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The Flying Mountain
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International Booker Prize > 2018 MBI Longlist: The Flying Mountain

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message 1: by Hugh (last edited Mar 13, 2018 04:16AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3164 comments Mod
The Flying Mountain by Christoph Ransmayr Christoph Ransmayr (Austria), Simon Pare, The Flying Mountain (Seagull Books)


Meike (meikereads) I really enjoyed Ransmayr's Cox oder Der Lauf der Zeit about the nature of time (I hope it will be translated as well), and I am curious to read this one!


Meike (meikereads) ...just ordered it and realized that the original was published in 2006 (!) - that's insane!!!


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments In terms of delay in translation? Satantango which won the BTBA and, implicitly the MBI (when it was an author award), was 1985 to 2013. I'm sure there are examples with even bigger gaps - indeed it's only the author still alive criteria that stops a lot of them qualifying.

It is poor though how long translation into English does take.


message 5: by Meike (last edited Mar 16, 2018 06:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meike (meikereads) Paul wrote: "It is poor though how long translation into English does take."

Yes, exactly! It is really unfortunate, and in some cases the changing context changes the reception of the text. I just tried to find out when "Cox" will get translated, and the rights have already been sold to Seagull - I hope the translation won't take forever! Here's a link to the book in English: https://www.fischerverlage.de/rights/...


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments Incidentally seems quickest way to get the English copy is to buy it from the US where it is for sale now - won't be on sale in UK apparently for another month

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/b...

USD37 incl postage - painful!


message 7: by Louise (new)

Louise | 222 comments Do you have the added risk of a customs fee when ordering from the U.S.? I sometimes get an 18 £ customs fee as well as 20% of the books price


message 8: by Paul (last edited Mar 19, 2018 06:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments Errrrr - I hope not! Hadn't thought of that.

A lot of amazon books I order come from US and haven't had a problem - but logically I guess one should.


Meike (meikereads) I finished it, and I LOVED Ransmayr's language. This text is unusual as it is a free verse epic in the spirit of German Romanticism, and Ransmayr is jazzing out on his signature travel theme. Here's my review.


message 10: by Tim (last edited Mar 22, 2018 03:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tim | 65 comments And now, Meike, we stand here, point at all the non-native German-speakers and laugh. ;-)
Here's my review


message 11: by Paul (last edited Mar 22, 2018 03:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments Ah but it is a prize purely for the English translation of a book, not the original, so you need to read that for your votes to count in the dynamic rankings :-)

Genuinely though would be great to get views on translations from people who can/have read the originals. I have spotted one error in The White Book for example and a couple of untranslatable puns.


message 12: by Meike (last edited Mar 22, 2018 03:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meike (meikereads) Tim wrote: "And now, Meike, we stand here, point at all the non-native German-speakers and laugh. ;-)
Here's my review"


It's so fun to be mean! :-) Gemein sein macht Spaß!

Paul wrote: "Genuinely though would be great to get views on translations from people who can/have read the originals. I have spotted one error in The White Book for example and a couple of untranslatable puns."

Paul, I usually feel like I am not a good judge when it comes to the quality of translations, but in this case, I am really interested in at least having a look at it - the whole book seems utterly untranslatable to me!


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5395 comments Meike wrote: ...the whole book seems utterly untranslatable "

Like all the best books

Lights blue touch paper ...........


message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments An example of a great book that is untranslatable is...?

Eg Bottom's Dream was very successfully translated by John E Woods, the great untranslatable Turkish masterpiece The Disconnected has just come out. In the other direction, Ulysees is available in many languages etc.

If by untranslatable one means incapabable of creating the exact same meaning, grammar, use of language and sensation in English as the original language then every book, indeed every utterance, is untranslatable.

But that seems irrelevant. The only literature where such close fidelity matters is scripture - but fortunately there the translators solicit external assistance.

For other books what matters is whether a translator, working with the original, can produce a worthwhile work of art in English that compares well to English-language originals and here the verdict seems pretty clear. Despite the low production rate, the bulk of great fiction in English is translated fiction (which Anglophone author has written anything to compare to Sebald, Marias, Krasznahorkai, Bolano, Ōe, Ferrante etc in recent years).


message 15: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments If any of those who have read in German want to see how it appears in English - here is an extract

https://scroll.in/article/872434/flyi...

Would be great to get any views on the translation


message 16: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments Still waiting for my German-language edition to arrive!


message 17: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments One for the German speakers perhaps but....

What is the relationship between this book and http://www.celineducrot.ch/Book-Der-W...

Dkar Po Phur-Ri – Der weisse fliegende Berg, 2016
A book about the mysterious White Flying Mountain and the story of two failed attempts to reach its summit, which is surrounded by fog at all times. The items shown in the book are collected from friends, various flea-markets and online-auctions, and constitute the foundation of a fictional «collection» that is combined with text-material which documents the race to the top of an imagined mountain.

Don't think it is the same book - but has almost the same title and the same (I believe) imagined mountain (or is Phur-ri a real mountain).

Pure coincidence?

