“Why do we not have a word for 'schweigen'?” Bilingualität als irritierendes Moment in Wolfgang Hildesheimers Roman Marbot

Henrike Walter
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„Why do we not have a word for ‚schweigen'?“

Bilingualism as a moment of irritation in Wolfgang Hildesheimers novel Marbot

Wolfgang Hildesheimer, born in Germany in 1916, emigrated to England at the early age of nine and spent long parts of his youth and adolescence in and around the British Isles. He adapted the English language most easily and proved his bilingual capacities when he worked as translator at the Nuremberg Trials. In 1981, he wrote his novel Marbot. It is the meticulously composed fictional biography of a young English gentleman who lived around the end of the 18th century and spent his life travelling through Europe, thereby meeting many of the prominent figures of his age. The text is written in English and German, mounted with letters and comments of Marbot's confidants and acquaintances. My paper focuses on the question in which way the author combines the two languages and how he deliberately exploits the minimal differences between translations to create a maximum of meaning. It is shown that the particular use of bilingualism and/or translation reflects certain stages in the protagonist's disposition, thus not only revealing the hidden truths of his psychological development but also subtly referring to Marbot-Hildesheimer's intricate relation to culture itself. 



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