RARA-AVIS: Books in Translation

From: Donna ( donna.moore@virgin.net)
Date: 17 Oct 2004

Karin wrote:

> Anyway, a woman in the audience said something along the lines of, "Whenever I read a translation, I feel like there's something missing." ... She said that she had been thinking especially of the books she'd read by Henning Mankell. She said she didn't feel she understood the culture he was writing about and that there was "something missing."
> I thought that was interesting, because after reading three of his books (Sidetracked and The Fifth Woman, translated by Steven T. Murraym and Firewall, translated by Ebba Segerberg), I'd decided I wouldn't bother looking for any more. It's hard to describe, but I'd found his tone rather too flat. She and I seemed to be talking about the same thing, but she put it down to the translation and I to the writer.

I find books in translation a bit patchy. I think the extra layer of the translation gets in the way and makes me feel a bit distanced from the story and characters sometimes. That's not a very good way of explaining it but it's all I can come up with. I think the translation is a big factor and if I don't particularly like one book I try and find one by a different translator if at all possible. I find Henning Mankell rather flat too Karin (although there was a lot about the one I read that I did like), and because there were parts I did like, I put the flatness down to the translation rather than the author :o) Interesting that you should get that feeling after reading two different translators.

Two books in translation I really enjoyed were Arnaldur Indridason's JAR CITY (Finland) and Massimo Carlotto's THE COLOMBIAN MULE (Italy). The Indridason is a police procedural and the Carlotto is a PI. Both would qualify as hard-boiled. The Carlotto especially gave me no feeling of the 'twice-removed' feeling.

A panel I went to at Harrogate with 4 Europena crime fiction authors on talked about this issue. All of them are published in a number of languages and, on the whole they have to rely on their translators to do a good job as they (the authors) have no say in the choice of translator, nor (mostly) any contact with the translator (although there were a couple of exceptions to this). Where they DID have contact with the translators, these seemed to be the most successful translations.




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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 17 Oct 2004 EDT