I just discovered by accident something I’m very glad to know exists, the Encyclopedia of Literary Translation into English. At $356.92, it’s not going to be showing up on my bookshelves, but Google Books and Amazon’s Look Inside the Book will allow me to use it to some extent, and of course in cases of desperation there’s always the library. Here’s a sample, the discussion of Aksyonov’s Звёздный билет/A Starry Ticket (see this LH post):
[Alec] Brown’s translation (1962) of Aksenov’s second novel, under the title A Starry Ticket, is notable for its often incongruous rendering of colloquial speech and slang expressions. Brown translates most of the slang with English and American slang equivalents taken from a variety of epochs and regions, which often results in an unnerving tension between the characters’ speech and Soviet realia. An old woman in chapter 1 erupts in archaic English: “It fair makes me blood run cold.” Brown often translates neutral Russian expressions with clumsy colloquialisms: drinking becomes “gurgling down”; tired of becomes “fed up to the gills with”; a grade of C becomes a “just-scraped-through”. Even more curious in this translation are Brown’s unwarranted additions to the text. When the narrator sits by the window to shave, Brown adds, in parentheses, “to get the light”. Inaccuracies abound, including mistakes in rendering tense in English, and Brown takes great liberties in translating the chapter headings. [Andrew] MacAndrew’s translation (1963) of Zvezdnyi bilet appeared a year after Brown’s under the title A Ticket to the Stars. This translation is readable and avoids the gross inaccuracies and ill-chosen turns of phrase typical of Brown’s translation. MacAndrew tends consistently to choose slang equivalents from standard American slang, avoiding expressions that too vividly conjure images of the culture of the target text.
Isn’t that useful? Now I know where to send people who want to know which is the best translation of some foreign work.