Rendering Caesar: Thoughts on the Translation into English of N. P. Van Wyk Louw's 'Germanicus'

Claassen, J-M. (2006)

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Journal Article

This paper discusses its author’s attempt to translate into English the verse drama Germanicus by the Afrikaans poet NP Van Wyk Louw, which is based on Tacitus’ Annales 1-3. After a general discussion of translation theory and of Louw’s theories relating to the classical tradition, the paper highlights, with examples, problems encountered on the levels of prosody, of register and of equivalence of meaning. Louw’s poetic Afrikaans is so concise that it requires an effort to be as brief in English. “Shakespearian English”, both lexis and wordorder, is closer to the Germanic Afrikaans, but would be unacceptable in a modern translation. Louw’s idiosyncratic use of Afrikaans, deliberate archaisms and occasional neologisms call for interpretative reading before these can be translated. The paper ends with a short reference to the place of Louw’s Germanicus in the international Classical tradition.

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