Crime Fiction in German

Crime Fiction in German. Der Krimi. Edited by Katharina Hall, Cardiff 2016.

Recommended at Lizzy’s Literary Life (Lizzy Sidal), where there is also an interview with Katharina Hall aka Mrs. Peabody – she writes a blog on international crime fiction called Mrs. Peabody Investigates.

This is another book I haven’t read from cover to cover, indeed I don’t think I could, but I see it as a source ofsuggestions for reading. It looks very useful. But then again I have already read too many German crime novels. There is not much point getting addicted if you want to find time to read anything else.

At the beginning there is a 24-page table with a chronology of crime fiction in German set against current historical events. It goes from 1786 (with a couple of earlier events) to 2015. At the back is a full annotated bibliography of sources. Each chapter ends with notes, bibliography of texts, and further secondary reading. There are chapters by various authors on subjects including Austrian and Swiss crime fiction, Der Afrika-Krimi, Der Frauenkrimi and TV shows. Occasional quotations are in English, although the books referred to are not necessarily available in English.

It’s not the aim of the book to analyse crime fiction at length, so it is a bit dry in parts, I think, when it appears more like a catalogue than a commentary.

The time when I read most crime fiction in German was the 90s, and I see that it completely omits one of my favourite spoof series, by Helmut Zenker, about the detective Minni Mann (Zenker is only mentioned for the Kottan TV series). I suppose Minni Mann is not very PC. Titles include Die Mann im Mond and Die Mann ist tot und lässt Sie grüßen. Quite a lot of them have been reprinted, as late as 2014 – my edition of Minni Mann is from 1989. They always included a contract with the author (Buchordnung):

1. Nachfolgende Buchordnung tritt mit der Übernahme von MINNI MANN in Kraft.
2. Lesen darf ich nur Exemplare, die ich erworben oder geschenkt bekommen habe.
3. In anderen Büchern darf ich zur gleichen Zeit nicht angetroffen werden.
4. MINNI MANN darf ich auch alleine und ohne Einwilligung der Eltern lesen.
5. Das Lesen erfolgt auf eigene Gefahr.
6. Für plötzliches Verlassen des Buches ist ein triftiger Grund wie Erkrankung, Geburt, Hochzeit oder Ableben geltend zu machen. Im Krankheitsfall ist Bestätigung des Arztes unbedingt erforderlich.
7. Schriftliche Änderungen meinerseits gehen ohne Anspruch auf Entschädigung in das Eigentum des Autors über.
8. Für während des Lesens abhanden gekommene Garderobe übernehmen Verlag und Autor keine Haftung.
9. Ein Lesezeichen ist nicht erwünscht. Ich darf die Ecke der Seite umbiegen, auf der ich mich befinde.
10. Ich weiß, dass ich als Leser zumindest einen Bekannten oder Verwandten zum Kauf eines eigenen Exemplars bewegen muss. Der Ankauf ist zu kontrollieren.
11. Sollte mir das Buch missfallen, bin ich wenigstens verpflichtet, ein Exemplar meinem besten Feind zu schenken.
12. Nach der Lektüre schließe ich das Buch sorgfältig und stelle es zu den anderen Zenker-Büchern.
13. Gerichtsstand ist ausschließlich Klosterneuburg.

A couple of years ago I did attend a good CIOL seminar on German crime fiction, the translation thereof, I think, by Karen Seago. There is stuff by her online too, but a lot of it only accessible through academic institutions. There’s an article by her in The Journal of Specialised Translation though: Crime (fiction) in Translation (PDF)

Comparative Law for Legal Translators – first look

This is a first look – not a review, because I haven’t read the whole book.

Comparative Law for Legal Translators, by Guadalupe Soriano-Barabino, published by Peter Lang 2016 – also available as an e-book, PDF – volume 17 of New Trends in Translation Studies

This book is by one legal translation academic with shorter contributions from two others. Between them they cover the languages French, Spanish, Italian, German and English. It is part of a series published by Peter Lang called New Trends in Translation Studies – volume 17, in fact.

The title suggested to me that it is a book about comparative law intended for legal translators, but in fact it is a book intended for academics about how comparative law might help legal translators, and help train them, and it contains concrete examples of exercises. It is quite a short book but rather heavy going in parts, as one might expect when the intended audience are academics rather than practitioners. There is frequent quoting from Zweigert and Kötz, for example – an excellent book but not what I was expecting. I was expecting one author’s views, not opinions frequently buttressed with citations. That is not exactly what the introduction says, but it does say it’s addressed to translators-to-be, translator trainers and professional translators ‘who wish to develop their activity in the field of legal translation’.

