Author Topic: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)  (Read 180 times)  Share 

KyriakosCH

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Some say the word Odradek is of Slavonic origin, and try to account for it on that basis. Others again believe it to be of German origin, only influenced by Slavonic. The uncertainty of both interpretations allows one to justifiably assume that neither is accurate, especially as neither of them provides an intelligent meaning of the word.

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No one, of course, would occupy himself with such studies if there were not a creature called Odradek. At first glance it looks like a flat star-shaped spool for thread, and indeed it does seem to have thread wound upon it; to be sure, they are only old, broken-off bits of thread, knotted and tangled together, of the most varied sorts and colors. But it is not only a spool, for a small wooden crossbar sticks out of the middle of the star, and another small rod is joined to that at a right angle. By means of this latter rod on one side and one of the points of the star on the other, the whole thing can stand upright as if on two legs.

One is tempted to believe that the creature once had some sort of intelligible shape and is now only a broken-down remnant. Yet this does not seem to be the case; at least there is no sign of it; nowhere is there an unfinished or unbroken surface to suggest anything of the kind; the whole thing looks senseless enough, but in its own way perfectly finished. In any case, closer scrutiny is impossible, since Odradek is extraordinarily nimble and can never be laid hold of.

He lurks by turns in the garret, the stairway, the lobbies, the entrance hall. Often for months on end he is not to be seen; then he has presumably moved into other houses; but he always comes faithfully back to our house again. Many a time when you go out of the door and he happens just to be leaning directly beneath you against the banisters you feel inclined to speak to him. Of course, you put no difficult questions to him, you treat him--he is so diminutive that you cannot help it--rather like a child. "Well, what's your name?" you ask him. "Odradek," he says. "And where do you live?" "No fixed abode," he says and laughs; but it is only the kind of laughter that has no lungs behind it. It sounds rather like the rustling of fallen leaves. And that is usually the end of the conversation. Even these anwers are not always forthcoming; often he stays mute for a long time, as wooden as his appearance.

I ask myself, to no purpose, what is likely to happen to him? Can he possibly die? Anything that dies has had some kind of aim in life, some kind of activity, which has worn out; but that does not apply to Odradek. Am I to suppose, then, that he will always be rolling down the stairs, with ends of thread trailing after him, right before the feet of my children, and my children's children? He does no harm to anyone that one can see; but the idea that he is likely to survive me I find almost painful.
Story by F. Kafka (laugh)

Anyway, this was one of the 12 stories I actually translated (to Greek) for a recent book 8-)
« Last Edit: 10 Nov 2017, 10:28 by KyriakosCH »
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Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #1 on: 09 Nov 2017, 18:55 »
It's not German.

Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #2 on: 10 Nov 2017, 10:25 »
This is the spoiler tag:


KyriakosCH

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Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #3 on: 10 Nov 2017, 10:29 »
Thanks gov-ner; it has now been put to great use (laugh)
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Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #4 on: 10 Nov 2017, 21:00 »
At first sight, judging by the word's morphology, it looked to me like a Czech word -- and indeed there is an interpretation that it is a distorted/misspelled "odrodek" - "one without roots". But said interpretation goes further and seeks to make a point there's something German in there, too -- which I'm personally not convinced by.

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Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #5 on: 10 Nov 2017, 21:09 »
Sounds very Austrian.

KyriakosCH

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Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #6 on: 10 Nov 2017, 21:43 »
At first sight, judging by the word's morphology, it looked to me like a Czech word -- and indeed there is an interpretation that it is a distorted/misspelled "odrodek" - "one without roots". But said interpretation goes further and seeks to make a point there's something German in there, too -- which I'm personally not convinced by.

In the past, with the help of a native Czech speaker in another forum, i formed the impression that Kafka (who did speak Czech, despite not writing literature in the language) was thinking of something like "line getting away from (something)" --iirc od +radek?-- as some kind of perpetual asymptote. Such a notion would certainly be in line with Kafka's work anyway (nod)
« Last Edit: 11 Nov 2017, 06:50 by KyriakosCH »
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Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #7 on: 10 Nov 2017, 22:23 »
There's a similar archaism in Polish, which is my native language: odrodny (adj) - meaning someone who lost traits typical for a certain group/family. The prefix "od-" signifies something getting away/distanced from something else, "rod" being the root of the word "rodzina/ród" (family/clan). The suffix "-ny" is a typpical adjective suffix, while the "-ek" (also very typical in Polish), signifies a diminutive form in nouns, and is often meant to be derogatory.

KyriakosCH

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Re: Is the term "Odradek" Slavic or German? (or neither?)
« Reply #8 on: 11 Nov 2017, 06:51 »
There's a similar archaism in Polish, which is my native language: odrodny (adj) - meaning someone who lost traits typical for a certain group/family. The prefix "od-" signifies something getting away/distanced from something else, "rod" being the root of the word "rodzina/ród" (family/clan). The suffix "-ny" is a typpical adjective suffix, while the "-ek" (also very typical in Polish), signifies a diminutive form in nouns, and is often meant to be derogatory.


Very interesting, thanks!
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