At a translation workshop just made me realize that I seem to have a knack for one area when it comes to translation: translating humor (or humour – actually, the latter even more than the former as I do have a thing for British humour in particular). Whether it’s puns or an ironic tone, a light-footed bon mot or biting sarcasm – all things funny appeal to me, and I particularly like to look for solutions that make people laugh just as much when reading in German as in English. In novels, poems or speeches, I often see opportunities for additional jokes, if that’s what’s wanted – I wonder if “making a text funnier” is a proper editing service?
To illustrate, let’s have four lines from a poem by Joseph Brodsky – you can judge for yourself whether the humor / humour works in translation.
“You can't tell a gnat: "Soon, I –
just like you, my friend – shall die."
It won't understand you: for
gnats, we humans are immor.”