Occupy Robert Walser

Translationista apologizes for the long delay since she last posted – she has been running around organizing a large group of translators for Occupy Wall Street, and it’s been a big commitment. Translationista is too tired to write in the first person. No, wait a minute, that sounds all wrong. OK, here I am. Let me try to speak like a person who has two brain cells to rub together. The work for OWS has been inspiring, thrilling, and a continual source of joy. It makes me so happy that a group of us have been able to come together to give voice – LOUDLY – to some of the main things wrong with how our democracy has been working. I’m all for capitalism, but not for plutocracy, and I think the OWS movement has put its finger on the crucial difference between them. The fact that this message is suddenly being picked up in the media and heard, after many years of being marginalized and ignored, feels triumphant.

Meanwhile I’ve been delving away at projects of my own. Last week I turned in the page proofs for my translation of Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories, which will be out this coming January. Watch this space for announcements regarding the launch party. And just this morning I finished a very curious project: A revision (by me) of a masterful translation (by Christopher Middleton) of Robert Walser’s long story “Der Spaziergang” (The Walk), originally dating from 1917. Back when Middleton translated this story, in 1955 – when he was much younger than I am now – he didn’t realize that Walser had later produced a much-revised version of the same story, published in 1920 in Seeland (Lake Country), a collection of novellas and longer stories. Since it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first scholarly editions of Walser’s work began to appear, it’s quite understandable that Middleton – who was relying on first editions he found at antiquarian bookshops in Zurich, where he was living at the time – didn’t know about the revision.

So now I’ve combed through every page of this sixty-page novella (there are changes to nearly every sentence – tiny ones, for the most part), and have tweaked and adjusted line after line of Middleton’s gorgeous translation to make it correspond to the revised version of the story. It was a lot of work, and also fascinating. Middleton is a very different translator from me, but I think his work is stupendously good, so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to “occupy” it, i.e. to study it so closely.

I just turned the manuscript in to my editor at New Directions, along with a preface (or possibly afterword) I wrote about the story and my revision of it. Look for it a few months from now in ND’s lovely Pearl Series.

And meanwhile: Power to the People!

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