Friday, December 18, 2009

Dasein ist köstlich...

Caution:  Amateur linguistics ahead!

Whenever a student wrestling with a Latin, Greek or German text says "I know what it means, I just can't translate it," my usual response is "bull-hockey."  But today I want to explain the title of my blog for my non-German speaking friends, and find that "I know what it means, but..."

The title of my blog is a quote from Austrian poet, Peter Rosegger.  It is hard to capture the meaning in English.  Dasein is an abstract noun formed by the verb sein ("to be, exist") and the adverb da, meaning "there" (it can also mean "here"). So dasein means something like "being there" or "living in the present."  Köstlich is also tricky.  It's an adjective used mostly for food; food that is köstlich is "tasty" or "delicious."  It can also mean "delightful" or "blissful."  However "To be there is delightful" loses something in translation.  For me it means "To enjoy life in a place you love with all five senses is the most wonderful thing in the world." 

Let me give you an example:  This morning I woke up in the Enns Valley, the place where I feel most at home in the world.  I arrived yesterday and have enjoyed the cold sting of  -18º Celsius and the warm embrace of friends welcoming me back; the taste of brioche with butter and Austrian cappuccino for breakfast in an old-style coffee house with its Christmasy green and red decor; the smell of roast chicken at a curbside stand and of smoky pubs; the sound of Stoansteirisch (the local dialect) and the mountain brook that bubbles past my door; the sight of the Grimming, Christmas lights in every little town square, the bus driver's smile, the frantic last-minute shopping at what passes for a mall around here.

The rest of the quote is easily translated:  man muss nur den Mut haben, sein eigenes Leben zu führen means "one must simply have the courage to live his own life" (with no apologies to those of you who have nothing better to do than to criticize the fact that common gender in English just happens to look like the masculine).  It's taken me many years to realize that I can make my own decisions even in the face of disapproval and there's been heartbreak along the way.  But I'm confident that everything in my life has happened just the way it was supposed to, and brought me to this place.  I'm actively pursuing my dreams, and right here, right now dasein ist köstlich!

1 comment:

Regen und mehr said...

Ein schöner Eintrag. Übersetzungen können wirklich 'tricky' sein.
Ich erfreue mich grad an meiner deutschen Tastatur und den Umlauten und wÜnsche dir ein frÖhliches enspanntes Weihnachtsfest in Österreich:)!
Liebste GrÜße aus ThÜringen!