Anja Schlamann: Encanto
©2014 Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg Berlin, Anja Schlamann and authors [and translator]
The following has somehow mutated into a plea for better translator / author / copy editor collaboration. Please click here for an extract from Encanto that’s more along the general lines of this website! Opera House, Asleep by Gunther Geltinger (short story)
The first few paragraphs from Opera Onstage, by Ralf Sachsse (page 74)
Anja Schlamann photographs Cologne’s opera house and herself inside it
In 1957, Karl-Hugo Schmölz shot an enigmatic image of the Cologne opera house: The side wall of the stage house stands as a white surface against a black sky, its façade only minimally structured by the small window openings.* In austere black-and-white, with only a few gray tones, this shot conveys the pathos of an antique or Aztec temple to the legend of music, describes** a shrine to modern music and modern theater. In recent years, when the options of either demolition and rebuilding or restoration of the opera house were being discussed, this image once again gained attention, since its clear structure and strict composition are evocative of the qualities of Riphahn’s building.
When Anja Schlamann began setting herself the task of re-staging the building in her own photographs, she was aware of this and many other images, and she knew that she must find a new form of dealing with this opera house in an appropriate way – a form that pays just as much respect to the work of the architect as to an outdated pathos of a brave new world. What Anja Schlamann has found for herself is a narrative in pictures, a narrative that transports the feel of the building into the age of Facebook and Google. At the same time, she also brings her own style of architectural photography into the series: precision and clear vision that goes beyond mere spaces and vistas.*** Yet she takes this one step further: With her own movement, she also adds a lyrical component to the image of the Cologne opera house.
The work presented here in book form is the product of a builidng assignment and an impression: In the – implied – costume of Bizet’s Carmen, Anja Schlamann herself whirls about through corridors, on stairs and in basements. With this, she continues first and foremost a tradition of her own: in the SIE [SHE] series, she generally depicted herself as a small person inside a building, always appropriately dressed. On the other hand, she also refers with this series to both tradition and modernity, which is reflected in the choice of a classical opera**** as well as in Riphahn’s building itself.***** Moreover, the costuming is above all an act of lending color which, after many attempts******, proved to be easily detectable. Yet it is only with the serial alternation of images with and without figures that the story being told by Anja Schlamann actually develops. It is an alternation of familiar and unfamiliar areas of the opera house, of public and restricted spaces, as befits a good story.
[continues to page 75]
*Copy editor’s inversion. My original translation – in line with Die Seitenwand des Bühnenturms steht als weiße Fläche vor einem schwarzen Himmel, im Innern durch die kleinen Fensteröffnungen nur wenig gegliedert. – runs: The side wall of the stage house stands as a white surface against a black sky, given only a minimal structure internally by the small window openings. My translation might (rightly?) have been interpreted by the copy editor as clunky – hence the change – and the German text is very unclear, but it does seem to imply that the small window openings provide a slight clue as to how the stage house is constructed internally: whatever the case, the text is not referring to the outer structure of the façade.
If only publishers would understand the importance of having copy editors who likewise are able to refer to the source text. (Especially when the translator’s work is going to be published right next to the source text, as in this case!) An opportunity to clarify such tricky points directly with the authors – and a general understanding of the need for this as well – would be greatly appreciated by translators.**
** Copy editor again. In the publication, the verb describes – though present in the German – is missing.
*** Copy editor presumably did not / was unable to compare this with the German. Präzision und klare Sicht über Fluchten und Räume hinweg. As originally translated: Precision and clear vision across flights and rooms. Now: bearing in mind the photos contained in this collection, I chose to translate Fluchten with ‘flights’ (of stairs). The copy editor has invented the spaces and vistas, which are not in any case ‘mere’ according to the German (there is no ‘mere’ anything implied). ‘über etwas hinweg’ means (going) ‘over’ or ‘across’ something – hence there is no element of ‘going beyond’ implied. Also, this is another case where consultation with the author would be useful.
**** Opernklassiker. I had translated this – accurately – as ‘an opera classic’. In other words: Carmen is an opera classic, an opera that has a long tradition – a classic of the opera world. The copy editor’s change implies a narrow pronunciation on the particular opera’s style.
*****My translation at this point was: On the other hand, with this series of works she refers both to tradition and to modernity, which [modernity – referred to by the pronoun die: I tried to convey this via the formulation: ‘she refers both to tradition and to modernity, which’ ] is reflected in the choice of an opera classic as it was in Riphahn’s building. Andererseits verweist sie mit dieser Bildserie sowohl auf Tradition wie auf die Moderne, die sich in der Wahl eines Opernklassikers so widerspiegelt wie in Riphahns Bau.
However: Even assuming that the die refers to die Moderne, it’s hard to see how the modern is reflected in the choice of an opera classic as it is in Riphahn’s building. In an ideal world, this is the type of point that would be clarified directly with the author.
****** Proben in the German (an appropriate allusion to the theatrical context: rehearsals, try-outs). I had written ‘many try-outs’.
As I read carefully through this text I do note and readily accept the points where the copy editor has smoothed out my writing by means of very small changes and made it more readable. Nevertheless, as I hope I’ve shown, I do see the deficiencies in the English translation as published that have arisen because the copy editor did not have the opportunity – or the ability – to refer to the text in the author’s language. Equally, I note points where an opportunity on the translator’s part for direct consultation with the author would have been very valuable.
On to the other Encanto extract