In the famous biography of Christopher Columbus by Jakob Wassermann, we find in Chapter 3 the frequently cited passage:

Ich nenne mich Cristobal Colón, bin ein Seefahrer aus Genua und muß betteln, weil die Könige die Reiche, die ich ihnen anbiete, nicht annehmen wollen.

This word is often presented as if it were authentically by Columbus himself - but to my best knowledge, it's Wassermann's invention and not documented in any historical records.

So, I wonder if this was ever rendered into Chinese and if it is present somewhere in a Chinese version on the Chinese internet, if it is part of the Chinese common knowledge too.

If not, I would be very interested how you personally would translate it into Chinese.

To give some (maybe erroneous) context: Allegedly, Columbus said this in front of the Catholic Spanish Court to present and advertise his excursion to "Hinterindien". Although, his geographic informations were false and disproven by science, he was charismatic enough to convince the Catholic Queen Isabella to approve the journey in regards of promise of wealth and reputation she might get out of the treasures in the "New World".

2 Answers 2


I don't think the said book has ever been translated into Chinese. Searching for "哥伦布传" on Douban reveals books written by Samuel Eliot Morison, Salvador de Madariaga, and Edward Everett Hale, but not Jakob Wasserman.

I can give a direct translation as follows.

我叫 Cristobal Colón,是一名来自热那亚的航海者,今我不得不向您恳求,因为我自己所服侍的国王,不愿提供我所需的资金。

Edit: Turns out my original translation was based on a misreading. The original sentence was more like:

我叫 Cristobal Colón,是一名来自热那亚的航海者,今我不得不向您恳求,因为国王们不愿意接受我提供给他们的王国。

This shows my German has probably degraded a lot. :(

  • Thank you! I really like your translation because it puts things into context which you rephrased nicely and it also confers the desperateness of the speaker but it's not quite literal. Do you fear it will become incomprehensible if you translate it word by word? Or is that just because of a double back-and-forth translation into English by software? I often notice: If I ask people to translate something into Chinese, it becomes often an interpretation - which is, of course, fine too. Dec 9, 2023 at 19:34
  • often becomes Dec 9, 2023 at 19:40
  • A literal translation would not feel natural -- the word order, grammar convention, etc. are all different between German and Chinese. The Chinese ideal of "translation" is a balance between "信" (faithful to the original meaning), "达" (expresses everything the original text says), "雅" (feel natural and elegant to native speaker). Dec 9, 2023 at 19:48
  • 1
    I think I just know why you say it's not literal. The literal meaning is more like "国王们 (Könige),不愿意接受(annehmen)我提供(anbiete)给他们的王国 (Reiche)". Does this make better sense to you? Dec 9, 2023 at 20:05
  • I think I misread Reich and its case in the original sentence. My bad. Dec 9, 2023 at 20:10

"reich" in German means rich.
"das Reich" in German means the country, land, or kingdom.
"die Reiche" is a plural form of "das Reich"

Translate the German to English:

Ich nenne mich Cristobal Colón,
My name is Cristobal Colón,

(ich) bin ein Seefahrer aus Genua und muß betteln,
(I) am a sailor from Genoa (Italy) and I must go begging,

weil die Könige die Reiche, die ich ihnen anbiete, nicht annehmen wollen.
because (European) kings are not interested in the lands I offer them.

Translate the English to Chinese:

My name is Cristobal Colón, I am sailor from Genoa (Italy) and I must go begging,

because (European) kings are not interested in the lands I offer them.

Cristobal Colón got money for his adventure in the end! His little castle home is still there in Puerto de Santa María, just across the water from the city of Cádiz in the Autonomous Community of Andalucía. He set sail from Palos de la Frontera, in the province of Huelva, Spain, which lies somewhat west of Puerto de Santa María, on August 3, 1492. What a lot of trouble that caused!

Puerto de Santa María lies on the river Guadalete. Follow the river up to its source and you will find the beautiful little village of Grazalema, where I am right now! Meet me in the café Rumores, on the corner of the village square, and I will buy you a coffee!

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