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message 1: by Paul (last edited Dec 09, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 144 comments As suggested on the 2017 PEN America Translation Award chat:

Do people have favourite translators, ones whose name alone as translator acts as a recommendation of quality, not just for the translation but also the choice of the original book?

For me it is Margaret Jull Costa translator from Spanish and Portuguese perhaps best known as the translator of Javier Marías and of the later works of José Saramago (after his first translator Giovanni Pontiero died).

But she has also translated Pessoa, Lobo Antunes, Tabucchi, Atxaga, Giralt Torrente, de Queirós etc - and (I suspect to pay the bills) Paulo Coelho.

Goodreads isn't always 100% reliable on translations, but at a rough count I have read 35 of her translations, making her the author that features most often on my shelves.


message 2: by Hugh (last edited Dec 09, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
I was thinking about Gregory Rabassa. His translation of Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar is undoubtedly impressive. Apparently it led to him being asked to do the first English translation of 100 Years of Solitude. I also loved Ignet Avsey's translation of the Karamazov Brothers.


message 3: by Haaze (last edited Dec 10, 2016 02:25AM) (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Hugh,

I recall the impressive list of words that you harvested from Rabassa's translation in a different post (if you recall). Considering the uniqueness of the words you showcased I am quite curious about how faithful he was to the original work? Based on the list I sense that Cortazar is impossible to translate and as many authors deserve a reading in the original language (wishful thinking). I guess my point is that Rabassa's translation could be a very different "animal" than the original novel. Are you familiar with any articles that discuss his translation and compares word choices/phrases etc? I would be very interested in getting a bilingual's perspective on this specific translation.


message 4: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments And, hmm, not exactly in 21st cent lit theme, but I do adore Constance Garnett's eloquent translations of Russian literature. I am aware of that she is criticized, but I do very much enjoy her "decorative" translations. The only substitute would be to read the books in the original language.


message 5: by Doug (new)

Doug Haaze wrote: "And, hmm, not exactly in 21st cent lit theme, but I do adore Constance Garnett's eloquent translations of Russian literature. I am aware of that she is criticized, but I do very much enjoy her "dec..."

Although I was introduced to Russian literature with Garnett's translations (weren't we all?), I now much prefer the Pevear/Volokhonsky ones. That's who I immediately thought of when I saw this thread.


message 6: by Paul (last edited Dec 09, 2016 03:33PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 144 comments Doug wrote: "Haaze wrote: "And, hmm, not exactly in 21st cent lit theme, but I do adore Constance Garnett's eloquent translations of Russian literature. I am aware of that she is criticized, but I do very much ..."

This is getting us into controversial territory! "P&V" as they are known are the closest translators have come to literary rock-star status, getting the nod from Oprah, and with their names emblazoned on front covers as just the recommendation of quality I mentioned. See e.g. their version of
The Enchanted Wanderer: Selected Tales where “A Pevear and Volokhonsky translation” reads the blurb at the very top of the front cover, and the dust jacket on the inside rear contains not details of the author but rather a picture and bio of the translators.

But they also tend to have generate strong adverse opinions as well, to which they've been known to respond robustly, which only further fuels the fire.

See e.g.

http://xixvek.wordpress.com/2013/08/0... - where P&V respond in the comments section

or...

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/200...

https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/fir...

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/ar...

https://johnpistelli.wordpress.com/20...


message 7: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Hmm, yes, I don't like PV very much. I know they are popular, but it feels raw and lacking in eloquence. These are feelings I generally pick up while reading translations. However, it could simply be a reflection of the barriers between languages. Of course, that is what Garnett did. She seemingly shifted the tone towards the English language and perhaps that was wrong of her?
I'm bilingual myself (Swedish). As a teenager I read Dickens in Swedish and later on in my life in the original English. The Swedish translation is a travesty. One simply cannot translate Dickens. I suspect that holds true for most literature. The original rules and the translations are peculiar reflections of the original language. Obviously this is better than nothing, but it is never the same.

