The Hans Christian Andersen Center

A New Translation of the Fairy Tales - Which Czeck?

František Fröhlich

(summary for pages 192-96)

For a modern, i.e. late-20th century translator, translating Andersen is just one particular aspect of the general problem of transposing a genuinely old text (not a "pastiche-old" one as e.g. William Heinesen Det gode Håb) into a modern idiom. In this sense it is a problem on the same level as translating Blicher, Jacobsen, or Pontoppidan into Czech, or translating Shakespeare or Dickens into modern Danish: there is no question of producing an artificially archaic text, the translation must be the translator's own period-language.

The Czech language has three stylistic levels: "literary", "conversational", and "colloquial". They are quite distinctly marked, not only in terms of vocabulary and phraseology, but also - primarily, in fact - in terms of grammar, chiefly on the level of morphology.

Andersen's direct, quirkily conversational style, with the occasional lapses into mannered sentimentality, are best transposed into a heavily "conversational" register with the occasional signal of the "colloquial" and, less frequently, "literary" registers. Old translations stuck more or less consistently to the "literary" register and were rather stinting with idioms. In my new translation I hope to be as faithful to Andersen as humanly possibly, because being faithful to the spirit of his text rather than the letter seems to me to be the best way of making a Czech version of the stories appeal - if on different levels - both to children and to adults.

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