Sunday, February 14, 2010

Down-to-earth Passion

A week ago, I dragged Toño to the cinema in the middle of a Saturday afternoon to see The Woman with the 5 Elephants, a documentary about Swetlana Geier, who is considered the greatest translator of Russian literature into German. The last 20 years, she spent translating Dostoyevsky’s five great novels, known as the "five elephants", hence the title.

At one point the 86 year old lady says one doesn't translate this with impunity. And while ironing aprons, she is explaining the affinity between textile and text and the metaphor of white snow in Melville's Moby Dick. The film draws most by observing Swetlana Geier doing her chores and doing translations. First, she dictates to Frau Hagen, who scrutinises first what she hears before she is typing it. Swetlana Geier then lets the text read by Herr Klotz, a musician. Their collective love for accuracy and Swetlana Geier's restless passion is what touched me most - yes, there were tears in my eyes.


Well, and it was then this post by Martin, which reminded me that it was Dostoyevsky who was the first to cast doubt in me on the benefits of the Enlightenment, with his believe that there is no objective that would justify wrongful means. Rationale reasoning has to be handled with so much care.


Dr Mandragora said...

Hmm..this film does not sound familiar to me at all. I don't think it screened where I live.

MartininBroda said...

Nicht allein, daß mein beiläufiger Beitrag etwas bewirkte, du warst auch noch so freundlich, das eigens zu erwähnen. Vielen Dank.