Needless to say I have given away all my English-to-Swedish translations. Why would I ever want to read them when I can read the original language?


message 8: by Paul (last edited Dec 09, 2016 03:59PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 144 comments I tend to believe one can translate literature, including Dickens, but that it takes another artist of comparable standing to do it.

Although in a way I believe that as a matter of faith rather than logic: because otherwise as someone who can only really read literary fiction in English, I would be missing out on 90%+ of the world's great literature.

Certainly year-in year-out my favourite novels tend to be translated fiction.

Perhaps it can never be the same as the original, but better than nothing is setting the bar too low: indeed in expert hands it can be as good as the original.


Kirsten #churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaintsday #drowsydriversawarenessday #planyourepitaphday #nationaltwinkieday  (kmcripn) This would be hard for me. How would you judge this? Pevear is supposed to be good. Then there's the guy that translated The Three-Body Problem


message 10: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 1821 comments Mod
Ken Liu who translated Three Body et. al. is a pretty fantastic writer in his own right. I was wondering if maybe those books aren't actually 'better' than the original. I've picked up Liu's other translations of Chinese SF, so in this case he is a name that serves as a recommendation for me.

I like Jay Rubin's translations of Murakami, and picked up his translation of Rashomon and Seventeen other Stories stories specifically because it was his translation.

I've been planning to reread Dostoevsky in the much-touted Pevear and Volokhonsky translations, as well as finally tackling War and Peace using their version. Now you've all thrown doubt on the situation. When I was comparing more recent translators of The Master and Margarita, I ended up going with the Burgin / O'Conner over P&V. Does anyone have a preferred War and Peace translation?


message 11: by Doug (new)

Doug Whitney wrote: "Ken Liu who translated Three Body et. al. is a pretty fantastic writer in his own right. I was wondering if maybe those books aren't actually 'better' than the original. I've picked up Liu's other ..."

I am (FINALLY), I swear to g-d, going to read W & P in 2017 (although, yeah I make that vow EVERY year!) ... and already have the P & V translation sitting here on my nightstand glaring at me...


message 12: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Doug wrote: "I am (FINALLY), I swear to g-d, going to read W & P in 2017 (although, yeah I make that vow EVERY year!) ... and already have the P & V translation sitting here on my nightstand glaring at me... ."

Read two translations at the same time... ; -)


message 13: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Paul wrote: "...getting the nod from Oprah.."

I'm not sure if that means anything at all except plenty of presence in the mainstream media...


message 14: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 1821 comments Mod
Haaze wrote: "Paul wrote: "...getting the nod from Oprah.."

I'm not sure if that means anything at all except plenty of presence in the mainstream media..."


And a nice chunk of change when their translation of A.K. sold a zillion copies after being chosen by Oprah.


message 15: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 144 comments Yes I was meaning this as a mark of celebrity rather than quality - but as I said it was noticable (and in many respect pleasing given the importance of translation) that the Leskov book was sold based on the translators' not author's name.


message 16: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 144 comments Incidentally Murakami's translators are not without their controversies either, as they have often acted as editors (cutting out a boring bit) as well as translators.

Although, to be fair, it seems to be with Murakami's blessing.


message 17: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (elliearcher) | 136 comments I love Lydia Davis' translations, especially of Proust.


message 18: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: "Does anyone have a preferred War and Peace translation?"
I have only read the Anthony Briggs one, which I found very readable, though some of his choices of English idioms to represent Russian ones were a little strange.


message 19: by Haaze (last edited Dec 10, 2016 02:34PM) (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Ellie wrote: "I love Lydia Davis' translations, especially of Proust."

I like Moncrieff's Proust translation... :)

I love how we all favor different translations!

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-t...


message 20: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Whitney wrote: "Does anyone have a preferred War and Peace translation?"

I personally favor Constance Garnett (1) as well as Rosemary Edmonds(2). I'm not a fan of PV and haven't read the rest, but the next time I climb the W&P mountain I would like to try the Maude translation.

