The German ‘post-texts’ of Charles De Coster’s La légende d’Ulenspiegel

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


My proposed paper combines the conference’s foci on multilingual writing, (re)translation and translation genetics by investigating the German translations of the novel La légende d’Ulenspiegel, written in 1876 by the Belgian francophone author Charles de Coster.
De Coster’s best known work is interesting not least because of its structural multilingualism. The novel turns the legendary German character Eulenspiegel into a Flemish freedom fighter against the Spanish oppression in the Low Countries of the sixteenth century. Its French, rendered archaic by various textual techniques, contains hybrid French-Flemish language forms and is interspersed with Flemish words. Parts of the novel are translations from Flemish sources, others give the impression of being translated from the Flemish though they are not. In this way, the author painstakingly interweaves the two languages he considers constitutive of a Belgian identity (which is under construction at the time of his writing) and sets the work’s readers as well as its translators a considerable challenge. The novel’s literary qualities as well as its outspoken potential for ideological use make it nonetheless a classic with worldwide translations and reeditions till the present day.
In Germany alone, at least fifteen different translations and a spectacular number of reeditions appeared, marked to no small extent by Germany’s changing cultural, economic and political interests and claims towards the novel’s source culture. Following the observation that the “process of textual transformation continues well after the work’s publication through its reeditions, its retranslations and its different reception by heterogeneous communities of readers” (Cordingley and Montini 2015, 2), I will investigate a number of those translations and reeditions as stages in the text’s evolution, ‘unfinishing’ (15) the source text, as it were, by continuing its creation process in response to ever new conditions. I will look at the variety of textual and translation choices – especially with regard to style and multilingualism – and attempt to trace at least some of the factors influencing them, such as the sources used, contemporary intertexts and the actors involved in the transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023
EventTREXTUALITY: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Translated and Multilingual Texts - University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Duration: 7 Sep 20239 Sep 2023



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