Summary And Stance In Milan Kundera's A Sentence

977 words - 4 pages

Kundera's essay centers on Kafka's work and the fate it has suffered at the hands of both translators and publishers, who have changed and distorted, sometimes against the author's wishes, "…the beauty of Kafka's art…" (101).He (Kundera) begins with an example of a sentence from The Castle, one of Kafka's most important works, in which the author describes the coition of K., the main character, and Frieda, a woman with whom he has a sporadic relationship. I will only cite Kundera's translation from the German original, which he was motivated to write due to the imperfections he found in Alexandre Valetti's, Claude David, and Bernard Lortholary: There hours went by, hours of mutual breaths, of mutual heartbeats, hours in which K. continually had the feeling that he was going astray, or that he was farther inside the strange world than any person before him, in a strange world where the very air had in it no element of his native air, where one must suffocate from strangeness and where, in the midst of absurd enticements, one could do nothing but keep going, keep going astray. (103) The imperfections found by Kundera stem from the sentence being a metaphor. He states that, by using the verb "thrust" instead of "to be" (into, which is what Kafka wrote), the metaphor is broken and revealed, since the act of lovemaking involves the man to "thrust." Even Lortholary, the closest of the translators, uses "advance into," which is far apart from "to be." Another mistake comes in the elimination of the word "strange," which is repeated three times. Here, the translators avoided the repetition and substituted it with "foreign" and "exile," which do not hold the same meaning as "strange". If an author chooses a specific word, he does it thinking about style. If Kafka uses Fremde, which means strange, we cannot turn it into "a foreign country," or "abroad," since this is not the meaning he wanted to express in his metaphor. This is perhaps the biggest mistake in the translation.Metaphors catch existential situations in Kafka's work. This could, of course, be done by a blunt description, but in the metaphor an author not only secures his own style, but the aesthetic of his work. Words are carefully chosen as "key" words to grasp the situation. By changing them, translators break, not only the aesthetic value of the metaphor, but transfer it from its existential domain to the domain of visual description, thus, ending the metaphor. Kafka expresses coition between K. and Freida in metaphors, which is more beautiful than simply saying: "K. and Freida licked and groped each other." The translator's situation is delicate. They must understand the author and his/her intentions. Unfortunately, they often overlook this most important aspect of their work.One of translator's most repeated (and here we are being redundant on purpose) mistakes is the elimination of repeated words. They feel the need to...

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