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Will Self discusses Kafka and the problems of Literary Translation at City University London

Will Self leads a panel discussion on the difficulties inherent in translation, with reference to Franz Kafka and his short story 'A Country Doctor'.
by Sophie Cubbin

nullWill Self will lead a panel discussion on the difficulties inherent in translation, with particular reference to Franz Kafka and his short story 'A Country Doctor.'

The prize-winning author has been asked to write a literary essay on Kafka by the London Review of Books. It is one of the first articles commissioned for 'The Space' - a new digital arts service developed by the Arts Council of England and the BBC.

In order to help Will with the complexities of Kafka's German, Amanda Hopkinson, Professor of Literary Translation at City University London, has invited three eminent specialists to examine Kafka's Wound. 

The panel comprises two of Franz Kafka's best-know contemporary translators. Dr Anthea Bell is one of the foremost translators from French and German having worked on the literature of Stefan Zweig and WG Sebald, as well as Kafka's The Castle. Dr. Joyce Crick, former Senior Lecturer in German at UCL, has translated Kafka's Metamorphosis and Other Stories along with works by the Brothers Grimm and Sigmund Freud. They will be joined by Dr Karen Seago, Director of City's Translating Popular Culture MA. 

Will Self says his own research will be driven by largely literary concerns and in particular, the role of humour in Kafka's writing:

"Michael Hofmann, writing in his introduction to his recent translation of 'Metamorphosis and Other Stories' (which includes A Country Doctor) says this: 'It is related (…) that when some of these stories were read aloud, people - including Kafka, reading them - fell about laughing. He is not sombre, not grim, but often very funny.'

This is so starkly at variance with the view we have of Kafka in the English-speaking world that I will be aiming to analyse in some depth what it is that German-speakers find so amusing, in the hope that this will lead me to wider insights into the ironic tendency that shaped twentieth century Europe's peculiar self-consciousness."

This unique public event carries a considerable degree of intellectual and cultural resonance, at a time when questions of language and the nature of European consciousness are very much in the zeitgeist.

The discussion which is free to attend, takes place on Thursday 31st May 2012 between 17:00 - 19:00 in the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre, City University London, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB.  Register here.

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