Do You Think that the Ability to Translate is a Matter of Intelligence? (Halten Sie die Übersetzungskunst für eine Sache der Intelligenz?)

Friedrich Torberg

You are putting me off my work on my novel again. Stop it!

Stop letting yourself be put off! Why do you translate if it puts you off?

Because I like it nevertheless.

That’s what I thought.

You are a very intelligent person.

I wouldn’t be able to translate otherwise.

Do you think that the ability to translate is a matter of intelligence?

Among other things. Beforehand, as it were. One needs to be sure beforehand whether one has not just the inclination to translate the author in question, but also the necessary skills.

That surely depends on having command of the foreign language in question?

It is at least as important to have command of one’s own language. And even these two requirements are not sufficient. One also needs an empathy with the author, with his concerns, his attitude, with that that he has to say.

And which of these characteristics connect you with Kishon?

Unfortunately all of them. That is why it is such a pleasure for me to translate him. If I were an Israeli satirist, I would write exactly that which Kishon writes. But better. And I try to translate him into German in the way that, in my opinion, he would, or should, write if he wrote in German.

Do you translate him from the original?

I wish I could, but my modern Hebrew is not good enough. I translate from English translations, which are to some extent still drafts. That also gives me more freedom. If I don’t like something, I blame it on the translator, and try to write it better in German. Kishon is sometimes very surprised when he reads what he has written.

Pleasantly surprised?

He expresses himself about that in literary Hebrew, which I don’t understand. I assume that he has got used to it. Anyway, it doesn’t happen that often. Usually, that which is good in Kishon actually by Kishon. And there seems to be a lot that is good in Kishon. His success seems to show that.

And that pleases you as well, of course.


The success of your readings also pleases you.


And the success of the records which you made with Hannelore Schroth and Paula Wessely.


Why are you suddenly so monosyllabic?

Because it is high time that I turned back into you and got on with my Süßkind novel.

Published in: TorbergNonSmokers Torberg Non-Smokers


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s