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Steve Sem-Sandberg: A living language must not forget how it was spoken and written before

What is the best book you read in the last twelve months? asked by a foreign newspaper to me recently. The idea was certainly that I would contribute with any newly published book title, but then I would have lied. The last twelve months I have, with rising delight devoted to a book which has 230 years of history: Jean-Jacques Rousseau's ”Confessions”, produced from the 1760-century and forward, but published only after the author's death.

Rousseau's 'Confessions' is the first autofiktionen, it has been said. And of course you can also justify a survey response: as an attempt to get to the bottom of a literary genre that characterizes much of today's literature. Self-absorbed, ruthlessly self-revealing, quarrelsome: He deal with his past, with people he loved but who betrayed him, is simply a better, more subtle and refined than many contemporary practitioners of the genre.

could not get with in my questionnaire was that the main reason that the reading of the Confessions has been such a pleasure is David Sprengels Swedish translation, which, in turn, has more than a hundred years old.

Our time is marked by a lamentable lack of faith in the literature, and the ability to reach readers on their own terms. The classics must be inserted into the new, preferably the current context, the old translations are processed, increasingly anachronistic, especially things that may offend, cleared away.

And surely there is something laudable in the idea of even older literature shall be available for all. But it is far from always that the result corresponds to the ambition.

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and our” (Daedalus), a recently released anthology of articles about översättandets practice, points out Jan Pole to Shakespeareöversättningar of Carl August Hagberg or Homerosöversättningar by Erland Lagerlöf, thus the texts which we think we know in its classic form, rarely reaches us in a state nearly similar to the original. Later adaptations have gradually watered out of the language.

”Next to the side he went, and on the banks af the sea itself put” the original of the Suffrage, which in the later editions turned into: ”then he went and sat away on the beach.”

more Accessible? Possibly. But better...?

a few years ago was in the news with a new edition of Rousseau's great autobiographical work took the publisher of Atlantis the decision that, rather than make a new translation, republish the existing Swedish translation.

David Sprengels Rousseauöversättning, as in the original came out in four volumes between 1912 and 1922, is a masterpiece. It includes not only the Bekännelsernas all twelve books without a notapparat explanations and comments, which in themselves would have been able to fill an entire volume.

for a language to remain alive it can not only be open to how it is spoken today, or will be spoken in the future, but also for how it was spoken and written before.

and sure, sometimes almost colloquial easy and free, but the time he writes of is not our, and it takes knowledge and intelligence to expose the importance of out of the often intricate, and seldom direct references to the various then-known people and events.

As Jan Stolpe points out in the preface to the new edition could Sprengel his Rousseau without, and before, he was deeply familiar with the man behind the words, and could, therefore, sort out and create meaning to the most svårtydda reasoning.

It is, of course, an explanation as to why Sprengels translation stood the test so well. At the same time, it is not possible to deny that the translation is actually what we normally mean by dated. Satskonstruktionen is composite, there are many conjunctions, the old pluraländelserna remains as well as traces of older time kasusböjning. But it does, paradoxically, not the translation, the least difficult to access.

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succumb to the modern English tendency to resort to passive meningskonstruktioner with the conjunction that creates long utfyllnadssatser feels the text is surprisingly tight and clear. Words and expressions which today we know only in the form of sloppy, use idiomatic formulations are put on their substantivistiska feet again. ”I had a räddhåga”, named, for example, instead of ”I felt räddhågsen”.

It is as if each sentence Sprengel writes not only of the interpreters but recreates the original, without therefore appear odd or abnormal. Sure, sometimes required an effort to take in some of the passages. But to make the effort in reading is not necessarily a bad thing: it sharpens the attention.

I do not belong to them which claims that the Swedish language will be poorer by that new word will batch - and meningskonstruktioner change. Change is a language oxygen. If it is not adapted to their time to die. But for a language to remain alive it can not only be open to how it is spoken today, or will be spoken in the future, but also for how it was spoken and written before. Every sentence that is written in today's English has a history that tells of how it once was and still could be written.

last year's Rousseauläsning filled me with an almost sensual happiness. All of a sudden I found myself in the midst of a language that might seem foreign at times, but which, on closer reading turned out to be much larger and richer than I ever imagined. In my own language.

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