Not only is the book addressed to a variety of readers, it also contains short chapters on seven legal systems. If I wanted to use this book for legal translation between German and English, I would want more on German law than sixteen pages starting with the historical evolution of the German legal system and then concentrating on sources of law, courts and the legal profession. (The introduction to comparative law also goes back to Plato).

The first of four parts establishes, with much theorization and quotation, that legal translators need to understand source and target legal systems. A taster (p. 21):

To sum up, comparative law and legal translation interact because the former becomes an instrument for the latter. The asymmetry between different legal concepts and systems is a challenge for the translator and comparative law can help translators first to understand and later to explain (and translate) the legal concepts of the source legal system into the target legal system. The actual translation (as a product) can be rendered through the application of different techniques and strategies, which are discussed in detail in Chapter 11.

The second and third parts consist mainly of short chapters on a number of legal systems, concentrating on sources of law and court hierarchies. These chapters are preceded by a discussion on how the major legal families/systems of the world may be classified, and then a few pages on the civil law and common law systems.

The fourth and final part is headed ‘Comparative Law for Legal Translators: From Theory to Practice’, and falls into two sections. Firstly, ‘Training Legal Translators’ is mainly a discussion of what translation competence means and how legal translation competence can be defined. It concludes that legal translators do not have also to be lawyers to be good translators. finally, ‘Legal Translation in the Classroom’ suggests concrete approaches.

First, there is a discussion of how to decide on terminological equivalents: translators need to know the difference between two legal systems in order to decide how similar two terms are – are they equivalents or not close enough? Finally, there are twenty-four suggested exercises of a variety of kinds for students. Students should be encouraged, for example, to look at texts in their source and target languages which are similar, that are different but have the same purpose, that don’t exist in the other language, that have a different structure. Students should rewrite texts in legalese in plain language (an excellent idea). They should look at the same terms that have different meanings, for example in English-language jurisdictions.

This isn’t a review as I haven’t read the whole of the book. I am more interested in practical legal translation and would recommend another book from the series, Legal Translation in Context, edited by Anabel Borja Albi and Fernando Prieto Ramos, a collection of chapters – the first, by Jan Engberg, is incidentally titled ‘Comparative Law for Translation’. There is also Legal Translation Explained, by Enrique Alcaraz and Brian Hughes, from the (originally) St. Jerome Publishing series Translation Practices Explained.

The header image to this blog

The header image to this blog comes from a photo of a pearly king, in fact the Upminster pearly king Arthur Rackley. At the top left, above the horse pulling a cart, you can see the Upminster windmill, which in real life currently lacks its sails, which have been sent to the Netherlands to be restored. I failed to notice that Arthur Rackley died a year ago at the age of ninety, as was shown on a bench outside Roomes Stores with his name on it (Roomes Stores being one of the few surviving department stores outside the West End, see diamond geezer’s recent map). See my earlier post on Pearly kings and queens for more photos of him.

pearly5

National Poetry Day

As it’s National Poetry Day, here is a poem on the inferno of Poundland by Simon Armitage.

I gather some people encountered his work in GCSE. I didn’t, obviously, not just because GCSE is after my time and so is Simon Armitage. In GCE, we did bloody Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Wreck of the accursed Deutschland. I never did understand what people saw in him. He had to be spoken of in hushed tones.

Poundland, by Simon Armitage

Came we then to the place abovementioned,
crossed its bristled threshold through robotic glass doors,
entered its furry heat, its flesh-toned fluorescent light.
Thus with wire-wrought baskets we voyaged,
and some with trolleys, back wheels flipping like trout tails,
cruised the narrow canyons twixt cascading shelves,
the prow of our journeying cleaving stale air.
Legion were the items that came tamely to hand:
five stainless steel teaspoons, ten corn-relief plasters,
the Busy Bear pedal bin liners fragranced with country lavender,
the Disney design calendar and diary set, three cans of Vimto,
cornucopia of potato-based snacks and balm for a sweet tooth,
toys and games, goods of Orient made, and of Cathay,
all under the clouded eye of CCTV,
beyond the hazard cone where serious chutney spillage had occurred.
Then emerged souls: the duty manager with a face like Doncaster,
mumbling, “For so much, what shall we give in return?”
The blood-stained employee of the month,
sobbing on a woolsack of fun-fur rugs,
many uniformed servers, spectral, drifting between aisles.
Then came Elpenor, our old friend Elpenor,
slumped and shrunken by the Seasonal Products display.
In strangled words I managed,
“How art thou come to these shady channels, into hell’s ravine?”
And he: “To loan sharks I owe/the bone and marrow of my all.”
Then Walt Whitman, enquiring politely of the delivery boy.
And from Special Occasions came forth Tiresias,
dead in life, alive in death, cider-scented and sock-less,
Oxfam-clad, shaving cuts to both cheeks, quoting the stock exchange.
And my own mother reaching out, slipping a tin of stewing steak
to the skirt pocket of her wedding dress,
blessed with a magician’s touch, practised in need.

