The translation of Der Prozess (审判)by Franz Kafka contains the following sentence 他凝视着她的头发;她那头微微发红的头发梳得很整齐,中间分开,脑后束成一个堕云譬(apparently a misprint of 髻)corresponding to:"He looked at her hair in front of him, parted, bunched down, reddish and firmly held in place"。 http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/7849/pg7849.html(Vor sich sah er ihr Haar, geteiltes, niedrig gebauschtes, fest zusammengehaltenes, rötliches Haar http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/der-prozess-157/5

Question: is there a good reason, why the translation uses the name of the particular hairstyle 堕云髻 instead of simply translating the part "bunched down, and firmly held in place" more literally?

搜索一下"堕云譬"会直接导致"审判 弗朗茨·卡夫卡 著"。首先得指出的是"譬"好像是个讹字必须以"髻"字取代。搜索一下"堕云髻"也会说明指的是女子的某发型而 还有其他的包含"云髻"两个字的发型名字,即"流云髻、随云髻、垂云髻、飞云髻、朝云近香髻",等等。

另一方面该句子似乎相当于 He looked at her hair in front of him, parted, bunched down, reddish and firmly held in place。就是说"脑后束成一个堕云髻"差不多理应相当于bunched down(niedrig gebauscht)即"向下聚(束)成一串"。问题就是,有没有更接近原文的翻译。其实按某些使用者看,可以把"hair,bunched down,and firmly held in place"翻译成"在脑后紧紧系向下聚(束)成一串(髻)的头发"。

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    There's no other evidence of usage of 堕云譬 outside of this translation. Simply though it is just: 堕+云譬 云譬 is woman's hairstyle a cloud-like bun (or coil), if you will and 堕 fallen....but that doesn't really seem to convey the whole "bunched down, and firmly held in place" idea...
    – Mou某
    Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 9:15
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    You can read on cloud buns and older hair styles here: club.men.sohu.com/zz1147/thread/2h86a8i6gyg That said, you can still refer to modern hairdos with these older terms, and 堕云髻 could simply be seen as 堕 (falling) 云髻 (women's hair). 垂云髻 means the same thing, and is also more common.
    – user4452
    Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 9:56

1 Answer 1


The translator is being too clever. He forgot that there is no reason that Miss Bürstner would wear an ancient Chinese hairstyle. The word 堕云髻 is misused here.

It might be that the translator subconsciously wanted to show off his knowledge about hairstyles, which obviously have failed.

This translation is done by 曹庸, one of the best translators from the past generation. Translation is hard work. It shouldn't be surprising to see even the best translators make mistakes.

  • Concept localization is common in the translations from that generation. It used to be seen as a skill instead of mistakes.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 17:51
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    @NS.X. Yes for translators in 1800s and early 1900s. 曹庸 is active after 1950s and onward. The standards are already quite modern by then.. Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 0:27

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