A few questions for literary translators...
Thread poster: xxxdaisey
xxxdaisey
Local time: 05:39
Mar 10, 2009

Hi!

I am writing an article about literary translation and I am looking for some feedback from translators, feedback that I could possible quote.
I have jotted down a few questions below but any interesting thoughts etc will be greatly appreciated!

- What are your thoughts on literature that is translated from an existing translation?

-do you think that translations should be recognised as a separate piece of work? or that translators should get more recognition?

-How do you approach 'non-translatables'? Is it important for you to
domesticise or foreignise?

-To what extent do you think translating is a mechanical process?

-How do you approach cultural nuances, puns, idiomatic expressions,
metaphors etc in your translations? Do you find identifying these and
translating these a challenge?

-Do you try and mirror the style of the source languages writer?

-Is it sometimes difficult to transfer the styles to the target text
audience?

-Do you consciously think about the style, register, format and
terminology and not only the meaning, during the translating process?

-To what extent do you think that a translators role is 'invisible'?

Thanks in advance!

Daisey


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:39
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Wow talk about a lot of questions Mar 10, 2009

Well to answer your questions (some of which would require very legthu explanations):

1- Translated literature can be very good or very bad, just like original literature.
2- Yes to both, translating literature requires a special set of skills that not all translators posses, same as not every one can right a book, not every translator can translate one. For this alone (and many other aspects) the translator should get A LOT of recognition.
3- This one is very open to debate, personally I think you have to domesticise, in my opinion, the author's story and message are a lot more important than the actual words or context he uses (unless you are talking about poetry and that is another world all together), you have a transpose the story and message to your target language, but a lot of people will disagree.
4- Literary translation can never be mechanical.
5- As mentioned in answer 3 I think you have to turn all that into something that can be understood by your target audience, you have to make it local. This is the most difficult part of any translation.
6- You have to mirror his style or you are rewriting not translating his book.
7- Yes using someone elses writing style is always difficult, at least it is for me.
8- Style, register and format certainly, terminology only if appropiate, this is after all literature not science, so terminology can be played with. Meaning however is fundamental in literature, at least in my opinion.
9- Unfortunately it is always invisible, but not just with literary translations, with all translations, we are an unrecoginsed profession, i.e. people don't know the difficulties of translating with accuracy and quality.


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Tetyana Dytyna  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:39
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Here's what I think Mar 10, 2009

I'm not a literary translator but I am doing research in Translation Studies and can give answers to some of your questions.

- If the original is available, the translation from the original is preferable.

- Yes! Translations need to be recognized just as the original literature is. That means more translations published, more translator awards given out, and decent remuneration for literary translators. I'm totally a proponent of Lawrence Venuti's ideas that translators need to get "visible"

- there are no two cultures alike, which means you are bound to encounter many non-translatable things, but you need to get around and translate them in the end. You may lose something on the way, but there's always a chance to compensate it in another place. I support foreignization as a general strategy, but in specific cases you really need to consider several options.

- you can theorize a lot here, but it's worth asking a practicing translator. And again, it really depends on each separate case.

- yes, that's the point of the translation, isn't it?

- yes, because often it's difficult to figure out what the "author's style" is

- translators are insfficiently visible, at least in my country. As I said, I agree with L. Venuti's call for action, and believe translators need to fight for this visibility themselves. You can read more of his works where he describes how exactly you can do that.

Good luck with your paper!


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Nils Andersson  Identity Verified
United States
English to Swedish
+ ...
Good and bad examples Mar 11, 2009

Some is great. P.G. Woodhouse is wonderful in Swedish, unfortunately I don't
know who did it. I read Swedish translations as a teenager.

Woodhouse is sooo British, translating him is a challenge.

Then you have maybe not BAD, but so-so translations. The wonderful
"Millenium" trilogy by Stieg Larsson is great in Swedish, although
even the original has some minor problems with both facts and internal
consistency (the author died just after he handed in the "manuscripts"
to the publisher, maybe this made it hard to fix).

The English translations (only two of the three available at this time)
has serious problems, mostly sloppiness and inattention - at least the
first book, I re-read the story in English. Geographical names (in Sweden)
garbled, "tjugo" being translated "20 twenty" etc.

