You darn fool/Sie zusammengeflickter Narr

Rudolf Hermstein: Chandler verschandelt, oder
Das luftgetriebene Riesenhorn

In 1976, when Hellmuth Karasek’s translation of Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake appeared, I wasn’t living in Germany.

That may explain why I am so late to hear about other translators’ reactions to it, albeit not too late to hear Karasek holding forth about literature – and translation – on the box.

At least at that time, Karasek not only had a slim grasp of the English language, but he didn’t take much trouble to find out what the unfamiliar terms meant, even where his interpretation did not make much sense to him. His German style was a little rocky too.

The article linked above gives a full account in German. Some gems: interpreting you darn fool as if it had to do with darning; in ‘You can’t tell anything about an outfit like that’, with reference to a company, taking outfit to mean the furnishing of the room; an air-raid horn on a police car (the USA had just entered WWII when the novel appeared) is taken to be a large air-powered siren; ‘(the secretary) looked a little warmer, but no prairie fire’ comes across in German as ‘not like a prairie on fire’, which doesn’t work.

Thanks to Christiane

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