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February 19, 2003
With which pure hard emperor stands as Mentor to the side
A couple of weeks ago I met Razza, a renowned literary translator from Germany. One of the books she's translated into German is Barry Unsworth's "Losing Nelson." Razza is the real deal. She's the bomb. She's got this literary translation stuff down pat.
Before she arrived in Australia I looked her up on Google and noticed that every page that mentioned her name was written in German. Undeterred by this, I gave up.
But then I noticed that Google has a "translate this page" button. My private detective instincts returned, making a lovely whooshing sound, and I randomly picked a page. I was enormously glad I did so. I had no idea that Google had such a great sense of humour.
Part of Google's translation-by-derangement was this:
The novel supplies a complex literary haven-guesses/advises a glowing Verehrers and bio graph of the British sailor, who unconditionally identifies himself with the article of its letter soon.
As I'm sure you can imagine, I spent many happy hours trying to discover a meaning in these two paragraphs. I was particularly entranced by "with which pure hard emperor stands as Mentor to the side." This, to me, is a clear contender for sentence of the century, perhaps for best sentence of all time. It's a little bit like "all your base are belong to us," but overwhelmingly more magnificent.
I asked Razza what this sentence might actually mean, and was horrified when she starting giving me a plausible answer. So I held my hands over my ears and rocked my head from side to side. Razza was, needless to say, really impressed with this. No doubt she'd come all the way from Germany just to see an Australian man behave with such maturity and sophistication.
But I had a reason to shield myself from the truth. "With which pure hard emperor stands as Mentor to the side" is perfect just as it is. I'm not sure I could cope with finding out that it actually means something. This would take away its mystery, its poetry, its identifying itself with the article of its letter. Unconditionally and soon.
What disturbs me is that there might be people around the world using Google's automatic translation service to read SoFo. And some of these translations might be better than the original. But that's the internet, I guess. You pays your money, and it supplies a complex literary haven-guesses.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 04:24 PM in the Boring old news category | Comments (1)
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