“On My Own”: German v. English

Which translation better fits book Éponine?: German or English!

Éponine is one of the most complex characters in LES MISÉRABLES. We meet her early on in the book and she is one of the characters that we follow throughout the whole book. In the musical, her big song is “On My Own”. Recently I had given more thought to the German translation of the song, “Nur Für Mich” (Only For Me [Myself]). I’m going to take it stanza and I think that it will be interesting to see which one is more accurate to book Éponine!

FIRST: THE TITLE

In English, the song is called “On My Own” and in German, the song is called “Nur Für Mich” which translates to “Only For Me/Myself”. Just looking at these two titles I think that the answer is found somewhere in the middle. The title “Nur Für Mich” is a little more… hopeful and less… sad and agony-filled. Now, taking into consideration book Éponine. Book Éponine is not so quick to admit that she loves Marius as Musical Éponine. Book Éponine always struck me as dreaming of Marius being able to love someone like her. I’m going to have to say that the German version is more true to Book Éponine here. But I think that it’s definitely up for debate depending on how you analyze Éponine’s character.

SECOND: STANZA ONE

This is getting really tough. Here, we get the base of the song. We understand the whole complication in the relationship between Éponine and Marius—and that’s that Marius does not requite her love. Both translations demonstrate this well. I must say, though, that I think that book Éponine would never really think about this too much. I like the line from the English translation that says: “…Pretending he’s beside me…”. I think that this is pretty accurate to how Book Éponine would be if she were to think about Marius in such an open way (which is of course, how musicals work). I do, though, like the more realistic approach of the German version. I’m still going to give the point to the English version though because I feel like Book Éponine would be more likely to think of Marius as an idea in her head than base her thoughts about him on more realistic ideas.

THIRD: STANZA TWO

The translations of stanza two are pretty close to each other, actually. I’m going to give them both a point because they both have their strengths.

FOURTH: STANZA THREE

For me, this one is a pretty easy decision. I’m going to give it to the English translation. While I love the line from the German translation: “Ja, ich weiß, er hat mich übersehen, Ganz egal, ich muss zu ihm stehen” (“Yes, I know he overlooked me, no matter, I have to stand beside him”), I feel like it more emulates Musical Éponine than Book Éponine and we’re looking for accuracy to the book in this post.

FIFTH: STANZA FOUR

I’m going to give this one to the German version. I just love the imagery. There’s not much that actually gets said about characters in this stanza but I love the words in the German translation and it’s absolutely beautiful.

SIXTH: STANZA FIVE

Definitely going with the German one on this one and it’s because of one line in particular that goes: “Ich lieb ihn, doch täglich muss ich sehen, wie er lebt, als hät’s mich nie gegeben” (“I love him, but I have to see every day how he lives as if I had never been”).

SEVETH: STANZA SIX

Let’s go ahead and give a point to both. Both translations are really nice!

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So my final conclusion is that the German translation is more accurate to book Éponine though the English version trailed JUST behind.

Have you listened to “On My Own” in a different language? Did you like it more or less than the English version?

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14 thoughts on ““On My Own”: German v. English

  1. I heard “On My Own” in Spanish before. So far, like English version more. Don’t know what the Spanish translation directly translates to. It’s interesting how slightly different Eponine is in the book compared to the musical

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    1. Yeah, I agree. I think that a lot of the differences come from the fact that it’s a musical adaptation and her thoughts and feelings are more open and freely expressed, opposed to in the book how the reader can guess that she loves Marius but she doesn’t really say it until she’s dying

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      1. Yes, that’s very true. I love the scene in the book at Rue Plumet when Montparnasse and the Patron Minette are about to rob the house but Éponine stops them. I’ve always liked that scene more in the book for some reason.

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      2. I disagree as well. Thought I might say that, to people who love the Enjolras + Students and Marius dynamic from the musical, book Marius will probably take a little bit of getting used to. I think musical Marius has the most distinct character change from the book. I don’t think that he’s a jerk in either of them but they are definitely somewhat different characters that might take a little bit of getting used to for some people

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