Re: RARA-AVIS: Another translation example

From: Karin Montin (
Date: 19 Oct 2004

I read the first three chapters of Manchette's Le petit bleu de la couest with the English translation (Three to Kill) to hand, just for kicks. (Yeah, that's how I get some of my kicks.)

There were several passages missing from the English. One time the guy goes outside for a smoke, but in English he doesn't smoke. Another time the description of the dashboard was truncated. My memory's a little rusty, but you get the idea.

(OT: I've seen similar, even bigger omissions in the French Harry Potter books.)

Although sometimes it's legitimate to cut repetitive phrasing that seems overdone in the target language, I've always wondered whether the translator simply left out tricky bits (this sometimes seems to be the case), left things out in haste which were never caught because the editor only reads the translation (not with the original), or lines were cut for cost reasons. Perhaps a single page that would have necessitated a new signature with seven blank pages was trimmed. Or perhaps each chapter was supposed to start on a right-hand page, but the publisher didn't want lots of blank left-hand pages. That would mean snipping here and there for length. (A French translation is usually 10-15% longer than the original English. An English translation is usually 10-15% shorter than the original French.)

I've never seen compensatory "extras" at the back of a book, though.


At 08:23 AM 19/10/2004 +0200, Anders Engwall wrote:

>Karin mentioned the feeling that occasionally "something is
>missing" in translation. Well, sometimes that has literally
>been the case.
>Consider the opening of Jim Thompson's THE GETAWAY:
>Carter "Doc" McCoy had left a morning call for six o'clock,
>and he was reaching for the telephone the moment the night
>clerk rang. He had always awakened easily and pleasantly; a
>man with not a regret for the past, and completely confident
>and self-assured as he faced each new day. Twelve years of
>prison routine had merely molded his natural tendencies into
>"Why, I slept fine, Charlie," he said, in his amiably sincere
>voice. "Don't suppose I should ask you the same question, eh?
>Ha-ha! Got my breakfast on the way, have you? Fine, attaboy,
>You're a gentleman and a scholar, Charlie."
>Now, look at the Swedish translation (RYMMARNA, 1977):
>Carter "Doc" McCoy hade beg䲴 v䣫ning till klockan sex, och
>han str䣫te sig efter telefonen i samma blick som den ringde.
>Han hade alltid l䴴 ftt vakna och s姠varje dag an med
>tillfkt. Tolv 岳 f䮧elserutin hade bara gjort det till en
>"Jo, jag har sovit gott, Charlie," svarade han med sin godmodigt
>allvarliga r "Man det har f峠inte du, va? Var hygglig
>och skicka upp min frukost. Vackert, du 䲠en riktig gentleman,
>Notice that this appears to be shorter than the original. This
>is indeed the case. A retranslation back to English yields
>something like:
>Carter "Doc" McCoy had left a morning call for six o'clock, and
>he was reaching for the telephone the moment it rang. He had always
>awakened easily and faced each new day self-assuredly. Twelve years
>of prison routine had merely turned it into habit.
>"Why, I slept fine, Charlie," he said, in his amiably sincere voice.
>"Don't suppose you have, eh? Got my breakfast on the way, have you?
>Fine, you're a real gentleman, Charlie."
>And it goes on like this, cutting corners. I suppose the novel was
>shortened to make way for the pornographic appendix that appeared
>in this book line at the time.

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