“Published in English with additional material…”
Riddle: When is a translation of a book not a translation of that book?
The earliest hint is buried in tiny print on the copyright page: “Published in English with additional material by Hamish Hamilton 2011.” Despite the similarity in their titles, the recently released English volume Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems 1964-2001 by W.G. Sebald is dramatically different from it’s German counterpart of 2008 Über das Land und das Wasser, which was edited by Sebald’s longtime editor Sven Meyer. Across the Land, edited and translated by Iain Galbraith, contains considerably more poems, but, puzzlingly, they are incorporated within a different structure. Across the Land has five sections: Poemtrees, School Latin, Across the Land and the Water, The Year before Last, and the oddly-named Appendix, which contains two poems that Sebald originally wrote in English. The German version has three sections: Schullatein, Über das Land und das Wasser, and Das vorvergangene Jahr, each of which is different from its English counterpart.
The English edition contains every poem from the German edition – except two: Analytische Sommerfrische and Physikalisches Wunder.
Across the Land opens with a section called Poemtrees, which contains seventeen of Sebald’s earliest poems. In the German edition, there is no section by this name; instead, the first fifteen of these poems are in the section called Schullatein – along with four other poems that appear in the School Latin section of the American edition. (Yes, this is confusing.) The second section in Across the Land is called School Latin, containing twenty poems – fifteen of which do not appear in the German edition at all. Four of the poems in School Latin were originally in the Schullatein section of the German edition and one was originally included in the Über das Land und das Wasser section. (Confused even more? Sorry, we’re not done.) The third section in Across the Land is called, appropriately, Across the Land and the Water, which contains twenty-nine poems, ten of which do not appear in the German edition. The fourth section is called The Year Before Last, which closely corresponds to the German section Das vorvergrangene Jahr, except that it contains six poems that did not appear in the German edition. How this fourth section got its title is never made clear. The fifth section is the Appendix, which contains two poems originally written by Sebald in English and, therefore, were not translated by Iain Galbraith. (Got everything straight now?)
So, What’s Going on Here?
Iain Galbraith writes in his Translator’s Introduction to Across the Land that in the 1908s “Sebald had prepared and paginated, apparently for publication, two collections of shorter poems – ‘Schullatein’ (‘School Latin’) and ‘Über das Land und das Wasser’ (‘Across the Land and the Water’), consisting altogether of some ninety poems – neither of which would find its way into print.” Sebald’s manuscript for “Schullatein” contained a number of poems that also appeared in an even earlier gathering (which Galbraith calls a “loose bundle of poems”) that he labeled “Poemtrees.” To further complicate matters, some of the poems in “Schullatein” were included – sometimes in a revised manner – in the later manuscript for Über das Land und das Wasser. (Endlessly cannibalizing his own poems, Sebald also took some of these early, short poems in their entirety and inserted them into his long poem After Nature.)
If I am reading Galbraith’s introduction correctly, his reshuffling of the poems is based upon the manuscripts in Sebald’s archive at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. Furthermore, Galbraith seems to have made at least some of his translations from Sebald’s manuscripts (where multiple version of the same poems can be found), rather than from the German edition of Über das Land und das Wasser. This means that one cannot reliably compare Galbraith’s English translations with the published German version because Galbraith and Sven Meyer were, on occasion, using different source manuscripts for their respective editions. It is very conceivable that every time that a poem was shuffled from one section in the German edition to a different section in the English edition, Galbraith and Meyer were using different manuscript versions of the same poem.
Riddle: When is a translation of a book not a translation of a book?
Answer: When the translator works from a different set of manuscripts.
[Please make sure to click on the Comments line below and read Iain Galbraith’s extended comment to this post, in which he addresses all of my questions and assumptions. Notably, he explains that he and Meyer did use the same source manuscript, so that a direct comparison made be made between his translations and the German originals in Über das Land.]