Werner Wolke: how Kevin became Clyde

The story is called:

Werner Wolke wollte wissen wie man Wetter macht

and I’ve been trying for ages to translate this into English. So many things to think about:

Werner Wolke: Wolke means cloud. Here he is, sad-eyed Werner.

werner wolke

Oh, Werner, why’re you pulling such a face? Cos the quality of my scans are so crappy? No, that’s not the reason. You’ll soon find out why. Anyway, back to the translation. Need a name to go with cloud. First thought: Kevin. Kevin the cloud. Yeah, I like that! He sounds frisky. Should be sad, though, shouldn’t he? Maybe he’s happy at the end of the story? Hang on: Werner’s quite an old-fashioned name. What can I come up with in English? What about Kenneth? Kenneth’s got two syllables, too, just like Werner. Then again, Werner and Wolke are both bisyllabic words with the stress on the first syllable: Werner Wolke. The rhythm changes totally if I say Kenneth the cloud. Chop him in two? Ken the cloud.

wollte wissen: wants to know. Wollte wissen; both bisyllabic words in the original and starting with w. What can I come up with? Nothing!! Scratch. Think. Something along the lines of`Ken the cloud couldn’t know. No, that’s a totally different meaning altogether. It’s not that he couldn’t. He wants to know. Can’t find any word off the top of my head beginning with c relating to know, so we’ll stick with know and tackle that wants to. At least wants and know are both monosyllabic, like Ken and cloud. What about sought? Ken the cloud sought to know? Works well too! It makes the text a bit trickier for the young reader: watch that ou: cloud, sought. But at least it gets the tense right. Wollte is the German verb in the simple past: Werner wanted to know. Either we’ll accept that he still does, so use the present tense in English, or we’ll be a wee bit stubborn, stick to the past tense and go for sought.

wie man Wetter macht: how to make weather. Ok, deep breath. Ken the cloud sought to know how to make weather. That sounds awful! Ken the cloud wants to know:

how to make clouds come and go (is this too liberal a translation?)

my tendency is to want to find something that rhymes with know (even though this isn’t in the original: wissen doesn’t rhyme with macht):

Ken the cloud wants to know …

and if we replace know with another word??? And introduce a bit more souplesse into the translation???

Ken the cloud finds out: what the weather’s all about

OK, the original is in the simple past, but there’s a strong case for representing the action in the now. You’re reading the book now. The child(ren) listening will discover how Ken finds out now.

How far have we got?

Ken the cloud sought to know how to make weather (I’m still wincing!)

Ken the cloud wants/sought to know: how to make clouds come and go (but the weather’s not just about clouds, is it?)

Ken the cloud finds out: what the weather’s all about (that’s more like it!)

I’ll continue working on this and give you a taste of how I’m coping with other sentences from this lovely book. Who wrote it? A trilingual art therapy student who has kindly given me the permission to translate this book into English. She certainly has a wonderful feeling for language. There are so many elements laced together in the title of her story:

Werner Wolke wollte wissen wie man Wetter macht

It’s harder than it first seems to achieve the same in translation. And I can’t help asking myself: if the original were my English title, would anyone have come up with the German title as it stands today?

The author is a brilliant illustrator on top. Here’s the first page:

werner wolke p1

Werner Wolke wollte wissen wie man Wetter macht, by L.W. Eden, © copyright 2013

Those of you who speak German will have a head start. If you fancy sharing your proposals for the English version, I’d be delighted.

Just had another thought: what if we called him Clive…???

or even: Clyde?


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