Böses Gewissen

Randisi.

Senior Member
American English; USA
Hello, everyone.

I'm reading Hesse's Der Steppenwolf. What is the sense of böse Gewissen in the following passage? "Evil conscience" doesn't seem appropriate.

Jeder weiss, in irgendeinem Winkel seiner Seele, recht wohl, dass Selbstmörd zwar ein Ausweg, aber doch nur ein etwas schäbiger und illegitimer Notausgang ist, dass es im Grunde edler und schöner ist, sich vom Leben selbst besiegen und hinstrecken zu lassen als von der eigenen Hand. Dies wissen, dies schlechte Gewissen, dessen Quelle dieselbe ist wie etwa für das böse Gewissen der sogennanten Selbstbefriediger, veranlasst die meisten »Selbstmörder« zu dem dauernden Kampf gegen ihre Versuchung.

The translation I have gives the following for the phrase in question:

"Knowing this, with a morbid conscience whose source is much the same as that of the militant conscience of so-called self-contented persons..."

A problematic translation indeed: "Self-contented persons" for Selbstbefriediger? Good lord! In all fairness, the translator may have had to do this due to former smut laws. But there's no excuse for giving "morbid conscience" for schlechte Gewissen (Am I wrong on this?).

But what does böse Gewissen mean here? Again, "evil conscience" seems inappropriate. Naughty conscience?

Thanks.
Ciao!
 
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  • Cpt.Eureka

    Senior Member
    German
    "Reines Gewissen" - I never did something evil.
    "Schlechtes Gewissen" - I did something evil and I feel bad about this.
    "Böses Gewissen" - I did something evil. Great, let's do it again.

    "Selbstbefriediger" plays with the word "Selbstbefriedigung" which is the German expression for masturbation. I think it basically means an egocentric person.
     
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    Frank78

    Senior Member
    German
    "Reines Gewissen" - I never did something evil.
    "Schlechtes Gewissen" - I did something evil and I feel bad about this.
    "Böses Gewissen" - I did something evil. Great, let's do it again.
    "Böses Gewissen" is for sure an usual construction. Somebody who has a "Gewissen" feels bad if s/he has done something bad.

    By the way the dictionary suggests:
    gutes Gewissen - good conscience
    schlechtes Gewissen - bad conscience
    böses Gewissen - sore conscience (I'm not sure if this is correct as sore can mean "wund/empfindsam")
     

    Lykurg

    Senior Member
    German
    sore/guilty conscience?

    The neologism 'Selbstbefriediger' is obviously derived from 'Selbstbefriedigung' (masturbation).
    I would understand it as such here, meant as a sin 'comparable' to suicide, and not in the weaker meaning of "self-gratification".
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    In your context I read "schlechtes Gewissen" and "böses Gewissen" as a kind of synonyms.

    The only difference is that "böses Gewissen" includes the reason: "Ich war böse." "Schlechtes Gewissen" can have other reasons.

    But the word is seldom and can be read differently.
     
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