There is actually a whole thread on GR devoted to the topic:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 21: by Lily (last edited Dec 10, 2016 07:24PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2418 comments If you want controversy about translations, try Eugene Onegin. Despite Wilson's well founded, scathing review, I enjoy Nabokov's obsession with "getting the word right" for this one, even if it destroys the poetry. (Several translators do take valiant stabs at the poetry, but word choice suffers.) Somehow, I trust Nabokov's feel for Russian, and perhaps experiencing his EO is one of the reasons that I can be quite pleased with PV's W&P. But my audio version of W&P is one of the Victorian ladies, Garnett, I believe, and it is generally easy listening. I like to think listening to it and following with PV is triangulating and getting me as close as possible to a language I shall never read directly. But that may be wishful thinking. Still, little tidbits encountered here and there about Russian and its structure seem to lend some credence to my "fantasy."

Right now, my challenge is selecting a translator for Plato's Republic. I do have favorites for Dante, Homer, and a few other classics.


message 22: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 1821 comments Mod
Lily, who's your favorite for Homer? I was pretty happy with the Fagles, I think the other one I tried was Fitzgerald. In general though, with all due respect to Nabokov, I prefer idiomatic translations over literal ones.


message 23: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2418 comments Haaze wrote: " ...the next time I climb the W&P mountain I would like to try the Maude translation..."

Tom certainly makes a strong case for Maude in the thread you cite.

The NYT article cited is worth tracking down and reading to, imho. As I recall. it was published in several parts. I don't recall whether the link here readily gets to all of them.


message 24: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (topaz6) Lily, while I've only read one translation of Eugene onegin, it was one done in very rigid verse with a specific meter, and it really enhanced the reading experience. While I'm sure the word choice suffered as a result, as someone who would like to be a translator in the future, I am in awe at the work that went into working out that edition.


message 25: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: "There is actually a whole thread on GR devoted to the topic:"
An interesting thread, but with a book of that length I don't believe anybody will have read all of the translations, and the older classic versions are inevitably more widely read than recent alternatives. I will stick with recommending the Briggs because reading it was never a chore (apart from the parts where Tolstoy was pontificating about his views on history)...


message 26: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 1821 comments Mod
Hugh wrote: "Whitney wrote: "There is actually a whole thread on GR devoted to the topic:"
An interesting thread, but with a book of that length I don't believe anybody will have read all of the translations, a..."


Just want to point out that it was Haaze who linked to that translation thread.

Reading the thread, it seems to come down to P&V, Maude, or Briggs. I did a side by side of the P&V and Maude (I don't have the Briggs). The P&V does have a LOT of footnotes for the untranslated French, which would get on my nerves. On the plus side, they also have footnotes explaining the character references and history. I preferred the language of the Maude a bit more, but the differences didn't seem extreme.

In addition to Hugh, everyone in the thread who had read the Briggs seemed pretty happy with that one, though. So may have to spring for one more copy (the Maude was free through Gutenberg).


message 27: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
Sorry Whitney (and sorry to Haaze too)...


message 28: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 1821 comments Mod
Hugh wrote: "Sorry Whitney (and sorry to Haaze too)..."

It didn't bother me at all, just wanted to give credit where credit is due.


message 29: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2037 comments Mod
I suppose if you're not bilingual and there aren't multiple translations of a single novel, than there's not much comparison to be made, which is not to say, you can't appreciate a translation or find a translator who consistently puts out quality work. You've all mentioned quite a few that came to mind for me. Some others:
- Ursule Molinaro (translated Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse among others and wrote quite a few books of her own--Fat Skeletons is one of her own that I'd recommend)
- Ann Goldstein (best known for translating Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan series; she's done other contemporary Italian authors, as well as Italo Calvino although I think William Weaver's Calvino translations probably get more attention)
- Edith Grossman (everything from Don Quixote to books by Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa)
- Anthony Kerrigan for his Jorge Luis Borges translations
- Having enjoyed The Vegetarian, I'd like to read the other books Deborah Smith has translated


message 30: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2037 comments Mod
Thanks for kicking this thread off, Paul!


message 31: by Hugh (last edited Dec 12, 2016 04:18AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
I should have mentioned David Bellos, not just for his ingenious translations of the works of Georges Perec (the most difficult of which was probably La disparition, translated as A Void, an entire novel that banned the use of the letter E), but also for his fascinating book about the art of translation Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything


message 32: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Hugh wrote: "I should have mentioned David Bellos, not just for his ingenious translations of the works of Georges Perec, but also for his fascinating book about the art of translation [book:Is T..."

