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The Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka
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Did you read The Metamorphosis in German, English, or another language? Do you think the language in which you read it affected your interpretation of the story? Support your conclusion with specific examples.

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Reading a story like Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis in its original language and reading it in translation are actually very different experiences. Let's look at how that works.

When you read a story in translation, you miss at least part of the original flavor of the story's language. Idiomatic...

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Reading a story like Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis in its original language and reading it in translation are actually very different experiences. Let's look at how that works.

When you read a story in translation, you miss at least part of the original flavor of the story's language. Idiomatic expressions and literary devices like metaphors, alliteration, assonance, and the like do not always perfectly convert into another language. Further, authors choose their words very carefully, selecting each one for a particular effect, to provide some meaning or a shade of description or a hint toward a deeper significance. Yet words like this often lose their force in translation.

Also, sometimes the translator misinterprets the author's intention and chooses the wrong word, one that does not convey the original sense. After all, translation is much more an art than a science. Words contain a variety of nuances and shades of meaning, and choosing the right one for the right spot is a difficult task.

Let's look at an example from The Metamorphosis. The story begins with Gregor waking from troubled or anxious dreams (according to two different translations). The German word here is unruhigen, and it can mean restless, noisy, troubled, uneasy, and even busy. The words troubled and anxious capture part of the German word's meaning, but only part. The original word carries a rather broader range of connotation that is slightly different from those of the translations.

Therefore, it is always preferable to read a work of literature in its original language. Translations are always second best, for they provide a broad view of the tale but often miss the details that can only be gathered in the original language.

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