OBITUARY: David McLintock ; German Scholar Who Retired from University Life at 51 to Be a Translator
Flood, John L., The Independent (London, England)
AT THE height of a distinguished career in university teaching, first in Oxford, then in London, David McLintock, translator and scholar in German studies, availed himself of an opportunity afforded by the Thatcherite squeeze on university funding to take early retirement in 1982 and seek fresh challenges.
After a short-lived venture running a small employment agency, he set himself up as a freelance translator. For a time he even worked in the Civil Service, in the Department of the Environment, translating EU documentation. Dull as this sounds, he enjoyed the companionship of working in an office, for the life of a translator can be very lonely. Eventually, however, he returned to his true love: literary translation. His greatest achievement in this field was to acquaint the English-speaking world with the work of the virtuoso but controversial Austrian novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard.
His translation of Beton appeared as Concrete with Dent in 1984, but when copyright in this passed to Alfred A. Knopf (New York) a long and fruitful collaboration with American publishing houses began. By 1995 he had published a remarkable series of elegant and sensitive translations of Bernhard's Woodcutters (1987), Wittgenstein's Nephew (1989), Extinction (1995), and the five- volume autobiography Gathering Evidence (1994). These, and his rendering of Heinrich Boll's Women in a River Landscape (1988), twice earned him the coveted Schlegel-Tieck Prize, as well as the Austrian State Prize for translation.
His range was immense: besides works of fiction he translated Christian Meier's The Greek Discovery of Politics (1990) and Caesar (1996), Martin Warnke's The Court Artist (1993), Samuel Wittwer's A Royal Menagerie: Meissen porcelain animals (2001), and Sigmund Freud's Civilisation and its Discontents (2002) and The Uncanny (2003) for Penguin, as well as the catalogues of a number of major art exhibitions.
David McLintock was born in 1930 in Yorkshire. From Scarborough High School for Boys he gained a scholarship to the Queen's College, Oxford, in 1949. As an undergraduate he was awarded Heath Harrison travelling scholarships for German and French, and in 1952 he obtained a First in these languages. He then embarked on the notoriously demanding Diploma in Comparative Philology under Leonard Palmer and C.L. Wrenn, specialising in Greek and Gothic, and qualifying in 1954.
Next he studied at Munster, where he encountered the (to him) rebarbative etymological approach of Jost Trier. Whilst recognising Trier's brilliance, McLintock never embraced what he called his etymological fanaticism. For him etymology remained "a ragbag that rightly fascinates the layman, but can never amount to a discipline". More congenial was a period of study in Munich under the distinguished Indo-Europeanist Wilhelm Wissmann.
Already by the 1960s, McLintock was considered one of the foremost comparative Germanic philologists of his generation in Britain. Undeterred by prevailing fashions in linguistics, he remained profoundly sceptical of Chomskyan linguistics, dismissing generative phonology, for example, as a "load of nonsense". But he was no mere old-style philologist. He appreciated the insights of de Saussure, Sapir and Bloomfield, greatly respected Hjelmslev, and was fully conversant with the work of American structuralists in the field of comparative Germanic linguistics.
At Oxford he became a …
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Publication information: Article title: OBITUARY: David McLintock ; German Scholar Who Retired from University Life at 51 to Be a Translator. Contributors: Flood, John L. - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 3, 2003. Page number: 17. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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