Academic journal article German Quarterly

Georg Trakl: Poems and Prose. A Bilingual Edition

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Georg Trakl: Poems and Prose. A Bilingual Edition

Article excerpt

Georg Trakl: Poems and Prose. A Bilingual Edition. Translated from the German and with an introduction by Alexander Stillmark. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2005.192 pp. $17.95 paperback.

Translations of poetry are as necessary as they are impossible. Alexander Stillmark's translation is a perfect case in point. It serves multiple essential purposes. Among them is rendering a poet whose recognition rarely extends beyond the boundaries of German-speaking lands accessible to readers of English, for whom Trakl should serve as a unique and important gloss on 20th-century verse. If bilingual editions are always welcome, this one is particularly. Trakl's poems possess, as Stillmark writes, an "evocativeness" that is "charged and empowered with [... ] significance beyond conventional usage or expectation" (xviii). That power, as any reader of Trakl has noticed, results from the "strangeness of his diction and syntax" as well as the "particular resonance and intensity" of language's non-semantic traits (xxi). So, while Stillmark opted to ignore rhyme, for example, in favor of rendering the "general 'feel' of [Trakl's] distinctive style" (xxi) the German version opposite the translation allows one to recognize what cannot be rendered in the generality of such feelings: "The poet's predilection for elevated poetic terms like "Antlitz," "Odem," or "Woge," needed to be respected where possible, but it is scarcely feasible to reproduce in English every original compound coinage, the dynamics of certain prefixes [...] or a number of indefinite abstract substantives" (xxii). And even that which accounts for general feeling-"alliterative effects," "languid cadences," and "the melancholy music of his vowel sounds"-"can never be properly recreated" (xxii). In some instances, Stillmark seems to hit the mark as closely as possible, as in the following citation from Trakl's second version of "Grodek":

Even if the "melancholy music" of the vowels strikes a slightly different chord in English, the translation gestures towards what is most elusive and captivating about Iraki's poetry.

Beyond the merits of the individual translations is the breadth of the offering. …

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