FICTION IN TRANSLATION.

From the LA Times blog:

Today, Three Percent announced its long list for the best translated novel of 2008. The 25 titles include works originally published in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarian, German, Arabic, Greek, Catalan, Icelandic and Hebrew. The Times has reviewed some (the complete list, with links to our reviews, after the jump), but we haven’t reviewed all of them. I asked Three Percent’s editor, Chad Post, a few questions about the focus on works in translation.

It’s an interesting discussion, and the list should be useful for those who like to keep up with world literature. (Here‘s the Three Percent website, which looks worth bookmarking.)

Comments

  1. >>And what we’re looking for is the best translated book, not just the best translation. Speaking for all the judges, we believe that a great translated book is a combination of a great original and a great translation, and as such, we’d like to honor the book as a book, as a collaborative effort between author, translator, editor, and publisher.

  2. michael farris says:

    Without looking at the link, I assume they’re treating the translation as an original (with no reference to the original in handing out awards).
    In theory I would be opposed to that, but in practice I’m just happy about any recognition given to literature translated into English.

  3. They specifically say “a combination of a great original and a great translation”, so the award must say something about the quality of the original. Unless they know the original language and are familiar with the original text, all they comment on is the translation as an English text, not as a translation.

  4. michael farris says:

    Well no one person can know all those languages well enough to judge, but a translators organization shouldn’t lack for people competent to judge translation quality in lots of different languages. I’d assume (hope) the language specific committees come up with nominees.
    But the final award is primarily for the text of the translated edition so it does make sense to concentrate on that as a work in and of itself (and not get bogged down in details on specific word or stylistic choices.

  5. You can usually tell a bad translation without knowing the original. (That helps more in knowing how hard a good translation would be.) Evaluating both really means not cutting the translator any slack. So, in judging the overall translated work, they mostly run the risk of promoting a good, but unfaithful, translation, right?

  6. John Emerson says:

    Is there an award for the best translation of a bad fixer-upper book? Omar Khayyam is supposed to have been nothing special in Persian, and reportedly E. Fitzgerald made no serious effort to be accurate either literally or in spirit.
    It was a different E. Fitzgerald that sank to the bottom of Lake Superior, if you were wondering. Edmund.

  7. John Emerson says:

    Is there an award for the best translation of a bad fixer-upper book? Omar Khayyam is supposed to have been nothing special in Persian, and reportedly E. Fitzgerald made no serious effort to be accurate either literally or in spirit.
    It was a different E. Fitzgerald that sank to the bottom of Lake Superior, if you were wondering. Edmund.

  8. A.J.P. Ponderer says:

    MMcM:they mostly run the risk of promoting a good, but unfaithful, translation, right?
    It’s only a risk if you think there is one objective in translation, namely to be faithful to the original. Yet the difficult parts of a translation are those where faithful copy of the original is impossible and must be replaced by a stratagy; for example, to either highlight or disguise discrepancies between the two cultures and or languages. By favoring one or the other side the jury acknowledges implicitly that there is no one good translation, only translations that satisfy certain goals.
    So this joins other ten-best lists, it’s a subjective and worthless collection if you think it really means THE best. If you understand it’s just a list of good translations, then it’s maybe interesting.

  9. John Emerson says:

    Hey, given that Kron isn’t here, there are a few things I have to say about him.

  10. John Emerson says:

    Hey, given that Kron isn’t here, there are a few things I have to say about him.

  11. J. Del Col says:

    I’ve read Bolano’s –Nazi Literature in the Americas.– I thought it excellent. I read some of Antunes stuff about the Angolan war years ago. It was so depressing I’ve no interest in reading anything else by him.

  12. KRONicly tired says:

    I never sleep. It’s one reason I’m so highly paid.

  13. Have you ever been in Akron? Or Kronstadt?

  14. “Unless they know the original language and are familiar with the original text, all they comment on is the translation as an English text, not as a translation.”
    That’s what I was wondering about, thanks for raising that. Nice to hear from you again, too – are you still in Indonesia? I hope you’ll comment more often,it would be nice for the Southern Hemisphere to have a real intellect contributing for a change.

  15. Yes, still here. I’m not sure I’m up to increasing the intellectual strength of the Southern Hemisphere, though. More like dragging it down.

  16. John Emerson says:

    We have a very sharp guy here from Mauritius (The Antipodes for many of us.)

  17. John Emerson says:

    We have a very sharp guy here from Mauritius (The Antipodes for many of us.)

  18. Akron? I doubt if Kron can even go there. Isn’t that why they call it a-kron…”without Kron”?
    That Indonesian blog looks like it’s worth coming back for a closer look later when all the end-of-semester paperwork isn’t due.

  19. Thanks for this, LH!

  20. A.J.P. Kronstadt says:

    We have a very sharp guy here from Mauritius
    We do? I thought we just had Sig from Mauritius.

  21. I sometimes wonder how important the quality of the translation is. Edward Seidensticker is one of the most overrated translators around. He renders long, often convoluted or concatenated sentences in Japanese into the same flat, listless English, characterised by a droning succession of short sentences. Whether he is translating Kawabata, Mishima, Tanigawa, or Murasaki Shikibu, it all reads the same. And yet, it was partly on the strength of his translations (and a bit of political correctness –”It’s about time we gave one of these to a Japanese”) that Kawabata won the Nobel prize for literature. I am frankly quite sceptical of the ability of any of these people to recognise great literature in translation.

  22. michael farris says:

    “And yet, it was partly on the strength of his translations … that Kawabata won the Nobel prize for literature. I am frankly quite sceptical of the ability of any of these people to recognise great literature in translation.”
    Huh? There were no Japanese to Swedish translations then?

  23. My impression is that the Nobel judges mostly rely on translations into other European languages. I could be wrong.

  24. My fourteen year old daughter tells me the Nobel thing’s fixed. Don’t know how she knows, but I’ll try to find out more.

  25. Ask her to put in a good word for Yves Bonnefoy, would you?

  26. Siganus Sutor says:

    My fourteen year old daughter tells me the Nobel thing’s fixed.
    You’re saying that because a semi-Martian got the literature prize the other night, aren’t you?

  27. Siganus Sutor says:

    Why do some use the expression “jealous like a tiger”? Even Richard Parker wasn’t especially bad in this regard during his little cruise with Piscine Molitor Patel. The English expression “he doesn’t have a jealous bone in his body” makes much more sense.

  28. Siganus Sutor says:

    We have a very sharp guy here from Mauritius (The Antipodes for many of us.)
    John, instead of throwing nasty tridents at a poor clownfish, you should rather call in the arch-learned Noetica from the Anti-pedestal.

  29. Sorry, Siganus, I didn’t know you were a fellow TopWorlder. On the subject of Antipodes, for which bottom-dwelling Northerners is Mauritius the Antipodes? I know that where I live, our Antipodes is somewhere very near Madrid, rather than Ole Blighted as traditionally stated. I’d love to know which bit of the Northern Hemisphere is against the feet of Mauritians.

  30. Siganus Sutor says:

    Stuart, we are usually stepping on the feet of the whales that are dancing southeast of Baja California’s tip, which means that we are rather Side Worlders than Top ones.

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