WS 2011/2012            exam translation (advanced)           (Staatsexamen Herbst 2009)                    text #12

 If a Victorian novelist of the most romantic type had invented Capt. Sir Richard Francis Burton*, the character might have been dismissed by both the public and critics in that most rational age as too extreme, too unlikely. Burton was the paradigm of the scholar-adventurer, a man who towered above others physically and intellectually, a soldier, scientist, explorer, and writer who for much of his life also engaged in that most romantic of careers, undercover agent.

    Burton was unique in any gathering except when he was deliberately working in disguise as an agent among the peoples of the lands being absorbed by his country. An impressive six feet tall, broad chested and wiry, “gypsy-eyed”, darkly handsome, he was fiercely imposing, his face scarred by a savage spear wound received in a battle with Somali marauders. He spoke twenty-nine languages and many dialects and when necessary could pass as a native of several Eastern lands — as an Afghan when he made his famous pilgrimage to Mecca, as a Gypsy laborer among the work gangs on the canals of the Indus River, and as a wandering holy man when exploring the wilder parts of India for his general. He was the first European to enter Harar, a sacred city in East Africa, though some thirty whites had earlier been driven off or killed. He was also the first European to lead an expedition into Central Africa to search for the sources of the Nile, a venture as daring and romantic then as going to outer space a century and a half later.

    Such exploits reflect only the “surface” Burton and obscure the inner man, a man of extraordinary complexity, sensitivity, and intelligence. Although he was one of the best-known individuals of his age, there were times when he was almost an outcast among his own people. His opinions on various subjects—English “misrule” of the new colonies, the low quality and stodginess1 of university education, the need for the sexual emancipation of the English woman, the failure on the part of Government to see that the conquered peoples of the empire were perpetually on the edge of revolt — were not likely to make him popular at home. Nor did his condemnation of infanticide and the slave trade endear him to Orientals and Africans.

1 stodgy ‘boring and old-fashioned’

Quelle: Edward Rice, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Biography. Cambridge/MA 2001, S. l f. (gekürzt)  

 * WIKI: 

for the unabridged (original) passage, which served as the basis for the text above, click:  HERE  

Sir Richard Francis Burton's son - or rather great-great-grandson - has a problem:

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