Sunday, April 14, 2013

German Book 3

J.W. Thomas (ed) - German Verse from the 12th to the 20th Century in English Translation (1963)

Well, this is very annoying.  I wrote the review for this and apparently at some point deleted it without posting.  I don't feel like rewriting it (and in any case have returned the book to the library) so a few points:

*  The translations are all by the editor J.W. Thomas and though he doesn't explicitly say so he appears to be trying to duplicate the original meter and rhyme scheme in English.  This starts out well (perhaps the song-like nature of the medieval verses are more musical than poetic?) but increasingly seems to hobble the translations.

*  As far as I can tell from comparing to other anthologies this is a fairly standard representation of poets.  There are a few that don't appear in others (such as the Penguin anthology) but I have no idea if those are idiosyncratic choices or just the second-tier writers that will always change with the person making the selection.

*  The modern pieces are missing such big names as Brecht and Benn.  There's no indication whether this is due to copyright, whether Thomas feels they're not important or if they're after some unstated cut-off date.

*  There are some glosses as headers to the poems that mostly are unneeded.  The bios for each poet are useful as far as they go but Thomas is determined to link most poems to the actual life.  A strong and not uncommon impulse but does it really matter whether a particular work was intended for the woman who would become the poet's wife?  Thomas' introductions to each era are broad and simplistic.