The Astonishment of Words: An Experiment in the Comparison of Languages by Victor ProetzThe Astonishment of Words: An Experiment in the Comparison of Languages by Victor Proetz

The Astonishment of Words: An Experiment in the Comparison of Languages

byVictor ProetzForeword byAlistair ReidAfterword byCharles Nagel

Paperback | March 23, 2011

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One, two! one, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

Un deux, un deux, par le milieu,
Le glaive vorpal fait pat-à-pan!
La bête défaite, avec sa tête,
Il rentre gallomphant.

Eins, Zwei! Eins, Zwei! Und durch und durch
Seins vorpals Schwert zerschniferschnück.
Da blieb es todt! Er, Kopf in Hand,
Geläumfig zog zurück!

The late Victor Proetz was by vocation a visual artist who created many distinguished architectural and decorative designs. His favorite avocation, however, was to explore the possibilities (and impossibilities) of words, especially words in translation, and to share his discoveries. As Alastair Reid says in his foreword, "He turned words over in his head, he listened to them, he unraveled them, he looked them up, he played with them, he passed them on like presents, all with an unjadeable astonishment."

What, Proetz wondered, do some of the familiar and not-so-familiar works of English and American literature sound like in French? In German? "How," he asked, "do you say 'Yankee Doodle' in French—if you can?" And "How do they say 'Hounyhnhnm' and 'Cheshire Cat' and things like that in German?" And, in either language, "How, in God's name, can you possibly say 'There she blows!'?"

This book, unfortunately left incomplete on his death in 1966, contains many of his answers. They are given not only in the assembled texts and translations but also in his wry, curious, sometimes hilarious commentaries. None of it is scholarly in any formal, academic sense—"and yet," Reid reminds us, "his is precisely the kind of enthusiastic curiosity that gives scholarship its pointers."

Alastair Reid, the English writer, is a well-known poet and translator. Charles Nagel was the director of the National Portrait Gallery.
Title:The Astonishment of Words: An Experiment in the Comparison of LanguagesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:200 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:March 23, 2011Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292729383

ISBN - 13:9780292729384

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Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Alastair Reid
  • The Game
  • The Illustrations
  • Anonymous: “Rune of Hospitality”
  • Anonymous: “The Three Ravens”
  • Anonymous: “Edward, Edward”
  • Anonymous: From “Yankee Doodle”
  • W. H. Auden: “Look, stranger, on this island now”
  • Jane Austen: From Pride and Prejudice
  • Irving Berlin
  • William Blake: “The Tiger”
  • Rupert Brooke: “The Soldier”
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning: From Sonnets from the Portuguese
  • Robert Browning: Song from Pippa Passes
  • Robert Burns: “Auld Lang Syne”
  • Robert Burns: “To a Mouse”
  • Lord Byron: “She walks in beauty”
  • Lewis Carroll: From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Lewis Carroll: “Jabberwocky”
  • Geoffrey Chaucer: From Canterbury Tales
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “Kubla Khan”
  • E. E. Cummings: “the hours rise up”
  • Charles Dickens: From A Christmas Carol
  • Emily Dickinson: “I lost a world the other day”
  • T. S. Eliot: “Sweeney among the Nightingales”
  • Daniel Decatur Emmett
  • Stephen Foster
  • W. S. Gilbert: From The Mikado
  • Thomas Jefferson: From the Constitution of the United States
  • Herman Melville: From Moby Dick
  • Beatrix Potter
  • James Stephens: “Stephen’s Green”
  • Afterword by Charles Nagel
  • Sources