Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ludwig Thoma: Rascal Stories


This is a book written in 1905 that was handed down in our family through the generations. We all received it as children, although it is debatable whether this is a "children's book". Sure, it is somewhat of a coming-of-age story, a (pseudo?) memoir of a teenager around 1900.

For us, it is interesting to read, because it gives a glimpse of life far removed and yet quite familiar. Ludwig tells of his pranks at school, some of which would be unthinkable today. But so would some of the behavior of the adults.

One may be tempted to say that these were just different times with different sets of rules. Yet, Ludwig was clearly punished hard and often for his acts, so the basic sensitivities were not altogether different.

Translating this book had some peculiar challenges. At first glance, it is poorly narrated, but Thoma was clearly a master of the pen. As you read on, you might realize (especially after I told you so) that the style of narration undergoes subtle changes as the narrator ages -  beautifully done, actually. More details in my foreword...

As with my Kafka story, I published this in multiple versions:

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