But never until the valley widened at the gated brink
did we open our lips to fish out those corn-coloured coins,
those minted obols, hard-won tokens graced with our monarch’s head,
kept hidden beneath the tongue’s eel, blood-tasting,
both ornament and safeguard, of armour made.
And paid forthwith, then broke surface
and breathed extraordinary daylight into starved lungs,
steered for home through precincts and parks scalded by polar winds,
laden with whatnot, lightened of golden quids.

obiter dictum

I see that Obiter Dictum, das is now in the Duden.

(in einem Urteil eines obersten Gerichts) rechtliche Ausführungen zur Urteilsfindung, die über das Erforderliche hinausgehen und auf denen das Urteil dementsprechend nicht beruht

This had passed me by. And strictly speaking there is no hierarchy of binding decisions in case law in Germany, although it’s clear that some decisions are treated as binding the lower courts.

So here’s a quote from a decision of a Higher Administrative Court:
Oberverwaltungsgericht NRW, 16 E 648/15 (at marginal number 19!):

Denn der Beschluss des Bundesverfassungsgericht beschränkt sich auf ein obiter dictum, ohne die Bedenken näher zu begründen und ohne sich mit der seit langem gefestigten Rechtsprechung auseinanderzusetzen, die u. a. von verschiedenen Obergerichten eingehend mit der allgemeinen Bedeutung von Beweisverwertungsverboten im Gefahrenabwehrrecht begründet wird.

I don’t know if one would translate English obiter dictum as German Obiter Dictum – that depends on how familiar it has become and how much explanation the user of the translation needs.

The latest edition of Dietl/Lorenz EN-DE (7th) has the following – first you look under obiter and are sent to dictum – reminds me why paper bilingual law dictionaries are dreadful – I think Romain is even worse. Under dictum:

obiter dictum Lat (a saying by the way) gelegentliche Äußerung f, beiläufige Bemerkung f (e-r Rechtsansicht in den Entscheidungsgründen, auf der die Entscheidung selbst nicht beruht. Im Ggs. zu ratio decidendi nicht bindend).

And Romain EN-DE, 5th ed.

obiter dictum, dicta pl, lat Urteil Nebenbemerkung, nicht tragender Entscheidungsgrund

I don’t think Dietl is right to say that the obiter is found in the grounds for the decision. It is found somewhere in the text of the decision. Were it actually in the grounds, I wonder how obiter it would be?

via Burhoff Online

The Hidden Life of Trees

After I moved back to London in 2013 I attended a course on trees at the City Lit, I can now reveal. In five whole Sundays we were promised we could learn to recognize eight trees. I immediately saw the value to me. I had not thought much about trees till then, but I needed to get out walking and there are trees everywhere, so I thought it would be interesting to know something about them. And indeed I found the course quite fascinating. We used to go to Lincoln’s Inn Fields and pull leaves and flowers apart, and one member of the class put the bits in a bag, and the following week we had to identify them again. It was good that the course wasn’t restricted to Our Native Trees, because from gingkos to Tibetan cherries to unusual types of magnolia, London is full of immigrant vegetation.

I highly recommend the teacher, Letta Jones, who holds courses elsewhere. Her website www.lettajones.co.uk will not always be quite up to date, but I think an email should get a list of courses and walks.

At the time I got some books on trees. I must say that there is no one guide to identifying trees that covers everything, and they vary in the way they help identification. You have to put time into recognizing twigs and buds and leaves and bark.

But then there are other, more discursive books on trees. And this is where the story reaches the present day. I had read a bit of the German bestseller Das Geheime Leben der Bäume by Peter Wohlleben, and much to my surprise I heard a German talking about trees to Jo Good on BBC Radio London last week, and sure enough it was he! At the time of writing the clip can still be heard as part of Prue Leith and the Barking Hour at about 1.05 (who knew one could pronounce Wohlleben like vol-au-vent?). It seems that the book has just been published in English, by a Canadian publisher, translator unnamed, as The Hidden Life of Trees. I suppose Canada is the place for lumber. Anyway, Wohlleben was passing through London and is obviously selling his book.

