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Translating a Poem - On the right Trakl?

The Digital German Translators' Workshop at the Goethe-Institut London was established for translators of German into English. On every first Thursday of the month, participants discuss passages or queries from a translation they are working on or they simply come to listen and offer feedback.
In a workshop session, the group created an English translation of the poem "Vorstadt im Föhn" by the expressionist poet Georg Trakl – and the differences between their translation and the one generated through the neural machine translation website DeepL range from striking to funny!
See for yourself!

Vorstadt im Föhn
(Original)
Outskirts in a Dry Wind
(Translation by Prue Chamberlayne and the Translators' Workshop)
Suburb in the foehn
(Translation by the machine translation website DeepL)
Am Abend liegt die Stätte öd und braun,
Die Luft von gräulichem Gestank durchzogen.
Das Donnern eines Zugs vom Brückenbogen —
Und Spatzen flattern über Busch und Zaun.
Dusk in that place lies brown and dense,
the air invaded with a greyish stink.
The thunder of a train rolls from a bridge —
and sparrows flitter over hedge and fence.
In the evening the place is desolate and brown,
The air is filled with a grayish stench.
The thunder of a train from the arch of the bridge -
And sparrows flutter over bushes and fences.
Geduckte Hütten, Pfade wirr verstreut,
In Gärten Durcheinander und Bewegung,
Bisweilen schwillt Geheul aus dumpfer Regung,
In einer Kinderschar fliegt rot ein Kleid.
Squat huts and paths lie scattered randomly,
Allotments in a livid tangled mess,
from crowd of kids the flash of a red dress,
at times the muffled sound bursts in a shriek.
Crouching huts, paths confusedly scattered,
In gardens confusion and movement,
Occasionally, howls swell from dull impulse,
In a group of children a red dress flies.
Am Kehricht pfeift verliebt ein Rattenchor.
In Körben tragen Frauen Eingeweide,
Ein ekelhafter Zug voll Schmutz und Räude,
Kommen sie aus der Dämmerung hervor.
Rats chorus their endearments at the dump.
Women carry entrails in their baskets,
a trail of dirt and mange that brings disgust,
approaches closer from the coming dusk.
A rat choir whistles in love at the Kehricht.
Women carry entrails in baskets,
A disgusting train full of dirt and mange,
Come out of the twilight.
Und ein Kanal speit plötzlich feistes Blut
Vom Schlachthaus in den stillen Fluß hinunter.
Die Föhne färben karge Stauden bunter
Und langsam kriecht die Röte durch die Flut.
A waste outflow spews sudden fatty blood
out of the abattoir into the quiet river.
Warm wind stirs bushes to a brighter colour,
and red twines slowly through the streaming flood.
And a canal suddenly spews thick blood
From the slaughterhouse down into the quiet river.
The hairdryers color sparse perennials more colorful
And slowly the redness creeps through the flood.
Ein Flüstern, das in trübem Schlaf ertrinkt.
Gebilde gaukeln auf aus Wassergräben,
Vielleicht Erinnerung an ein früheres Leben,
Die mit den warmen Winden steigt und sinkt.
Whisperings — in turbid sleep then sink.
Figures flutter up from watery graves,
perhaps as memories of former lives,
that rise and then die back in the southern wind.
A whisper that drowns in a gloomy sleep.
Structures are gurgling up from moats,
Maybe memories of a former life,
The one with the warm winds rises and falls.
Aus Wolken tauchen schimmernde Alleen,
Erfüllt von schönen Wägen, kühnen Reitern.
Dann sieht man auch ein Schiff auf Klippen scheitern
Und manchmal rosenfarbene Moscheen.
Shimmering avenues pour out of clouds
full of smart carriages and dashing riders.
Then sight of a shipwrecked up against some cliffs,
and sometimes delicately rose-hued mosques.
Shimmering avenues emerge from clouds,
Filled with beautiful carriages, bold riders.
Then you also see a ship failing on cliffs
And sometimes rose-colored mosques.
  
 
Translators' Workshop Photo: Steph Morris

German Translators' Workshop

A regular drop-in peer-to-peer workshop for literary translators between German and English. Participants can bring passages or queries from a translation they are working on to discuss with the group or just come to listen and offer feedback.

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