Why Rosemary Sutcliff translates so well into German

Anjy posted a fascinating comment at the You Write! page about how well Rosemary Sutcliff‘s style translates into German, and about her powers of description.

I have been addicted to Sutcliff’s book for about 40 years now. I have read everything by her in German and a lot in English and she is one of the very few authors I came across who benefits from translations. Mostly, when I read a book in German and then in the English original I prefer the original in comparison. Even if the translation is good (not every one is, Harry Potter is a linguistic catastrophe) normally the power and motion of the English is hardly transferred into German. Not so with Rosemary Sutcliff. Even by different translators her books are every bit enjoyable in German, sometimes even more.

Where the English language is strongly built upon verbs and verbal structures (the abundant “-ing-forms” are something every German pupils has to struggle to understand the concept of), German sets the focus much more on nouns and adjectives – and so does Rosemary Sutcliff. When she describes a scene – maybe due to being forced to just sit and watch for so many years of her early life – she concentrates on things that don’t move or change, on colours and textures. Like in later life as a miniature painter she draws her scenes in minute detail – much like a German sentence as Mark Twain depicted it .

I find this most unusual and remarkable and one the increasingly rare examples for an author whose style of writing (not so much the plots) is in direct correspondence with her very special biography.

I look forward to comments on the post….and if you have your own detailed reflections on Rosemary Sutcliff and her work, do please post them at the You Write! page .

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