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Hölderlin, Gaskill, and the art of translation

OBP: Zsofia Hesket https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0095

Among scholars and enthusiasts of romantic literature, Hölderlin is certainly best known for his beautiful lyric poetry. Engaging themes of exile, divinity and the natural world, his poems ingeniously incorporated classical Greek syntax and mythology. He married both Greek and German linguistic traditions to create a language “foreign to, yet complicit in both”.[1] Clearly, this idiosyncrasy makes Hölderlin notoriously difficult to translate into English, and likely contributed to his other writings remaining quite unknown. With his new translation of Hyperion or The Hermit in Greece, available in Open Access, Howard Gaskill hopes to bolster interest in Hölderlin’s prose. A masterpiece of the romantic era, the novel deserves far greater recognition in the Anglophone world.  

Hyperion consists of a one-way correspondence addressed to a friend of whom we know virtually nothing. In this sense it is similar to Goethe’s Werther, another romantic classic. Yet, Hölderlin’s novel is a personal narration of events deep in the protagonist’s past, rather than a telling of present happenings. It is also set apart by its use of critical reflection, in which the character of Hyperion evaluates the experiences that have shaped his life. Returning to Greece after German exile, he takes up a hermitic existence that is peppered with remarkable relationships and encounters. Confronting and commenting on his past, Hyperion undergoes an evolution in consciousness that culminates in the realisation of his poetic vocation. Notice the characteristic theme running through Hölderlin works – in some way or other, linguistically or in the plot, he links the two countries of Greece and Germany. This ‘trademark’ unites the author’s poetry and prose, and fully appreciating his writing requires attention to the latter, too. Gaskill’s elegant translation is bound to encourage this, as it transports English-speaking readers directly into Hyperion’s mind.

With these many aspects to bear in mind, the translator is much like a juggler, performing a complex routine of mental gymnastics with each successive sentence. Gaskill does not shy away from this task. His meticulous rendition of Hyperion dares to replicate the contractions, colloquialisms and Swabianisms of Hölderlin, staying true to the rhythm of the original German. A concession to the modern reader, Gaskill introduces inverted commas to clarify which character is speaking. Hölderlin’s punctuation style is otherwise retained, leaving intact a unique characteristic of his writing. An accessible text with the charm of its native German, this translation is bound to appeal to those unfamiliar with Hyperion’s story.

Gaskill’s efforts to popularise Hyperion deeply resonate with me. Reading more foreign literature, I believe, is valuable to everyone. Not only does it expose us to a wealth of exciting stories, but it sheds light on the circumstances and perspectives of people in other countries. I have myself considered translating – and converting into plays – the works of renowned yet globally-overlooked Hungarian authors and poets, like Petőfi Sándor, József Attila, or Karinthy Frigyes. Addressing topics as universal as family, these writers also illuminate specific historical incidents, like Hungary’s revolt against the Habsburgs and its condition after the World Wars. Much like Hölderlin’s German, however, the complexities and intricacies of Hungarian are a great barrier to effective translation. This is the eternal vice of translation, and it can never be fully solved. Ultimately, it appears that all texts are destined to retain some degree of mystery for all but their native speakers.


[1] Guevara, F., Words Without Borders, August 2009, https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/book-review/friedrich-holderlins-selected-poems-and-odes-and-elegies

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OBP’s responses to the UUK Open Access Monographs project questionnaire


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0094

OBP has participated in the data-gathering exercise that is currently being carried out by Fullstopp Gmbh on behalf of the Universities UK Open Access Monographs working group. The questionnaire, which is available online, has been designed to collect information that will inform future OA policy decisions, and in the spirit of openness we share our responses in full below. We also share the data we provided to Fullstopp, which comprises sales data for all the print editions of our books published before the end of 2017. We also have sales information for our digital editions and readership statistics for all our titles that we are happy to make available if requested.

We are always happy to share information and data about our work – we put as much of it as we can on our website, but if you’d like to know more, please get in touch! Continue reading

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OBP blogs on tour


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0093

We have recently contributed to two other blogs to talk about ScholarLed, the new OA consortium we have joined; and about the importance of Open Access publishing and what it can offer to authors. Catch up with those posts here!

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Further Reading


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0092

Photo by William on Unsplash

This blog post is part of a series for academics who want to find out more about Open Access. Click here for the other posts.

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Reputation, reputation, reputation – quality control and reward systems


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0091

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

In the past, Open Access publishing has been accused of being akin to vanity publishing or self-publishing, while the term ‘predatory publishing’ describes a phenomenon in which a publisher charges expensive fees for guaranteed publication while failing to provide peer review or even basic editing.[1]

Reputable Open Access publishers clearly advertise their quality-control systems. For example at OBP we emphasise our rigorous peer-review system, as well as the high standard of our editing and production work – and this is evident in our publications, which are easy to check precisely because they are Open Access. Meanwhile the well-established publishers who produce Open Access work, such as Cambridge University Press, do not throw their quality control out of the window when they publish books or articles on an Open Access basis.[2] Continue reading

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Copyright and licensing – what do I need to know?


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0090

Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

When you create original work, you possess the copyright.[1] When you wish to publish that work, some publishers might ask you to sign the copyright over to them as a condition of publication, so that they can disseminate the work exclusively and therefore maximise its profitability. However, you do not have to agree to this – you can ask to retain copyright, or to transfer only a limited number of your rights to the publisher.

Pay attention to the contract the publisher is asking you to sign, make sure you understand it, and negotiate if you are unhappy with any of the terms. Be aware that signing away exclusive rights to the publisher might mean that you are not able to republish the work yourself in future, if for example you wish to republish a journal article as a chapter in a book. Continue reading

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Green, Gold, Diamond, Black – what does it all mean?


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0089

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

There’s a lot of jargon surrounding Open Access publication, and as with all jargon it can confuse and obfuscate. Here is a simple glossary: Continue reading

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APCs, BPCs, can I have some money please – who pays for OA?


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0088

Photo by Ramiro Mendes on Unsplash

This is one of the most important questions for authors: if the reader doesn’t pay, who does? BPCs (Book Processing Charges) and APCs (Article Processing Charges) are fees levied on authors, their institutions or their funding bodies to pay for Open Access publishing (also known as author-side fees). Continue reading

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What should I ask a publisher about Open Access?


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0087

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

There are many academic publishers who publish Open Access work, including some of the most well-known such as Cambridge University Press, Harvard University Press, Oxford University Press, The MIT Press, Palgrave Macmillan, Springer, Elsevier, and so on.

There are also publishers whose entire publishing output is made available on an Open Access basis, such as ourselves, Open Humanities Press, UCL Press, punctum books, and many more. Continue reading

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An Academic’s Guide to Open Access


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0086

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

For Open Access Week 2018, we’ve put together a series of blog posts that cover the basics of Open Access for academic researchers. We hope they give you the tools to navigate this vital subject with confidence.

 

Continue reading