A New Novel by Nobel Winner, Gunter Grass – Can it be Translated?

As a regular listener to B.B.C World Service Program, The Strand, I had the chance to listen to the news surrounding Gunter Grass’s new book and that which forms the third volume of his biographical trilogy.

The book, Grimms Wörter, is written in the form of both a dictionary and biography. Due to the form and the nature in which the book is written, it proves difficult to translate, hence the argument that the book is untranslatable.

In times past, Grass has worked with his translators and which saw the new version of his best known novel, The Tin Drum because Grass felt that the older translated version was not like the original book.

Now, with this new novel, Gunter Grass poses a great deal of challenge to all translators. The big question thrown to all translators is that, ‘Can Gunter Grass’s new book be translated?’

The issue of books and their translations has been a major argument for many years. In this view, Geosi Reads will be bringing you an interview involving a Nigerian – Belgian writer who writes in both English and Dutch. One of the questions I look forward to asking this writer would take into consideration the argument surrounding books and their translations.

Below is a brief biography on Gunter Grass:

Günter Wilhelm Grass (born 16 October 1927) is a Nobel Prize-winning German author, poet, and playwright. He was born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland). In 1945, he came as a refugee to West Germany, but in his fiction he frequently returns to the Danzig of his childhood. He is best known for his first novel, The Tin Drum. In 1965, he won the Georg Büchner Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999.


2 Responses to A New Novel by Nobel Winner, Gunter Grass – Can it be Translated?

  1. I responded to this elsewhere by stating that almost every time a book is translated, it loses something. Something mostly intangible. The music of the language and the roll of the words. The more difficult the book is the more it loses. I have heard omissions in the Harry Potter series when it was translated into French. However, as language grows and new words develop, translations get closer and closer to the original. So the work might be difficult to translate as of now but when it is done there would definitely be a trade-off between structure and plot and others.


    • Geosi says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I think it is the form of the book that brings this whole argument to bear. Have you heard of the new symbol added to the oxford Dictionary recently?


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