Sunday, 12 December 2010

Lost in translation?

The title of the post does not refer to the film starring Scarlet Johanson and Bill Murray, as one may be inclined to expect. It actually refers to foreign literature, and my belief that one cannot fully appreciate all the nuances unless they read it in the original language.

In June, I read Kafka in German for the first time. It was also the first occasion where I had read a piece of literatrue in a language other than English, and I was amazed that it was nowhere as difficult as I had perceived it to be. Since then, I have read a dozen or so books in both French and German, and am now learning to fully appreciate both the languages I am learning and the works of great authors. I actually prefer reading in German to reading in English, at least for the moment!

Last weekend I went to see the Donmar Warehouse's production of Jean Cocteau's "Les Parents Terribles" at Trafalgur Studios. I had brought a copy of the play (in French, naturally) a week ago, so had unfortunately not had time to read it. The translation was by Jeremy Sams, who I was onyl familiar with from his work as a director. I have to say, you would not have been ale to tell that the play was originally in French, for the translation was so smooth and almost like a different piece entirely. I very much enjoyed the afternoon, despite worries that the snow would prevent me from getting back home on the train!

Anyway, this made me wonder if there are ever occasions in England where plays are performed in French or German? Would there be a large enough audience for this, bearing in mind that there would almost definitely be subtitles like there are at operas? In a way, an English translation of a play is almost like an updated, modernised version of Shakespeare.

This has interested me, so I may write a longer post on the subject when I have more time. In other news, provided it does not snow in the meantime I will hopefully be heading to the South Bank this weekend to see "Season's Greetings". I am very excited, because not only will it be the first play I see by Alan Ayckbourn, but I will also have the chance to see Jenna Russell on stage again, who I think has become my favourite theatre actress. I have also managed to book tickets for "Spelling Bee" and "Luise Miller" at the Donmar. Booking tickets for a Donmar production at the Covent Garden home is a feat that I have never quite managed before, but now I am so excited.

2010 has gone so quickly, and I hope that 2011 will bring more great theatre and success.

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