On air, Wohlleben was a bit sniffy about non-native trees. He had obviously practised his tree English, but he didn’t know the word pollarding. Jo Good seemed obsessed by an allegedly particularly lonely plane tree outside The Dorchester (that tree is included in The Great Trees of London and was planted in the 1930s, it says. book, website). Other callers referred to the plane tree in Cheapside, but seemingly believed it is the oldest tree in London and survived the Great Fire of London. In other words, the programme wasn’t very informative.

When I started reading the German book last year it did occur to me it might be worth translating, because there are quite a number of books about trees in English and quite a readership – but not a readership that puts them in the top ten best-selling books. One explanation is that Wohlleben tells stories and gives trees feelings.

Wohlleben was a forester for 20 years, learning how to manage wood. Later he found himself conducting nature walks and making provision for woodland burials and began to see trees differently. He retired as a forester (giving up his civil service career) and it looks as if he has published a book every year since then – see his German Wikipedia entry. But it was with Das geheime Leben der Bäume that he hit the really big time. Funnily enough, Colin Tudge’s book The Secret Life of Trees covers a lot of the same ground and got great reviews in 2005. So Wohlleben’s book had to be given a different name in translation. I read most of Tudge and found it a good read full of memorable detail, but eventually there was so much memorable detail and I was remembering so little of it that I seem to have stopped at page 252. I think this was because of the six chapters on six different tree families all over the world – the last chapter I managed was ‘From Handkerchief Trees to Teak:The Daisy-like Eudicots’.

The thing about Wohlleben is that he is a great popularizer and anthropomorphist. Both authors’ books have their references to scientific articles – I can’t help thinking Wohlleben was influenced by Tudge, not in style or detail but in the idea of writing a book on this subject, but he doesn’t cite him.

An article by Christoph Schröder in Die Zeit

Im Duktus des Märchens entwirft Wohlleben das Bild eines bestens durchorganisierten sozialen Systems, in dem zwar einerseits das Recht des Stärkeren gilt, andererseits aber der Schwächere niemals allein gelassen, sondern aufgefangen und mitgetragen wird. So beseelt wie bei Wohlleben war der Wald selbst bei den Romantikern nicht. Man spricht miteinander, liebt sich, erzieht sich und hilft sich gegenseitig mit Mahlzeiten aus, wenn Not am Stamm ist.

Kobolde haben schlechte Karten
Kann es in aufgepeitschten und unruhigen Zeiten etwas Tröstlicheres geben als den Entwurf eines funktionierenden gesellschaftlichen Gefüges, das in gegenseitiger Achtung und in Solidarität und Generationengerechtigkeit lebt? Das ist der Wohlleben-Wald: ein nur von außen, durch den Menschen bedrohter utopischer Raum, in dem es keine Schuld gibt.

In the FAZ Bäume sind so tolle Lebewesen, Melanie Mühl also considers why Wohlleben’s book has been a bestseller for months: he has been practising how to explain trees to people for years, and people want stories and feelings.

Seit zwanzig Jahren führt Peter Wohlleben Menschen durch den Wald, zeigt, erklärt, erzählt. Zwanzig Jahre Marktforschung darüber, welchen Ton er anschlagen muss, damit die Wissensvermittlung funktioniert. Bei der trockenen Wissenschaftssprache jedenfalls, da schalten die meisten sofort ab. Menschen wollen Geschichten. Und Gefühle. Wohllebens rhetorische Vermenschlichungsstrategie ist lange erprobt.

In Wahrheit gibt Wohlleben den Deutschen nicht ihren Wald zurück. Er erklärt ihnen den Baum, damit sie den Wald besser verstehen. Er fragt nicht, wie die Romantiker und die Yogamattenausroller, was der Wald für unser Seelenheil tun kann, sondern was wir für den Wald tun können.

„Ich umarme keine Bäume, und ich spreche auch nicht mit ihnen“, sagt Wohlleben.

It will be interesting to see if the book is as successful in English as it is in German.

As a footnote, Christiane Bergfeld’s blog Übersetzung und Literatur, doch nicht nur has recently been taken over by tree photos.

Colin Tudge, The Secret Life of Trees. How they live and why they matter, 2005.

Oliver Rackham, Woodlands. 2006.

Oliver Rackham, Obituary :

He was also a gifted linguist, reading Latin verse for relaxation. During a field course on the Croatian island of Rab he sat next to the local priest on a bus and questioned him closely in Latin about the management of the local woods.

Peter A. Thomas, Trees. Their Natural History.