The Tale of Kieu in the German language translated by Irene and Franz Faber (Photo: Goethoe.de)


The story of the couple translating the tale into the German language was told by translator Truong Hong Quang during a program held on June 8th in Hanoi to mark the 200th year since great poet Nguyen Du passed away.

President Ho Chi Minh’s present

Franz Faber, born in 1916, enjoyed a comprehensive humanitarian education. Apart from his mother tongue German, he was fluent in the 6 foreign languages of Latin, French, Greek, English, Arabic and Hebrew. His wife, Irene Faber, a linguist, was also fluent in the 5 languages of English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

As a French editor at the German newspaper Neues Deutschland, Franz Faber came to Vietnam in 1954 at the invitation of President Ho Chi Minh. During his time in Hanoi, Faber came across a French version of the Tale of Kieu, the 1926 translation by Rene Craissac. Before he left Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh presented him a Vietnamese-French bilingual version of the Tale of Kieu by scholar Nguyen Van Vinh, published in 1951.

Irene started to learn the Vietnamese language to translate the Tale of Kieu in 1956. After 7 years, Irene and Franz translated the work in a spirit of deep respect for the original. Faber and his wife also compiled thousands of indexes on key words, phrases or metaphors, old classic and historical references of the original.

Monument in Vietnamese - German language exchange

According to translator Quang, the translation has become an important monument with deep significance in the exchange of German - Vietnamese literature and language. “When it became a literary work in the German language, or part of the history of German literature, the translation contributed to honouring Nguyen Du's original Tale of Kieu,” he said.

In the German translation, Johannes Dieckmann, former journalist, President of the German National Assembly, wrote that the translation opened up a treasure of humanism and the noble beauty of the culture of the Vietnamese people.

Critic Johannes Schellenberger wrote in Der Bibliothekar, volume 6, published in June 1965, that work of Irene and Franz Faber was of very high artistic quality. He compared the Tale of Kieu with Hermann and Dorothea by Goethe.

After their second visit to Vietnam, Irene and Franz Faber traveled through 42 countries as journalists, mostly living in the Middle East.

The couple’s meetings in the Middle East could lead to a 471-page Arabic translation of the Tale of Kieu by Nizar Abdullah, published in 1987 by Dar Tlass, Damascus./.

Compiled by BTA