Or is this sort of like Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence / The Innocence of Objects pairing?


message 18: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments Bizarre! A complete rip-off, perhaps? Can't find any more information about Phur-Ri online...


message 19: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments Paul wrote: "If any of those who have read in German want to see how it appears in English - here is an extract

https://scroll.in/article/872434/flyi......"


Not too bad, although there's a bit missing towards the end (I suspect somebody deleted a bit in transferring it to the website), plus a few of the breaks have been missed). I prefer the German, but that's only to be expected :)


message 20: by Paul (last edited Apr 07, 2018 12:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments Tony wrote: "Not too bad, although there's a bit missing towards the end (I suspect somebody deleted a bit in transferring it to the website), plus a few of the breaks have been missed). I prefer the German, but that's only to be expected :)"

One interesting thing to me is that some German language reviews seem to assume this book is almost untranslatable. It clearly isn't - indeed was translated into French, Italian, Croatian, Dutch, Polish, Slovenian, Serbian and Hungarian very quickly - it is only the English version that took years to come out and that's the usual limitations on commissioning translations in the UK/US.

And given this isn't poetry - it doesn't rhyme, it doesn't scan - it doesn't seem to pose any particular difficulties. But it does require the translator to make their own decision on line breaks and even paragraph breaks so it reads best in the recipient language, rather than slavishly follow the German, which I think is what Pare has done.

The opening lines in both languages (not the extra paragraph break in German);

Ich starb
6840 Meter über dem Meeresspiegel
am vierten Mai im Jahr des Pferdes.

Der Ort meines Todes
lag am Fuß einer eisgepanzerten Felsnadel,
in deren Windschatten ich die Nacht überlebt hatte.

Die Lufttemperatur meiner Todesstunde
betrug minus 30 Grad Celsius,
und ich sah, wie die Feuchtigkeit
meiner letzten Atemzüge kristallisierte
und als Rauch in der Morgendämmerung zerstob.

Ich fror nicht. Ich hatte keine Schmerzen.
Das Pochen der Wunde an meiner linken Hand
war seltsam taub.
Durch die bodenlosen Abgründe zu meinen Füßen
trieben Wolkenfäuste aus Südost.

Der Grat, der von meiner Zuflucht
weiter und weiter
bis zur Psyramide des Gipfels emporführte,
verlor sich in jagenden Eisfahnen,
aber der Himmel über den höchsten Höhen
blieb von einem so dunklen Blau,
daß ich darin Sternbilder zu erkennen glaubte:
den Bärenhüter, die Schlange, den Skorpion.

I died
six thousand, eight hundred and forty metres above sea level
on the fourth of May in the Year of the Horse.

My deathplace
lay at the foot of an ice-armoured needle of rock
in whose lee I had survived the night.

The air temperature at the time of my death
was minus 30 degrees Celsius
and I saw the moisture
of my final breath crystallize
and disperse like smoke into the light of dawn.
I felt no cold. I was in no pain.
The pulsing of the wound in my left hand
was strangely dulled.
Through the bottomless chasms at my feet
fists of cloud came drifting from the south-east.

The ridge leading from my shelter up and up
to the pyramidal peak
was lost in driving banners of ice,
but the sky above the highest heights
remained so deep a blue
that in it I thought I could make out the constellations
of Boötes, Serpens and Scorpio.


And for fun what Google makes out of it - not bad actually - which supports my 'far from untranslatable' view:

I died
6840 meters above sea level
on the fourth of May in the year of the horse.

The place of my death
lay at the foot of an ice-covered rock needle,
in whose slipstream I had survived the night.

The air temperature of my hour of death
was minus 30 degrees Celsius,
and I saw how the moisture
crystallized from my last breaths
and destroyed as smoke at dawn.

I did not froze. I was in no pain.
The pounding of the wound on my left hand
was strangely deaf.
Through the bottomless chasms at my feet
Cloud fists drove from the southeast.

The ridge of my refuge
further and further
up to the Psyramide of the summit,
got lost in hunting ice flags,
but the sky above the highest heights
remained of such a dark blue,
that I believed to recognize constellations in it:
the bear keeper, the snake, the scorpion.


I assume in German the odd decision to leave 6840 in numbers rather than words is either

a) to remind people this isn't poetry? or
b) because the German word written down (sechstausendachthundertvierzig I think?) looks rather clunky

For others wishing to pursue the comparison

German opening pages:
http://www.ransmayr.eu/werke/der-flie...

English opening pages:
https://scroll.in/article/872434/flyi...


message 21: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments and incidentally the real life story of two brothers that climbed the Tibetan peaks - albeit experienced climbers not Irish amateurs - that part inspired this story

https://www.theguardian.com/world/200...


Meike (meikereads) Paul wrote: "One interesting thing to me is that some German language reviews seem to assume this book is almost untranslatable. It clearly isn't - indeed was translated into French, Italian, Croatian, Dutch, Polish, Slovenian, Serbian and Hungarian very quickly - it is only the English version that took years to come out and that's the usual limitations on commissioning translations in the UK/US... "

Paul, of course you can translate the words into another language - it is the effect that Ransmayr evokes with making German sound like that which is basically impossible to capture. He makes the language float in a very specific way, and no offense, but you cannot judge the effect of that in German, because you don't know German. The sounds of German and English are very different, so the effect does not translate by simply translating the words, which makes translating this book an art.

