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 .

Rosemary Sutcliff Dutch translations

Anita, a Dutch reader, has provided me with a bibliography of all Dutch translations of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books. The Internet works! For  I made contact with her via Library Thing. Previously someone  unknown to me of course, she has done a complete list. Thank you!Read More »

NOVELAS HISTORICAS: El Usurpador del Imperio de Rosemary Sutcliff

NOVELAS HISTORICAS: El Usurpador del Imperio de Rosemary Sutcliff is a Spanish blog entry which I have yet to translate, but wanted to capture here.

Dutch Zilveren Griffel award

A Dutch enthusiast for Rosemary Sutcliff, Anita Meulstee, tells me that in 1971 Rosemary won the Zilveren Griffel – The Silver Pencil – which together with the Golden Pencil award is one of the major literary prizes for Dutch Children’s  and Young Adult literature. Each year in the Week of Childrens’ Books the CPNB (in Dutch the  Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek, which encourages the habits of book buying and book reading) awards the PencilsRead More »

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Dawn Wind was writer Annette Curtis Klause favourite plus insightful comments about German translation!

illustration by Charles KeepingMy father took my sister and me to the library every Saturday. I could hardly wait to get home and start on the giant pile of books … Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels were among my favorites …  especially Dawn Wind. At the point where Dog dies, I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry my heart out under the mistaken assumption that no one would hear me, when actually my wails probably echoed through the entire house. “She’s reading that stupid book again,” I expect they said downstairs.
Source: Children’s Book Guild – Annette Curtis Klause.

And interesting extracts from a comment (full comment below), about translation into German:

I just reread Dawn Wind in an older German translation titled “Owins Weg in die Freiheit” (Owain’s way to freedom) and came upon some interesting issues. First the translator did a marvellous job, the story not only can be heard while reading but smelt and tasted. He makes me hear the waves crash on the ship-wreck Beornwulf comes home with, smells the burning barley breads and feel the mist creeping over the marshes. Second he doesn’t seem to know some facts about Britain. He constantly translates “corn” by the German “Mais”, whihc is, of course, the meaning the dictionary provides you with but I still believe Sutcliff may have used “corn” and just mean “Korn” (grain, wheat and rye and barley). This leads to the anachronistic scene of a 7th century british village situated behind a corn-field and the british warrior suggesting to draw “stalks of corn/maiz” for the feud between Vadir and Bryni. Also he translates Kyndylan the Fair as Kyndylan the Just, obviously taking the common meaning of “fair”, again provided by the dictionary, as just, reliable. Am I right in assuming that the title “fair” may mean that british leader’s colour of hair rather than his way of life, thus it should translate “Kyndylan der Helle (fair-haired)” or even “the blonde”?