Hugh,
Ah, I had my eyes on that book many moons ago. I note that you have read it. Is the book general or is it focused on specific aspects of translation? It does sound very interesting!!!!


message 33: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
Haaze wrote: "Hugh wrote: "Is the book general or is it focused on specific aspects of translation?"
A bit of both - it does go into detail in places, but it covers most aspects and also contains a bit of autobiography. As the title might suggest, it is entertaining too...


message 34: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Thanks Hugh! I will definitely check it out!


message 35: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments As I researched the book I came across another one (what else is new) that also seemed quite intriguing: Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman.
Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman

However, the reviews here at GR are quite mixed to say the least.


message 36: by Marc (last edited Dec 12, 2016 03:48AM) (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2037 comments Mod
Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation looks like another good one!

I'm imagining my life as two side-by-side hour glasses. The first is the time I have left on Earth as the sands trickle down. The second is the books I want to read, which flows in reverse with the sands floating upward...


message 37: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Marc,
I can't decide if your metaphor is inspiring or not. Hmmm, which of the hour glasses holds most of the sand? ;-)


message 38: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2037 comments Mod
It'll be inspiring as soon as I can download whole books into my brain instantaneously, Haaze :D


message 39: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 144 comments Interesting essays on translation in the latest Quarterly Conversation (always worth a read)

http://quarterlyconversation.com/the-... - a review of book about the translation history of a 1250-year-old Chinese poem, analysing 19 different translations. Rather depressingly seems to conclude they all either aim but fail to achieve fidelity to the original (which it concludes is impossible) or, at the opposite, fall foul of "cultural chauvinism".

And http://quarterlyconversation.com/beyo... which touches on the P+V controversy but ultimately again questions what translation is trying to achieve. Seems to take a rather academic approach rather than one aimed at readers: that one key objective of a translation is that we should know we are reading a translation (don't think I agree) and advocates either bilingual editions or lots of footnotes.


message 40: by Lily (last edited Dec 12, 2016 10:26PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2418 comments Paul wrote: "that one key objective of a translation is that we should know we are reading a translation (don't think I agree)..."

Well, I'd at least agree that we should recognize we are reading a translation. (My comment arises from a pet peeve about the attitude of many toward specific Biblical translations -- let's start with acknowledgement we are reading a translation -- and that inevitably implies certain things happen to the text, although what can be highly variable.) Given that qualifier, I probably usually prefer to forget I am reading a translation on the first read and just engage in the text as given.


message 41: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
I must admit that most of the time I trust the publishers to know what they are doing when selecting translators and I dislike those that read stiltedly because they insist on translating alien idiom too rigidly.


message 42: by Charles (new)

Charles I was a member of this group a while back and was lured in again by this discussion of translating. Myself, I do prefer P+V -- when I read their Crime and Punishment it was as if a window was wiped clean. Not to disparage anyone's preference for old favorites, I wonder how much a nostalgia for first encounters is implicated here. I know I feel that way, and also about interpretations of classical music. Aside, the only language I can claim other than English is French, and that poorly. But I have made an extensive study of the English translations of Eugene Sue's novels, and have tried my hand at translating The Mysteries of Paris, so when a new translation of it came out I snapped it up. And of course there was that raw feeling. But more to the point, the translators claimed superior fidelity to the text, as translators will, in this case mainly concerning what had been 'left out' of the 19th C translations. The thing is, some of this was left out by Sue in the evolution of the text from its first serial version -- and I'm convinced because he had discovered that some of his cautiousness in the first parts of the book were impeding a bang-up story, and the 19th C translators, when they had any variant texts to work with, felt the same. And then there's Nabokov. When he and Dmitri translated VN's early Russian novels they rewrote them a bit to make them 'go' better in English. That's OK, they were his books in the first place. But when someone else does this it's now viewed as a fault (or worse). Having read all of the translations of Genji and Proust (and seen Kilmartin's working papers for his revision of Moncrieff) -- and Sue and Gautier -- I think in the end I don't really care. Translating is awfully fun, and the best part is that you can do it over and over without any harm to the fons et origo, and you get to talk about great pieces of literature.


