Monday 21 August 2023

"Sprechen Sie Deutsch, English?"

I have recently picked up a very rare and interesting book - the German first hardback edition of The IPCRESS File.

I've never seen a copy before. Sure, there are plenty of German paperback ('taschenbuch') editions out there from the sixties, from this and the other 'Harry Palmer' novels. But until now, I'd never seen this particular edition.

It's around 1cm shorter and 1.5cm narrower than the UK first edition. I've noticed for many years that with other German editions, the range of standard sizes differs ever so slightly to English and US publishing standards, which you can see when they're aligned on the bookshelf. Plus, on the spine - and I've always preferred this - Germans present the title from the bottom up, whereas English publishers present it top down. 

Perhaps because I'm left-handed, somehow it seems to make more sense.

The cover image is very spy-fiction: the disembodied eye. What's more interesting is that the back cover of the book (published three years after the UK first edition), has the famous photo of Len Deighton lunching with Ian Fleming, and the inside dust jacket flap has more information about other James Bond books the publisher - Scherz - has produced.

I speak reasonable German (though I wouldn't say I'm fluent), so it's interesting to dip into the book and read a familiar story, with familiar characters, in an unfamiliar (for them) language. It gives you a keen understanding of the role of the translator: his or her job is never to simply offer direct translations of each word or sentence, or just to parse one syntax into another.