One of the most annoying items, just as an example: One
of the principal characters goes to Switzerland and spends lots of
money - this is part of a cultivated persona. In the orginal, the amounts
are given in Swedish kronor. I would have used local currency, but using
Swedish kronor is OK for a book intended for a mass audience in Sweden.
The translator translated right-off. Seeing money spent in restaurants
etc. in Zürich described in Swedish kronor in an English-language
copy is a bizarre experience. The translator should have converted to
Swiss Francs. Sorry, Mr. Keeland, you could have done better.

Nils Andersson


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:39
English to Hungarian
+ ...
A few notes Mar 13, 2009

1. There would have to be a convincing reason to translate the translation.

2. It happens sometimes, but it is much better, when the translator is recognised for the wonderful work AND faithfulness to the original.
When the original is a great literary work, the translator producing a quality translation is not always forgotten or neglected!
Translating thrash is a waste of time.

3. The question is far too generalised. It depends on a lot of other factors.

4. As much as the translator makes it mechanised!

5. Again, it is too broad a question.

6. I sincerely hope so, within reason. Otherwise quite a bit of the original could be lost.

7. Depends on the language combination and style, and a lot of other things, but ought to try to be as close as possible.

8. See above.

9. It is difficult for the translator to be visible when the original is not all that great, but I have seen it happen once in a while.
Otherwise, a worthwhile translation usually finds recognition, and makes a name for the translator.
Some great writers made great translators as well in the past.

Questions to think about:

Should a literary translator take on any old job, or stick to writers of certain style which suits his or her own style?
Do they recognise whether a job is really for them or not?
Should they chuck it in, when they think it became a mechanised process?

[Edited at 2009-03-13 18:40 GMT]


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:39
Swedish to English
+ ...
Thank you Nils (sorry slightly off-topic) Mar 13, 2009

Nils Andersson wrote:

Some is great. P.G. Woodhouse is wonderful in Swedish, unfortunately I don't
know who did it. I read Swedish translations as a teenager.

Woodhouse is sooo British, translating him is a challenge.

Then you have maybe not BAD, but so-so translations. The wonderful
"Millenium" trilogy by Stieg Larsson is great in Swedish, although
even the original has some minor problems with both facts and internal
consistency (the author died just after he handed in the "manuscripts"
to the publisher, maybe this made it hard to fix).

The English translations (only two of the three available at this time)
has serious problems, mostly sloppiness and inattention - at least the
first book, I re-read the story in English. Geographical names (in Sweden)
garbled, "tjugo" being translated "20 twenty" etc.

One of the most annoying items, just as an example: One
of the principal characters goes to Switzerland and spends lots of
money - this is part of a cultivated persona. In the orginal, the amounts
are given in Swedish kronor. I would have used local currency, but using
Swedish kronor is OK for a book intended for a mass audience in Sweden.
The translator translated right-off. Seeing money spent in restaurants
etc. in Zürich described in Swedish kronor in an English-language
copy is a bizarre experience. The translator should have converted to
Swiss Francs. Sorry, Mr. Keeland, you could have done better.

Nils Andersson


As soon as I read a few pages of the first book, I really, really wanted to translate the whole series. It would be such a challenge, how do you transfer the connotations of Mosebacke, Hornsgatan or Hedeby to someone who's never even heard of these locations? (Yes, I'm aware that Hedeby is fictional.)

How do you translate cultural experience/awareness?

These books contain a lot of universal "truths", but without knowledge of Swedish culture, history, geography, etc., I fear you might miss some important observations.

Even considering your "review" I think I'll try to lay my hands on an English translation just to see how the translator dealt with these issues.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 04:39
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
oT - a non-sequitur Mar 14, 2009

... In the orginal, the amounts
are given in Swedish kronor. I would have used local currency, but using
Swedish kronor is OK for a book intended for a mass audience in Sweden.
The translator translated right-off. Seeing money spent in restaurants
etc. in Zürich described in Swedish kronor ...

The one to localize to CH, would be the author. He did not. Localizing to pounds (the right or the duty of the translator) would be a laugh. But so it stays all Swedish - like hearing Bibi Anderson speak English.

Btw, I have to read the trilogy - your fault, Nils (g)


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xxxdaisey
Local time: 05:39
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Mar 17, 2009

Thanks for all your great comments

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