Zhang Wei to withhold publishing his latest novel in foreign languages if translations are "unworthy"

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Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:32
Dutch to English
+ ...
Oh well... Nov 15, 2012

...he'll still have to fork up the money for the work, regardless of whether they are published. smh.


Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:32
German to English
Great news! Nov 16, 2012

I think that this is the only way to improve the miserable market for the translation of books (half the pay for double the work).

Authors need to stand up and say:
Look, translating and editing represent a tiny fraction of the costs involved in a major translation publishing project. At the same time, this is the aspect that is most important to me, the author, and to my intended audience (even if it often isn't the most important aspect for sales).
Do not save money on the translation or you can't publish my book! If the translation costs half or twice as much, it will not have any significant effect on your bottom line, so see to it that you end up with a good translation or I won't let you publish it. That needs to be in writing and a standard part of contracts transferring rights to translation.

Star authors are the only people who can really do this type of thing and it is good to see one of them setting a positive example. The math is, of course, also very different with smaller projects, but the market for book translations is an absolute mess and this seems like one of the few ways to push it in the right direction.

@ Bryan: With the added advantage that the Chinese publisher holding the rights and the English-language publisher that buys them, hires the translator and organizes its editing will suddenly have a vested interest in making quality a significant criterium in selecting translators.


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:32
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
From the Juvenile to the Youth Nov 16, 2012

He could maybe ask the translator to work on the title a bit too, I doubt whether I'd bother picking that up in Waterstone's


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:32
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
A wise decision Nov 18, 2012

Danish book reviews very often comment on how well the translator has captured the essence of the original. Readers are often able to get an idea from the original text, but find it far easier to read in translation. In less multilingual societies, the translation is the only version that will be read, and poor translation can kill a book.

I have read comparatively few translated books - but 'Terre des hommes' - Antoine de Saint Exupéry - was as poetic in Danish as in French, while I later struggled through a translation of an American detective story that was definitely not worth the effort. The book was a present and I did not dare tell the generous giver I thought it was cr*p... I was amazed when I tried the same author in American - he was witty, if not my normal genre.

Children's classics like Pooh Bear, Beatrix Potter and the Wind in the Willows delighted my son twice over because he enjoyed both versions.

As my grandmother always said: If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well!
And that means paying the translator to spend time researching, consulting the author, finding apt expressions and getting the culture right, whatever it takes.


Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:32
German to English
Emotional involvement required Nov 20, 2012

The only book I would have liked to translate is Sten Nadolny's "Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit", about the life of John Franklin, the Polar explorer. But someone beat me to it... such is life!


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Zhang Wei to withhold publishing his latest novel in foreign languages if translations are "unworthy"

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