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Thread: A good English translation of Steppenwolf?

  1. #1
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    Dec 2005

    Question A good English translation of Steppenwolf?

    I have just read "Steppenwolf" in a Russian translation and was completely amazed by it. I wanted to give this book to my English-speaking friend but when I went to the bookstore and looked at the translation by Basil Creighton and edited by Joseph Mileck and Horst Frenz. The translator's note said that the translation has been "improved" by simplifying some words and the sentence structure. I picked my favourite portion of the book and read it in English. It conjured up no emotions (perhaps because I read it out of context and wasn't used to the translator's style) and found that in this "simplification" a lot of the meaning was lost.

    Did anyone else find this particular translation similarly inadequate and if so, can someone recommend a better one? Or did I simply judge too quickly and this is a good translation after all?

  2. #2
    Unfourtunatly I have only had the privledge to read hesse in english but would love to see how it is interpretted in another language. After knowing that his work is translated I feel it almost ruins the whole work. For with out reading the original, it is all corrupted. I will have to learn german to be able to fully see the fullness and beauty of hesses work. I would never let someone translate a piece of mine for it ruins it in the same way a movie does. It closes off certain perspectives. for we see the translators view of the novel, not the author's.

  3. #3
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    Feb 2007
    I have heard this argument for years it is kind of like the book was better than the movie. each person gains individual meaning from what they read. whether they like it or not is not dependent on what the original author was trying to say but your own subjective understanding. obviously the grass may be greener if we could read Hesse in german, but more than likely you would have to understand post WW2 german to truly understand, as the absinthe drinking crowd represented in the book no longer exists. perhaps it has been improved i do not know. what i do know is that i enjoyed Hesse's books in english and that was good enough for me.
    Last edited by micromo66; 02-09-2007 at 12:03 AM. Reason: spelling error

  4. #4
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    Oct 2008

    Re:A good English translation of Steppenwolf?

    I find it too, this english translation is lacking. I havent read the russian translation but I did so with the romanian translation. As I havent practiced romanian for quite a long time i got stuck on some words here and there but, just like you, I was amazed by it. The english translation is very very dry compared to the other. Now, I've got to say that I haven't read the german translation.

  5. #5
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    Aug 2012
    A new translation was just released this week by Kurt Beals, published by Norton. Would be interesting to hear anyone's opinion on that. Interestingly, he translates the title as The Steppenwolf, which is in line with the original German. All other English translations leave out "The". I like this change.

  6. #6
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
    hi lock---I feel compelled to reply because to me the site is hanging on by a thread (pun intended maybe) and the more interactions the better.

    I read Steppenwolf a long time ago. I hope someone who is a huge fan and likes reading multiple translations will stop in and converse with you, but its a long shot.

    meanwhile, maybe I can ask---have you ever done that?

    im reading a book right now translated from Swedish. its not the type that'll ever find another translation in the future, but its interesting to consider books that are. I read war and peace this past year, that's probably been translated by lots of people.

  7. #7
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Jan 2016
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    Don´t know if the asker is still around, but I just landed on a brand new translation, January, 3, 2023 of the Steppenwolf, which is highly recommended, so I'm putting up the link here:
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

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