I’m reading a translation of a set of Umberto Eco lectures, Im Wald der Fiktionen: Sechs Streifzüge durch die Literatur, and I just came across this sentence, which bears sharing, I think.
(Context; he’s just taken a quotation from the end of Edgar Allen Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym , which is, basically, not an ending at all.)
„Hier, wo die Stimme des Ich-Erzählers abbricht, will der Autor, daß wir den Rest unseres Lebens damit verbringen, uns zu fragen, wie es weitergangen sein mag, und in der Sorge, daß wir noch nicht genügend verzehrt werden von der Begierde, zu wissen, was wir nie erfahren werden, fügt der Autor—nicht der Erzähler—eine Nachbemerkung an, in welcher er uns bedeutet, nach dem Verschwinden von Mr. Pym sei »zu befürchten, daß die wenigen verbleibenden Kapitel, die seinen Bericht hätten abschließen sollen [...] unwiederbringlich verlorengegangen sind«.“
Firstly; wow. What a sentence. Don’t you think so? Ninety words, if XEmacs’ count-words-region is to be believed. Secondly, my head hurts. Here’s my attempt at understanding it;
“At this point, where the voice of the first-person narrator breaks off, the author intends us to spend the rest of our lives asking ourselves how he will react to going further, and worrying that we still haven’t absorbed enough longing to know what we will never experience. The author—not the narrator—also adds a further commentary, in which he explains to us that after the disappearance of Mr. Pym ‘it is to be feared that the few remaining chapter which should have concluded the report [...] were irreparably lost.’”
(Criticism of the shakiness of this translation is, as always, welcome at the obvious email address.)
 Yes, Eco is Italian, and so reading him in German does probably lose something. However, the translator of this work is his habitual German translator, Burkhart Kroeber, and if the standard of Kroeber is up to that of his English translator—and I have every reason to believe it is, after reading—then the book is very good German. The principle of “don’t try to read anything in a second language that you wouldn’t like to read in your first” has worked well for me in the past, and I’m an unreserved Eco fan.
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