Book review
Klaus Kaindl. Die Oper als Textgestalt: Perspektiven einer interdisziplinären Übersetzungswissenschaft
Tübingen: Stauffenburg, 1995. xiv + 289 pp. ISBN 3-86057-241-5 (Studien zur Translation, 2).

Reviewed by Dinda L. Gorlée and Arjan van Baest
Den Haag & Innsbruck | Tilburg

Table of contents

Opera translation is a stepchild of translation studies. This is hardly a surprising fact. Translation-theoretical issues are commonly dealt with by scholars from what Roman Jakobson (1960) called 'linguistics and poetics", who, quite understandably, have concentrated on language-only texts and steered clear of the vast and heterogeneous problem area formed by partially verbal phenomena such as the comic strip, the theatrical performance, and to some extent the picture-book—all of them visual-verbal narratives; and the same is ostensibly true for partially musical objects of study. Instead, the humanistic academia (including translation studies) has ventured into new domains such as detective novels, Western novels, folktales, and nursery rhymes, among many other forms of popular literature, which were traditionally considered "inferior". The book under review here, written in German by a young Austrian translation theoretician and opera lover undeterred by hybrid art forms, is therefore at the frontier of translation research. It boldly stretches its narrow linguistic definition to include music and the scenic arts and to consider how they interact to jointly determine the translation of opera libretti. Not surprisingly for a pioneering work, Klaus Kaindl's Die Oper als Textgestalt is far from perfect. Its holistic approach promises more (in the theoretical sections) than it is able to deliver (in the applied sections); it is at times repetitious; and its methodological choices can be questioned. But this is a brave experiment. It must have been far from easy for Kaindl to embark on a little-explored topic and to place himself in the role of pathfinder.

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