eine tiefe Gruft versenkt - wüst und einsam ist ihre Stelle.

doesn't sound nearly as odd to me as this:

Aside I turn to the holy, unspeakable, mysterious Night. Afar lies the world, sunk in a deep grave; waste and lonely is its place.

Possible reasons:

  • It is normal to invert elements of a sentence like that in German, where in English it sounds archaic -- I cannot vouch for the truth of the first clause here but that's what they told me in high school German. It may be that the construction would sound archaic to a native speaker of German.
  • The German sounds foreign to begin with, and my ears do not pick up enough nuance to tell anything more than that; whereas the English is my own language, and I can tell straight off that it is not the kind of thing you would say, if you were speaking about turning to the holy, mysterious Night.

I am trying to figure out here, whether a more colloquial translation would be a good thing -- if the German sounds stilted in the original, then a comfortable translation would not be true to the source material.

posted evening of Wednesday, October 17th, 2007
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In spoken German the sentence order would sound just as archaic.

'abwärts' to me would imply a turning downward rather than aside. (which corresponds to 'tief' and 'versenkt' and with the special significance of the world underneath in Novalis' work and in Hardenberg's wordly profession)

posted morning of February 5th, 2010 by Mir

Thanks, Mir; that is good to know. I still think there must be better ways to render it in English besides "Aside I turn to the holy, unspeakable, mysterious Night." -- interesting that abwärts sounds more like "downwards" than "aside"; that makes sense in the context.

posted evening of February 5th, 2010 by Jeremy


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