Novalis is the subject of Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel The Blue Flower. That novel, which is on my list of ‘must read again’, has a curious way of placing the reader in 18th-century Germany by rendering German speech and writing in a rather literal way, a kind of translatorese: characters are called ‘the Bernhard’, ‘the Mandelsloh’, ‘Söphgen’.
‘This is my niece by marriage, Karoline Just.’
Karoline was wearing her shawl and housekeeping apron.
‘You are beautiful, gracious Fräulein,’ said Fritz.
Rahel saw that, whatever else, young Hardenberg was serious. She allowed herself to wonder whether he was obliged, on medical advice, to take much opium? For toothache, of course, everyone had to take it, she did not mean that. But she soon found out that he took at most thirty drops at bedrime as a sedative, if his mind was too active – only half the dose, in fact, that she took herself for a woman’s usual aches and pains.
languagehat reported recently that Jeremy Osner of READIN is inviting readers to help produce a translation of Hymnen an die Nacht. He presents George MacDonald’s translation, which he finds unsatisfactory, opposite the German and a working version of his own translation in between.
This is great fun, and would be even more so if one actually wanted to translate Hymnen an die Nacht into English.