Riding the ‘electric’ is an inexpensive pleasure. When the car arrives, you climb aboard, possibly after first politely ceding the right of way to an imposing gentlewoman, and then the car continues on. At once you notice that you have a rather musical disposition. The most delicate melodies are parading through your head. In no time you’ve elevated yourself to the position of a leading conductor or even composer. Yes, it’s really true: the human brain involuntarily starts composing songs in the electric tram, songs that in their involuntary nature and their rhythmic regularity are so very striking that it’s hard to resist thinking oneself a second Mozart.
The New York Review blog published the second in a series of excerpts from the recently published Berlin Stories by Robert Walser, translated and with an introduction by Susan Bernofsky. Bernofsky, who is currently chair of the PEN Translation Committee and author of Foreign Words: Translator-Authors in the Age of Goethe, was interviewed for the blog Daily PEN America about the place of translation in America today.