On June 2019 Esther Hool will defend her PhD thesis Translating sound. Elke Erb as a poet and translator of Marina Tsvetaeva at the University Hall.
The German poet and translator Elke Erb (1938) attaches immense importance to the sound-aesthetical dimensions of poems. She addresses linguistic sounds at various points in conversations, commentaries and essayistic texts. In her essay Zum Thema Nachdichten (On translating poetry) she calls for not only a word-by-word German paraphrase, but also a transcription of the text to be translated. Erb emphasises the tonal qualities, especially in respect of Marina Tsvetaeva's (1892-1941) poetry.
literary and historical context
The central role of the sound-aesthetical dimensions is related not least to the respective literary and historical context of the two lyricists. As a poet of the Russian 'Silver Age', Tsvetaeva was familiar with considerations of linguistic sound structures from Symbolist and Futurist circles. In Erb's case, who began writing in the context of the 'Saxon School of Poetry' ('Sächsische Dichterschule'), the emphasis on the material (and thus the tonal) dimension of language also functions as linguistic criticism. In Erb's poems from the volume Sonanz (2008) and Tsvetaeva's poetry, figures of repetition and variation appear on different linguistic levels and can be divided into a plethora of different sound, word and sentence figures.
By taking the sound structures themselves or their roles into account in her translations, Erb goes into detail about the specifics of Tsvetaeva's poetry, which is considered difficult to translate due to its complex tonal components. Despite all the emphasis on the sound structures, the fact that the semantic levels in Erb's translations are not suppressed can be seen in the fact that words that deviate from the source text at the lexical level fit into the overall context of the respective poem.