Translating Freud / Freud ins Englische übersetzen

On 4 October, the London Review of Books published an article by Adam Phillips on the new Penguin translation of Freud. It can be purchased online here (showing first few lines).

It may be as well that I haven’t read it, though, judging from this letter to the LRB in response:

After Strachey

From Michael Robertson

As a professional German-English translator, I have found myself increasingly perplexed each time I read Adam Phillips’s essay on the new Penguin translation of Freud (LRB, 4 October).

As a consultant for Penguin, he suggested to the publishers that ‘each of the books should be translated by a different person, and that there should be no consensus about technical terms.’ He suggested that the ‘general editor should not read German,’ and that there should be ‘as little scholarly apparatus as possible . . . and no indexes, given what indexes imply about a book and its genre’.

It says a great deal about the current management at Penguin that following these suggestions, they appointed Phillips himself as the general editor. If he was not supposed to know any German and the individual translators were forbidden to co-ordinate terminology, why was there any need for the translators themselves to know German? The project would have been completed much more quickly and less expensively by employing a troupe of Chinese monkeys with keyboards. So much more open to unexpected combinations and possibilities, so unconstricted and free, so life-affirming. And those terrible anal-retentive indexes, which might enable readers to locate information they were looking for: so 20th-century, so superego.

Michael Robertson

Augsburg, Germany

More on Michael Robertson here

10 thoughts on “Translating Freud / Freud ins Englische übersetzen

  1. Oh, it’s already been a while that they decided to raise the postage for letters to other European countries. I don’t have any 70c stamps at home and always have to go to the post office when I send a letter outside of Germany. Doesn’t happen too often though.

  2. I’m guessing well over a year ago? I would say for sure 2007. I regularly send personal letters to Switzerland and invoices to a client in Belgium, and I’m pretty sure I noticed this in March of 2007. I’ve been using some other 70-cent stamp for ages – definitely not the Bad S

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