Off topic: From John le Carre's "The Mission Song"
Thread poster: William Pairman

William Pairman  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
May 16, 2008

Just finished The MIssion Song by John le Carre - fine, fine book, definitely recommended, especially for anyone interested in African languages, or interpreting.

I liked this, from p 14:

Never mistake, please, your mere translator for your top interpreter. An interpreter is a translator, true, but not the other way round. A translator can be anyone with half a language skill and a dictionary and a desk to sit at while he burns the midnight oil: pensioned off Polish cavalry officers, underpaid overseas students, minicab drivers, part-time waiters and supply teachers, and anyone else who is prepared to sell his soul for seventy quid a thousand. Your top interpreter has to think as fast as a numbers boy in a coloured jacket buying financial futures. Better sometimes he doesn’t think at all but orders the spinning cogs on both sides of his head to mesh together, then sits back and waits to see what pours out of his mouth.

Grrrr, from a mere translator prepared to sell his soul!


Michał Szcześniewski  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
English to Polish
+ ...
I do remember that one May 16, 2008

I also noticed this passage while reading the book some time ago. I don't necessarily think, though, that it's the author's opinion. Remember that the main character tends to think very high of his interpreting skills and believes he's better than the rest.

Plus, I think there aren't many pensioned off Polish cavalry officers these days;)


Local time: 16:15
English to Italian
+ ...
self-destructive? May 16, 2008

I didn’t read that book but I’m sure it’s just a character of the story, otherwise he would commit hara-kiri; Mr. Le Carré made a fortune out of his books translated worldwide by professional translators…

Cheer up, you still have chances to sell your soul for a book!icon_wink.gif

Maria Grazia

[Edited at 2008-05-16 10:40]


William Pairman  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
Agreed WWW and MS... May 16, 2008

Its deffo the character Salvo speaking (the book's written in the 1st person), not (necessarily) J le C.

Just thought it was funny (esp the Polish Cavaltry Officer bit), also the idea that one's own work is always a noble calling, everyone else is "selling their sould" howevericon_smile.gif


Agnieszka Hayward
Local time: 16:15
German to Polish
+ ...
Le Carre the Hypocrite? May 16, 2008

wordsworldwide wrote:

Mr. Le Carré made a fortune out of his books translated worldwide by professional translators…

Good point!

And, William, thanks for bringing this up. Most inspiringicon_smile.gif
I might even consider buying the bookicon_biggrin.gif


Interpreter AND translator icon_wink.gif


Mark Flynn
Local time: 16:15
German to English
Quaint May 17, 2008

"…a dictionary and a desk to sit at" How quaint! Substitute "internet access and a desktop to sit at" and you've got a better description of this particular soul-seller. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of le Carre, but he ain't gettin any younger…


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From John le Carre's "The Mission Song"

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