Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter in German: What’s Missing in Translation?
Keywords:Harold Pinter, film translation, theatre, Robert Altman, humour
Several of Harold Pinter’s works have been adapted as screenplays and filmed. This paper investigates director Robert Altman’s TV movie The Dumb Waiter in comparison with the German dubbed version, Der stumme Diener, as well as the reception of Pinter’s play in German. The translation of Pinter’s dialogue into German involves stylistic aspects, such as Pinter’s dry, concise style, as well as the subliminal wit, sarcasm and irony. Humour is particularly difficult to translate, often involving compensation or transfer from one (cultural) context to another. As one of the “comedies of menace”, The Dumb Waiter employs black humour and ironic wit to create threat and dramatic tension. The unknown threat is counterbalanced by “black comic relief”. The lack of a classical German tradition of black comedy problematizes the translation of Pinter’s dialogue, while the limits of audiovisual translation add additional hurdles.
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