Ethics: Writing book review of one's own work
Thread poster: Ann Marie Ackermann, JD

Ann Marie Ackermann, JD
Local time: 14:33
German to English
Oct 6, 2011

I've been asked by a magazine to write a book review of a work that I translated and edited. I'm hesitant because I am unsure of the ethical norms in the publishing industry regarding book reviews written by the author or translator. It seems to me that a book review should be written by someone neutral.

Can anyone offer any advice?


Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:33
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Depends if its the original or your translation Oct 6, 2011

I see no problem if the book review is for the original text, after all you have nothing to do with the creation of that text, you could have positive or negative views about it, the fact you happened to translate it does not affect your "perception" of the work.

However if it's a review of your translation I would say that would be unethical as after all you would be reviewing your own work.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Review versus critique Oct 6, 2011

Ann Marie Ackermann, JD wrote:
I am unsure of the ethical norms in the publishing industry regarding book reviews written by the author or translator. It seems to me that a book review should be written by someone neutral.

I'm not sure about actual norms in the industry, but I find that many book reviews do not actually critique the book but is simply an interesting piece on some of the aspects of the book, which would make the book interesting to some readers of the review. A review is really an advertisement -- if the reviewer thought that the book was rubbish, he would not have written his review (unless it is one of those one-paragraph reviews that basically only give a thumbs up or a thumbs down).

As a translator you are in a unique position to review the book because you have not only read it but studied it in depth. If you want to comment on the translation, why not put the spotlight on some of the translation problems that you had, and how you had solved it, and how other translators of other books have solved similar problems? Such information makes the review interesting, which is really the only purpose of the review (from the column editor's point of view).


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:33
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
This is not unusual Oct 6, 2011

I know at least one case where I discussed about a book with the author and told her, that the text on the back did not quite do justice to the content. The author was surprised: But I wrote this myself!

As the translator you know more about the subject than anyone else in your target country, so it would seem natural to ask you to write an introduction. Of course you could keep quiet about the quality of the translation and leave this to the critics.


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 06:33
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with Alex Oct 6, 2011

I agree with Alex that it may not be unethical as long as you're not commenting on the quality of the translation. But in your place, I would probably feel too close to the material to be able to provide a fresh and objective perspective.


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Ethics: Writing book review of one's own work

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