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Friday, 10 July 2015

Effi Briest: "love" in 3 languages

English translation (by William A. Cooper): 
Mrs von Briest asks "Don't you love Geert?". 
Effi responds "Why shouldn't I love him? I love Hulda, and love Bertha, and I love Hertha. And I love old Mr. Niemeyer, too. And that I love you and papa I don't even need to mention..." 

Original German by Theodor Fontane: 
"Liebst du Geert nicht?" 
"Warum soll ich ihn nicht lieben? Ich liebe Hulda, und ich liebe Bertha, und ich liebe Hertha. Und ich liebe auch den alten Niemeyer. Und daß ich euch liebe, davon spreche ich gar nicht erst..."

Norwegian translation (by Lotte Holmboe): 
The mother asks "Er du ikke glad i Geert, vennen min?". 
Effi replies "Hvorfor skulle jeg ikke være glad i ham? Jeg er glad i Hulda og i Bertha og Hertha- og i gamle Niemeyer også, for den saks skyld. Og at jeg er glad i dere, ja, det behøver jeg ikke si engang..."


The reason I start with the English version is that in English the sentence "I love you" encompasses different meanings and can be used for family members and close friends as well as for lovers. In Norwegian, there's a distinction between "Jeg elsker deg", used by people in a romantic relationship, and "Jeg er glad i deg", which can be said by a mother or a father to a child and vice versa, or by a friend to a friend, etc. Spouses can also say "Jeg er glad i deg", but people definitely don't say "Jeg elsker deg" when it's not romantic love (unless it's a joke, of course, but that doesn't count).
Is this important? Yes. Because if Mrs von Briest asked "Elsker du ikke Geert?", Effi's answer would be quite different, I thought.
Therefore I decided to check the German original. All right, I don't speak German. A few helpful sites say that German, which is closer to Norwegian than to English, makes a distinction between "Ich liebe dich" and "Ich hab dich lieb", which, according to the explanations, seem to be equivalents of "Jeg elsker deg" and "Jeg er glad i deg" respectively. Now that might look odd, since Effi takes the romantic word and uses it in the unromantic sense. Looks like she deliberately bends the word to evade what she knows her mother really asks, to avoid saying that she doesn't love Geert. 
What do you think?

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