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zu Opfern

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by gramster, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. gramster Junior Member

    New Jersey, USA
    English - USA
    In the story Die Rolltreppe by Günter Grass, the story opens as follows:

    Soeben brachte ich Maria zum Eilzug nach Bremerhaven. Ich durfte nicht auf dem Bahnhof stehen bleiben und Zeuge ihrer Abfahrt sein. Weder Maria noch ich haben es gerne, einander zurückzulassen und zu Opfern einer fast immer pünktlichen Eisenbahn zu machen.

    My question is about "zu Opfern...zu machen". I suspect that the preceding "einander" really applies to both "zurückzulassen" and "zu Opfern...zu machen" so that in English this would become "and to make (each other) into sacrifices to an almost always punctual train".

    Is this correct? If not, then what is that last clause actually saying?
     
  2. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    English
    Rather

    and to turn (each other) into victims of an almost always punctual train :)
     
  3. gramster Junior Member

    New Jersey, USA
    English - USA
    That seems to me a pretty subtle difference. Aren't the dative and the genitive both "einer fast immer pünklichen Eisenbahn zu machen"? And in my dictionaries Opfer is used to mean both victim and sacrifice.

    What makes you prefer the latter over the former? Is this just a usage thing?

    In any case, I guess my real question was about whether einander really applies to both zurückzulassen and zu Opfern zu machen, which you seem to be confirming.
     
  4. Robocop Senior Member

    Central Switzerland
    (Swiss) German
    You can easily see that "einander" cannot be dropped in this sentence or you would have to change the sentence to "zu Opfern einer fast immer pünktlichen Eisenbahn zu werden".
     
  5. Robocop Senior Member

    Central Switzerland
    (Swiss) German
    Victim (Opfer) versus sacrifice (Opfer):
    - As far as I know, we can say: You are a victim - you make a sacrifice
    I am less sure about:
    - You make [sb.] a victim (could be probably ??) - you are a sacrifice (could be if they put you on the grill?!)
     
  6. gramster Junior Member

    New Jersey, USA
    English - USA
    A mugger can make someone into his victim, and lots of human beings have been sacrifices, for example young soldiers in battle.

    With regard to the Grass' story, as I read those lines, to translate "zu Opfern" as "into sacrifices" suggests some sort of ritual, which fits nicely with the train's punctuality. Perhaps the train is like a giant serpent monster that devours the woman and breaks the man's heart.

    In contrast, "into victims" seems somewhat arbitrary. A victim can be a mugging victim or an accident victim. A victim can also be a sacrificial victim, but that brings us back to the idea of a sacrifice.

    I guess the question for me now is what sort of associations are evoked by the lines for a native speaker of German?
     
  7. Robocop Senior Member

    Central Switzerland
    (Swiss) German
    Frankly, I am unable to understand Grass's metaphor and logic. He writes that he prefers to leave right away after kissing goodbye before the train has arrived, presumably to avoid extending the painful waiting until the very moment of seeing the beloved one off. Why then should a punctual train departure make Maria and him into sacrifices?!?! After all, a punctual train would also help to cut the painful waiting short. In contrast, I could easily relate to Grass and Maria having a grudge against punctual trains for "stealing" precious time together from them. But he didn't say that, did he?!
     
  8. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    I suppose that they prefer to deal with separation in their own way on their own time, instead of being guillotined by a train schedule.
     
  9. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    German/Germany
    Weder Maria noch ich haben es gerne, einander zurückzulassen und zu Opfern einer fast immer pünktlichen Eisenbahn zu machen.

    Ich verstehe das folgendermaßen: Er und Maria möchten sich lieber aus eigenem Antrieb voneinander verabschieden, als sich durch die Bahn plötzlich dazu zwingen zu lassen. In diesem Sinne wären sie dann Opfer der Bahn, die einen Zwang auf sie ausüben würde. Die beiden verabschieden sich dagegen lieber früher als auf diese schmerzhafte Trennung zu warten. Ich kann das insofern nachvollziehen, als dass dieses Abfahren und Getrenntwerden sehr fremdbestimmt daherkommt und man meistens zu einem dann irgendwie doch plötzlichen Abschied genötigt wird, egal wie lange man vorher gewartet hat.

    Damit stimme ich den Vorredner zu, die als Übersetzung victim vorschlagen. Meiner Meinung nach passt sacrifice hier überhaupt nicht. Es geht nicht um eine Opfergabe an die Bahn, sondern um eine Tat, die die Bahn an den beiden ausüben würde.

    Im übrigen stimme ich Robocop zu, dass dieser Satz ziemlich missglückt ist. Was die Pünktlichkeit damit zu tun hat, erschließt sich mir nicht. Egal ob unpünktlich oder pünktlich, irgendwann kommt die Bahn und erzwingt den Abschied.
     
  10. gramster Junior Member

    New Jersey, USA
    English - USA
    So, just to confirm, "zu Opfern" means "into victims" and "einer fast immer pünklichen Eisenbahn zu machen" is actually in the genitive case?

    I guess the idea here is that he and Maria want to maintain a sense of control over their parting, rather than letting it be forced on them by the train.

    Does that sound right?
     
  11. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Yup, Neither Maria nor I like leaving one another behind, and [thereby] turning ourselves into victims of a train system that is almost always on time.

    Weder Maria noch ich haben es gerne, einander zurückzulassen und zu Opfern einer fast immer pünktlichen Eisenbahn zu machen.
     
  12. gramster Junior Member

    New Jersey, USA
    English - USA
    That's great! Thanks everybody!
     
  13. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    German/Germany
    Yes, that's the idea.
     

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