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Do you remember that sweet TV commercial with the bouncy balls in San Francisco? This one:
Well, for today’s episode of Übersetzgesungen, I decided to translated the song in that commercial! It’s performed by José Gonzalez, but it’s actually a cover of a song by The Knife. I prefer The Knife’s version of it, but Mr. Gonzalez’s acoustic interpretation is beautiful, too. His version is much quieter and instrumentally reduced, putting the focus on its haunting lyrics. Because both artists are actually from Sweden, I’m inclined to think that many of the lyrics were chosen for how the words sound specifically in English. It was especially challenging to convey that same lyrical smoothness in my German version of the song. What do you think?
The opening line translates pretty smoothly! But it stops there.
I tried for the longest time to work the word beschleunigen (speed up/accelerate) into this line. There’s no real synonym for it in German, plus the word itself sounds hilarious to me. Beschleunigen. But unfortunately it’s just too many syllables, so I had to settle for finden, giving us “One night to find the truth”.
In German you don’t really “make” promises. You just promise, and then you have a promise. So this line is literally “we had a promise”.
My original translation was “Vier Hände und dann weg”, but it just doesn’t make sense to say it that way. So instead I went for the equivalent of “Four hands suddenly gone”. This is a step away from “just this once”, which is how I interpret the line in English.
In English there’s a strong implication of alcohol here, but the expression “under influence” does not relate to alcohol at all in German. “Beide beeinflusst” wouldn’t make much sense, so instead my translation means “Both vulnerable”, achieving one of the two or more meanings in the original lyric.
Here I had to split the line up to keep with the music. I like how this line ends with “heiligen”, because it could be taken to mean “saint” when unaccompanied by the subsequent line. “We had the saint”, or, “we had the holy/divine”.
I pushed the word “sense” down to this line in order to keep rhythm. “Sense to know what to say”.
Unable to find an equivalent metaphor for this line, I thought about what is being said by calling the mind a razorblade. I decided to reduce the symbolism a little and directly sing “Thoughts cut deep”.
Verlangen is a good word, meaning “to call for” or “to demand”. After trying to work in the word Hände, I decided to replace it simply with Kraft, or “power/energy”. “To call for energy from above.”
“That wouldn’t be enough for me.” Unable to directly translate the chorus of the song, I needed to approach it from a more conceptual place, approximating what the narrator is trying to say but with different words. I realized that this song is coming from a person who simply wouldn’t be content asking for divine intervention. This is a fiercely independent person, and he refuses to admit weakness by resting even in God’s hands.
“One night full of magic rush”
Behührung (touch) was a difficult word to work in, but unfortunately there aren’t any shorter words for “touch”! I had to get rid of “simple” for it to work, but I’m okay with this. I think in the context of the song, “simple” is pretty well implied.
Again, I needed to eliminate half the action in this line. No pushing, just screaming. Screaming together. “One night to scream together”.
“Then the relief”. I like that word, Erleichterung.
No room for tunes here… “Ten days of perfection”.
Hey look! I could even work in a rhyme, just by switching the color order. “The colors blue and red”.
Here the German translation takes away any skirting the issue of the song. “Wir liebten uns” can mean both “We were in love” and “we made love”.
Lots of hands in this song. Four hands, hands of above, the devil’s hands.
Instead of getting wolves involved, this translation literally means “And you kept us awake with snarling teeth”.
“Different heartbeats in one night”.
What do you guys think? Do you like this American’s German-language cover of an Argentine-Swedish acoustic interpretation of a Swedish electro duo’s English-language song?