Posts Tagged: translation
To read Alejandro Zambra is to engage with someone who writes as though the burden of history were upon him and no one else — the history of his country of Chile, of literature, and of humanity’s shared experience. You get it from his pages, a sense that a story must be told, intimately and without reservation.
Three Percent, a resource for international literature at the University of Rochester, derives its name from the fact that about 3 percent of all the books published in the U.S. every year are translations. But the bulk of these are technical writings or reprints of literary classics; only 0.7 percent are first-time translations of fiction and poetry.
While the firemen were carrying me on a wheeled office chair out of the conference room, I found myself floating over the bodies of my dead colleagues, Bernard, Tignous, Cabu, Georges, bodies that my rescuers were stepping over or around, and suddenly, my God, they were no longer laughing.
A profile on Arthur Goldhammer, who has translated over 100 books from French to English.
As a translator, Goldhammer tries to find a pragmatic middle-ground between literalism and freestyle. The goal is to be faithful to the contents of a book but also find a style for it that works in English.
Anyone who simplifies a nation’s discourse misreads that nation. When you’re reading the texts of a recently created nation like India, which was only founded in 1947, you must know the political, historical, and linguistic backdrop, or you will miswrite what you read.
The mismatch between quality and recognition in the world of translated fiction and nonfiction is surely more extreme than in any category of literature, and while this category has a growing number of great advocates, it deserves to have them at the highest level.
Shakespeare is invading China. The first complete Chinese translation of the works of Shakespeare wasn’t released until 1967, but Britain’s number one dramatist is now starting to catch the attention of Chinese audiences, reports Melville House’s Moby Lives, saying Shakespeare is “having a cultural moment.”...more
Although A Sentimental Novel, the final work from Alain Robbe-Grillet, was published in French in 2008, the English translation didn’t follow for almost another four years. Partially, this was due to the book’s content: a lengthy series of Robbe-Grillet’s sadistic fantasies....more
Forty-one years after his death, JRR Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf has been published by his son Christopher. Tolkien translated Beowulf early in his career, yet never published it. In the New Yorker, Joan Acocella speculates on the reason:
Another possible explanation for Tolkien’s putting “Beowulf” aside—a theory that has been advanced in the case of many unpublished manuscripts—is that the work was so important to him that if he finished it his life, or the life of his mind, would be over.
The first of three parts of a Chinese translation of Finnegans Wake consumed eight years of translator Dai Congrong’s life. The almost unreadable book proves even more difficult to translate because of the many puns and layered meanings, explains MobyLives:
The novel has been deemed “untranslatable” and the translations that are successful tend to be consuming: the Polish version took ten years to finish, the French version thirty years, and the Japanese version took three separate translators after the first disappeared and the second went mad.
Writing over at Brooklyn Quarterly, Will Evans discusses why he founded a publishing house dedicated to translation:
In addition to being a philosophical problem, literary translation is also a contentious business matter. There are thousands of good to all-time-great books published in the world every year in every language imaginable, but only a couple hundred of those ever get published in English, and that’s in a good year.
Polish language speakers are getting a new translation of The Great Gatsby, but a modern translation raises all sorts of linguistic issues. The primary difference, of course, is that the original translator wrote under the iron curtain and without the aid of Google:
It was, therefore, more difficult for her to track down various details, such as those concerning well-known financiers or popular culture starlets of the 1920s.
Once upon a time, folktales contained sex and violence. But as the stories were collected by cultural anthropologists, they were gradually stripped of this adult content in order to make them suitable for children. Moreover, these neutered children’s stories often make no mention of their translator, or even that they’ve been translated, writes M....more
In our interview with Molly Antopol, when discussing readership of Israeli literature in the United States, Antopol says, “I have all these smart friends who love books and love international fiction, and whenever we talk about Israeli literature, it’s Etgar Keret, Amos Oz, and David Grossman—I feel like it’s those three....more
Amid the flood of J. D. Salinger articles related to the upcoming biography and documentary about him, this New Yorker essay by Reed Johnson stands out.
It has nothing to do with the biography, actually. It’s about Russian translations of The Catcher in the Rye (or Over the Abyss in Rye as the most popular one is titled) and raises all sorts of interesting questions about how to convey American ideas about iconoclasm and conformity—not to mention slang—to Russian readers....more