Lost in Translation

Recently, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, a fluent German speaker, was interviewed in Wiener Zeitung (The Vienna Newspaper). In it, he urges caution in allowing himself to be described as a ‘nationalist’ because of continuing strong right-wing overtones in that word from Nazi history in the German-speaking world, even 2/3rds of a century later. The SNP have always been proud of its peacefully different ‘civic’ nationalism.

The response from Patricia Ferguson and Ruth Davidson (aided by a partial Herald newspaper), mocking the SNP for denying they were nationalists, seems to stem from either rank ignorance of history or deliberate cynical opportunism. In either case, it so appalled the editor of the paper in question he felt obliged to pen an explanation:

“May I clarify remarks attributed to Westminster SNP leader Angus Robertson, in an interview published in the Austrian quality newspaper Wiener Zeitung (“Robertson defends interview”, The Herald, June 19).

In an edited German language interview with Mr Robertson the newspaper reported that the SNP was not “nationalist” in the sense that German speakers would commonly understand it. The distinction seems an obvious one for anybody who speaks German, knows the history of Germany and Austria or reads the interview.

In the unabridged interview Mr Robertson said: “We are cosmopolitan citizens of the world. I prefer not to translate that ‘I am a Nationalist’ into German because in German it sounds far-right, which I am not.”

“I hope this puts the record straight.

  • Dr Walter Hämmerle,
  • Deputy Editor,
  • Wiener Zeitung,
  • Wiedner Gürtel 10, 1040 Vienna, Austria

About davidsberry

Local councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Stood for the Scottish Parliament 2011; lost by 151 votes.
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