Friday, 2 March 2018

Lost in translation?

When English is your first language, you have an enormous amount of books from all genres to read, without a problem.

For me, English is not my first language, but Dutch is and the bookfield in Dutch is relatively small. I do read Dutch books, although I must admit I am not a huge fan of Dutch literature, but I also read a lot of books from other countries.

And that makes that I read a lot of books in translation. Not all my books, but quite a lot.
When it comes to books in English,  I can read that almost as well as Dutch, but there are certain authors I prefer to read in Dutch. John Irving or Ernest Hemingway for example are authors whose books I read in Dutch translation.

As for other languages, I always read a translation. I read books from Russian, Italian, French and Spanish authors, and I am afraid I am not fluent enough in any of these languages to read a novel. (I wish I was, but learning languages is not one of my strong points).

Most translations are done very well and even word-jokes can be translated and still be funny. It often helps if you have a modern translation, since older ones have a tendency to be less fluent and a bit more 'stiff'. I have a new translation (2016) of Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and it reads much easier than the earlier translation I had that was from 1980.

Other reasons to read English books in translation are: I find the Dutch version in the bookshop and not the English one, I think my mum would also like to read it and she does not read English, it is a certain non-fiction topic that I find difficult and I want to make sure I understand everything.

But my main reason to read books in translation is that I would not have a lot of books to read if I had to stick to Dutch books only!

8 comments:

  1. I read a lot of books in translation, too, although the German book market is rather vast: there are tons of books published by German-speaking authors every year. It just happens that I'm rather eclectic when it comes too what I like to read, so I like to 'look over the rim of my own language teacup' (so-to-speak) and try different authors. If I didn't read translations, I'd be stuck with German classics (not really much of a hardship to read those since there are some really good ones out there, and books by Fontane, Storm or Sophie von LaRoche are a treat to read, if you don't mind the old-fashioned language - not to mention the more famous ones like Schiller, Lessing or Lichtenberg or the more modern ones like Kafka or Brecht etc., etc.) and with what comes out these days by German-speaking authors (duh... there's a lot of rubbish out there, unfortunately!). I want to read French, Spanish and Scandinavian (etc., etc. - insert all sorts of other places) literature, too - but can't do so in the original version since my language skills aren't good enough. Some of the English classics that have become so dear to me I have read in the German translation first and re-read in the original version later on.

    I find, however, that sometimes the style of a book gets slightly changed by translations, and also, there are good and bad ones out there. As you point out, older ones tend to be a bit more stilted and stodgy. That can take the fun away!

    In any event, I think it's a good thing to read translations - otherwise, you'd limit yourself, don't you think?

    Happy reading :-)

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  2. Yes, not reading translations would limit me very much. And I so know what you mean about English classics. I bought Jane Eyre when I was 15 yo, and it was a Dutch translation. Now I know this particular translation has some problems and I have read the book in English, but I prefer my translation since it is a book I am so fond of.

    Kind regards,

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    Replies
    1. I haven't managed to read all the classics in the original version. I think I would get discouraged because some of them are just so long, and it would take me forever to read them in English. I have 'Daniel Deronda' by George Eliot on my pile (the translation), and it's quite fat book - will take me long enough in German. I don't even want to think about how long it would take me to read in English :-)

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    2. Sometimes a book in your own language/translated into your own language is just so much easier to read!

      Kind regards,

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  3. I guess I should be more grateful so many books are written and published in English since it’s the only language I speak.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The English book market is huge! And many books from other languages are translated into English as well, although not all of them and sometimes a little late :-)

      Kind regards,

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  4. I've always wanted to know another language well enough to read books in it, but I don't. So I'm very grateful for all the foreign novels that have been translated into English, otherwise I'd never be able to read any of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Luckily many books are translated into English, although I do see that many Italian or French books are not translated into English while there is for example a Dutch translation, or that the English translation is much later than the Dutch one.

      But hurray for translators! :-)

      Kind regards,

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