How to deal with quotes in a literary translation
Thread poster: KKastenhuber

KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
Russian to German
+ ...
Sep 9, 2010

Hello everyone,

I have a question about how to deal with quotes by other writers in literary texts.

In the text I'm currently translating, there are several quotes by a different writer, each a couple of lines long. The original text identifies them as direct citations with the other writer's name next to them (not the book in which they were originally published, though). I have found out that most (maybe all) of the phrases quoted stem from works that have already been translated into my target language German. They are not what I'd call "famous", though, that is, not common knowledge.

How do I go about translating them? Would it be okay to use the original translator's versions and identify them as his? If yes, how/where? In a footnote? Or "quote" (writer X, translated by Y)? Should I make up my own translation? What if my version ends up not differing much from the one already existing? It's just a couple of phrases, and I can only do so much to put them into my own words.

I believe that consistency has never harmed any translation, but does that mean that if I end up not finding one of the citations in an existing German version, I should refrain from using the other existing ones?

Thank you in advance for your replies.


Mathieu Jacquet  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
English to French
Quote as already translated, or retranslate if not satisfied with it Sep 9, 2010

Hi Fraülein Kastenhuber,

for well-known texts (let's say for example the Bible), better quote as already translated. Here again, several translations can exist, so you can choose the one that best fits your taste. As for existing translations of not-that-much-known texts, you can either use existing ones and add a footnote for instance (although some publishers are not for footnotes), or retranslate if you find them unfaithful to the original or awkwardly crafted.



KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
Russian to German
+ ...
Thanks! Sep 9, 2010

Thank you for your advice!

I'll see whether I can find them all and then I'll decide.


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How to deal with quotes in a literary translation

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