Rent auf Deutsch

I found the German transcription of the musical Rent about a year ago or more, and happened to come across the bookmark again today whilst listening to the english soundtrack.

I decided it would be cool to read the German version along with the music, and it was, but I found myself disappointed with the translator. He changed a lot of the lyrics to make the German words fit the melodies/rhythms of the original, but I think some parts lost something in the transition. If you’ve never seen Rent (the musical… I can’t compare to the movie, not having seen it), the following maybe won’t make sense, but for those who have, here’s some snippets of “What you Own” that bothered me:

The form of these quotes will be:
Original English lyrics
German lyrics English translation

You’re living in America,
Leave your conscience at the tone.

Du lebst doch in Amerika,
Scham ist selten hier zu Gast.
You’re living in America,
Shame is an infrequent visitor here/shame is seldom seen here

Colin’s take: The original seems much wittier. Granted I’m no master of German idioms, and granted the German, like the english, takes a phrase intended for the physical and twists it to the intangible, but still. I like the original better; it seems a much more “modern” non-anachronistic statement.

What was it about that night?
Connection, in an isolating age.
For once, the shadows gave way to light.
For once, I didn’t disengage.

Hat uns jene Nacht geheilt?
Gemeinschaft, einmal nicht mehr isoliert.
Das Licht, es hat das Dunkel zerteilt.
Und ich – ich hab’ mich engagiert.
Did that night heal us?
Community/companionship, for once no longer isolated,
The light, it dissipated the darkness,
And I, I engaged.

Colin’s take: I think the German feels too disconnected here. In the English, the characters are talking about an extremely important moment in their lives, a feeling of connection and companionship that brought them from isolated individualism into some higher realm together where the world was more in order. But the German seems both too uninterestingly direct in asking straight out “did that night heal us?”, and too disjointed, without much flow between the phrases. (I liked the “for once…, for once…” in the English) Perhaps it’s a bit… sentimental? emotional? overly-dramatic? corny?… but I really liked this song in English; I was disappointed in the German.

Boo Heinz Rudolf Kunze.

On the upshot, he left the end of the song alone, which was really cool:

Sterben in Amerika,
ganz am Ende vom Jahrtausend Zwei,
man stirbt hier in Amerika,
um ganz bei sich zu sein.
Doch wenn wir sterben in Amerika,
ganz am Ende vom Jahrtausend Zwei,
dann nicht allein.
Nein, nicht allein.
Ich bin nicht allein.

Dying in America
at the end of the second millenium,
one dies here in America
to be completely oneself.
And if we’re dying in America,
at the end of the second millenium,
we’re not alone.
No, not alone.
I’m not alone.
(Nearly word-for-word the same as the English.)

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