Who said that?

Translating novels

I vote for osmosis. I’m fairly certain translations just gradually slowly sort of happen. Don’t they?

The translators are on the warpath. Or, at least making themselves noticed. I understand that super-translator Daniel Hahn has written something really good on the subject. It’s just that I haven’t been able to read it. Not because it hasn’t been translated, but because it’s in a publication called The Author, and some of us don’t subscribe to it.

After Hari Kunzru ‘forgot’ to mention – in The Guardian – the man who had assisted his reading of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s books, there wasn’t one, but two, letters about it in last Saturday’s paper. And quite rightly.

Don Bartlett is the translator in question, and you feel that it would have been worth including his name in some dark corner of the article, even if it was mainly about Knausgaard. It would have been polite. Or maybe Hari reads Norwegian?

One of the letters, from Don’s colleague Kari Dickson appeared in The Review, while the other letter made it onto the letters page in the main section. It’s not bad managing two separate comments on one article.

Kari Dickson letter

Many readers probably still believe translating means taking one word at a time. You pick the ‘same’ word in the other language and write it down. Then you move on to the next word, and the next, and so on, until you’re at the end of the book. Or the mining report. Or the tourist brochure. Or even the death certficate. And there is only ever one way something can be translated.

(That last paragraph contains some sarcasm. In case you were about to believe me.)

One response to “Who said that?

  1. Mr. Dickinson, Is there a chance you can help me score a copy of Out of the world? I’m eager to read it and I’d searched the web for almost 2 months with no success whatsoever. Thank you.

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