message 43: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Hugh wrote: "I dislike those that read stiltedly because they insist on translating alien idiom too rigidly"

I agree. It is almost always obvious as it probably reflects the collision between how things are expressed in two different languages. Is it even possible to avoid it without major alterations of the text?


message 44: by Charles (new)

Charles As something of a gloss on my just-made overlong remarks I will compound the infraction by remarking with regard to the celebrity of P+V, until translating began to pay a living some 80 years ago and was professionalized, as we know translators were mostly anonymous. And translations were mostly cribbed. I've seen a letter of Bennett Cerf's where he sent an editor to the NYPL in search of the most swipeable existing translation of a book he wanted to do. I did a lot of work in stylistics -- based on Biber's study of register -- in an attempt to identify some of these anonymous translators. I found that something of this could be done but the results were too much within the margin of error to be acceptable as finished research. "How to have fun with words" I think this is.


message 45: by Haaze (last edited Dec 12, 2016 11:20PM) (new)

Haaze | 27 comments Charles wrote: "I was a member of this group a while back and was lured in again by this discussion of translating. Myself, I do prefer P+V -- when I read their Crime and Punishment it was as if a window was wiped..."

Such wonderful musings about translations, Charles! Perhaps it is the beauty of languages and the process of translation that pulls us to this thread? There is nothing more satisfying than to have a foreign text in front of you (e,g. a poem) and make an impromptu translation on the spot. One senses the numerous choices of words swirling in one's mind as one progresses through the text and they simply tumble out into something new and raw, yet expressing the meaning of it all. Ah, I love the process! I suspect that a group of translators potentially could argue about word choices and syntax until the end of time.


message 46: by Charles (new)

Charles Finally (at last!) I do think this discussion fits the 21st C theme. The originals being translated may be old, but the translations are new and have quite a lot to say about how we feel and think about the use of language now. And since, as remarked, our modern reading is more and more taken from the world's literature I think the worth of translations is an eminently 21st C topic.


message 47: by Charles (new)

Charles Haaze mentions poetry. As a sometime poet I do enjoy digging into issues of polysemy which I feel any important poetry ought to employ, and which is brought out by struggling with a foreign poem and a few tattered dictionaries. I have never been all through the wealth of discussions here -- what new poets have been picked apart?


message 48: by Hugh (last edited Dec 13, 2016 12:37AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2073 comments Mod
Polysemy? I like that one - I'm ashamed to say I wasn't familiar with the word - in my defence my degree was in maths! This seems like the kind of discussion in which we could slip in a legitimate usage of the word macaronic...

As for poetry discussions, the regular ones in this group stopped a few years ago before I joined the group, and I'm not sure there is much appetite for reviving them among the more active members and moderators.


message 49: by Charles (new)

Charles Hugh wrote: "Polysemy? I like that one - I'm ashamed to say I wasn't familiar with the word - in my defence my degree was in maths! This seems like the kind of discussion in which we could slip in a legitimate ..."

Thanks, Hugh. I didn't see any active poetry discussions and thought that might be the case. The trouble with "polysemy" is that I don't know another word that means "means two things at once" -- an issue that lurks around until translation comes up and then the critics get all heated.


message 50: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2037 comments Mod
Interesting interview with translator Jonathan Lloyd-Davies for his work on Six Four:
The Gap Between Languages


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