I think it is a little rich to try to tell Germans how well German-language poetry is translatable by using Google Translate, tbh. Next you will try to tell a French writer and a half-French reviewer what reflects French society, I guess! (Just sayin'! :-))


message 23: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments Fair point although I remain unconvinced that this is any more untranslatable than most other literary books.

I was intrigued that google translate did almost as good a job as the English translator which perhaps says more about the English version than the German original.

As for French society, someone I don't know but who is French posted on my review: If you don't my mind my intruding : no French person in their right mind will tell you Virginie Despentes "captured" 21st century France.


Meike (meikereads) Paul wrote: "As for French society, someone I don't know but who is French posted on my review.."

That's alright, then there are simply many, many crazy people out there! :-)


message 25: by Paul (last edited Apr 07, 2018 04:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments :-)

Worth a read (for non-German speakers google translate again works well!) - Ransmayr and Messner, the real-life figure whose brother's death inspired the novel

http://sz-magazin.sueddeutsche.de/tex...


message 26: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments And an interesting read (and in English, or maybe Scottisg)

https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/...

arguing that the black snow (taken from a real-life phenomenon witnessed by Messner at ultra-high altitude) is a common motif in Ransmayr's work and harks back to the holocaust. (Strikes me as of one those literary interpretations where the author may not have realised what they had apparently achieved)


message 27: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments Meike wrote: "Paul wrote: "One interesting thing to me is that some German language reviews seem to assume this book is almost untranslatable. It clearly isn't - indeed was translated into French, Italian, Croat..."

Also, a lot of the effect comes from word length, word stress and assonance, much of which is lost when rendered in English.


Meike (meikereads) Tony wrote: "Also, a lot of the effect comes from word length, word stress and assonance, much of which is lost when rendered in English."

Da stimme ich Dir absolut zu!


message 29: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments Are there things you can do in German you can't in English?

Or is that the translator needs to work hard and not follow the German too slavishly to achieve similar effects?

Either way seems to me you are both arguing against this making the shortlist given this is a competition for best translation not for best German novel that happens to have been translated?

I would have to admit the flying prose in English seems more a gimmick than anything.


message 30: by Meike (last edited Apr 08, 2018 12:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meike (meikereads) Paul wrote: "Are there things you can do in German you can't in English?

Or is that the translator needs to work hard and not follow the German too slavishly to achieve similar effects?

Either way seems to me..."


There are things you can do in any language that hardly translate, because language resonates and operates on so many levels - which is why translating a strong poetic text is an art and a good translator cannot be replaced by Google translate. I have never seen a translation of "Faust" which manages to do the original text justice, and it's the same thing with Shakespeare in German, for example - in a way, these become different texts, which is why there are often several different translations of the same text that are equally valid. It's the magic of language.

I would have to read larger parts of the whole translation to judge it somehow fairly (which I won't do). But just because a translator transforms the text, it doesn't mean that he did a bad job - in some cases, on the contrary. Slavishly following the original can ruin a text, and reproducing the exact same text in another language is impossible anyway. But it's an impossibility of degrees - in Ransmayr's case, it's a particularly high degree, I'd say, because of the things that Tony and I mentioned. As Ransmayr composes a particular sound, the question is how to translate the effect of that sound into another language that sounds nothing like German.

Of course it might also be a question of taste, but to me, the flying prose in German sounded insanely beautiful.


message 31: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments I think the flying prose adds to the epic poem feel, adding a slight sense of distance at times. Funnily enough, it probably makes the novel more readable as it breaks up what could have been lengthy passages in normal prose,allowing the reader to digest it piece by piece (I frequently reread blocks I particularly liked).


message 32: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments The translators take:

I had a lot of fun playing with the line breaks and finding a rhythm in English that mirrored the unique cadence Christoph Ransmayr has created in German by writing prose that resembles poetry. Reconciling such apparent opposites is absolutely essential to this novel, especially relating to the phenomena encountered at high altitude and sea level, and it was enthralling to test how the vocabulary and atmosphere of one could be applied to the other. The Flying Mountain strains syntax and language and yet, if I have done my job properly, it should be as pleasurable to read as it is in German.


Meike (meikereads) One thing is obvious: In the example above, the English version has a different feel and sound to it - which does not at all mean that the translator did a bad job. It simply means that Ransmayr managed to work with very specific qualities of his language, and try that with edgy-sounding German! The translator saw what Ransmayr was doing and tried to capture it by transforming it, which is the core of his art (as he also explains in the quote). Still, I would have to read a lot more to pass any kind of judgement.


message 34: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8756 comments Certainly I think Simon Pare has done a better job than double longlisted Frank Wynne whose two translations, as pointed out on the respective threads, seem to have material errors and oddities.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 565 comments My two semesters of German in college help me not one iota in know whether the translation is good or bad in conveying what the author wrote. But, I loved the book. My review is here - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show....


message 36: by Val (new) - added it

Val | 1016 comments It sounds as though the best solution for those who can't read the original might be an audio-book in German plus the English translation.


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