Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Sunday Salon: Lost in Translation

What Caught My Fancy This Week

The other week I heard a story on Swedish Radio P1 regarding the behaviour of English speaking publishing companies (they used the term Anglo-Saxon which I dislike) with regards to translating books into Swedish. The segment focused on the fact that the publishing companies were not allowing time for the translators to translate the books before they released them in English on the Swedish market. They interviewed one man who felt that this meant that fewer people had a chance to read books because they never made it to them because they were never translated. This argument I can kind of buy. Yes, this means that some people might never read these books, but at the same time, the English speaking publishers are clearly making money since they are increasingly doing this. I am probably one of the bad people: 1) I prefer to read books in the original language where I can (which is why I am currently reading Stieg Larsson in Swedish). 2) I refuse to pay double the price for books in a bookstore that is owned by a gigantic corporation that only stocks bestsellers. I buy my books from or when I buy Swedish from (they only ship in Scandinavia). I would LOVE a nice independent bookstore near me. When I am in Stockholm I always visit Science Fiction Bokhandeln which any fan of Sci-Fi or fantasy would love and must visit when in Sweden (they also have stores in Gothenburgh and Malmö).

In addition to this English is a mandatory subject in Sweden. All Swedes have to pass English in compulsory education (grades 1-9) and if you go on to secondary  education you have to take at least one English course (this depends a bit on which track to choose) and everyone has the option of doing one more course. English starts in grade four (some schools might even start earlier) so this means that all students get at least seven years of English. In order to pass the last compulsory class the student must:

“Eleven tillägnar sig huvudinnehållet i tydliga texter på sakprosa, facktexter och skönlitteratur samt tillgodogör sig detaljer vid en noggrannare läsning.”

My translation of the above text: The student understands the main content in clear texts in non-literary prose, non-fiction and fiction, and understands details when reading the text more closely.

To me this would mean that the student should at this point be able to read most of the best sellers that the bookstores choose to sell us. Technically there is no need for translation of English books in Sweden. Or at least give those of us who want to read them in English a chance to do so before we can read the entire plot online.

And that brings me to my final point. What people seem to forget is that the world is now tiny. We have the opportunity to talk to a wide variety of people from around the world in real time. As someone who is regularly spoiled for tv shows by accident I am a proponent of simultaneous release of books, music, movies and television. That my friends is the solution to piracy.

Kristen at We Be Reading in her Starred Saturdays linked to an interesting article on translation from other languages into English that is well worth reading.

I’m pretty sure you will be hearing more about translation from me over the next few months as one of my gradschool classes is translation.


luftslottet som sprängdes The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes) by Stieg Larsson

The last book in the Millennium Trilogy. I’m about 100 pages in and so far it is okay. I still feel that they are wordy and could have done with an edit but…

Freedom in exile Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of The Dalai Lama by Dalai Lama

I’m really enjoying this book. The Dalai Lama is humble and funny and I am learning loads about Tibet and Buddhism.

House of mirth The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

This is my current audio book and I am reading it for The Classic Circuit and I hate to say it but I am not enjoying it. I’m finding the main character to be silly and annoying. I’m not sure I will finish it in time for Wednesday when the Circuit is stopping by here at the Notes from the North but I will try my darndest.


Immortal in Death

Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

The Last Hero The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett

flickan som lekte med elden

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) by Stieg Larsson


GLBTMinichallengebutton For the GLBT Challenge there is a series of mini-challenges. In Januarys mini-challenge we are asked to write about why GLBT issues matter to us. I posted my reasons this week. For Whom the Bell Tolls: Why GLBT Issues Matter to Me.

Fun Stuff The Spark 

As usual in January many of us are trying to change our lives. Something that changed my life was joining the website Spark People in March last year. I still have some ways to go but it really has helped me change my life for the better. They have just released a book (which is why I am mentioning it here) and right now you can download a free chapter here.

For those of us outside of the US and Canada Lenore from Presenting Lenore is hosting a great Mentoring Program where she is making ARCs available to those of who are considered International. Head on over to see what she is offering.

A non-book giveaway that I really like is hosted by Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry. She is giving away $50 gift certificate to The Vintage Pearl. If you haven’t seen this beautiful jewellery before I suggest you head on over asap. It is beautiful. My plan is to get my sister “a cup of love” but it will have to wait until July. I want to put the name of her first child on it and since he/she isn’t due until then I will have to wait. And then I might just get something for myself as well. I have been drooling over that page for days now (since before this giveaway was announced).

Copyright ©2009-2010 Zee from Notes from the North.clip_image003This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Nymeth said...

I also try to read books in the original whenever I can, so I barely ever buy any books that were translated from English. It doesn't help that the translations are two or three times more expensive, and, especially in genre fiction, often full of the most blatant mistakes :\

Zee said...

I know! The mistakes drive me nuts. I read Michelle Magorian's "Back Home" translated to Swedish when I was in my early teens then in English in my late teens. Reading the original I realised that they had left out a whole chapter. The hadn't included the first chapter of the book that explained so much about Rusty. That was when I decided to never read the translation if I could read the original.

I know translating is hard but as you say sometimes there are blatant mistakes and I don't know how they get away with it.

Aarti said...

I always am nervous about translations. I wonder, often, how things work in the original language and often things such as wordplay and puns and jokes just can't be translated well. I also wonder about how many AMAZING books I miss out on because they are not translated into English. I realize that my comments have nothing to do with YOUR comments on translation, but that's what your post made me think about :-)

Al said...

I can only comment on reading translations from the point of view of books translated into English (My skills in other languages are poor, the result of disorganised language teaching in Australian education. I did some French, Indonesian, German and Latin with the overall result that I suck in all of them).
However, I can say that books translated into English are often not great. Even if they are technically good they often lack the flow and feel of the original language.
I also use the book depository all the way down here in Oz, all new release books at retailers here are hideously expensive. Often AUD$35 - $45 for a paperback and AUD$65 - $80 for hardcover.
Like Sweden Oz is a small market and the retailers take full advantage.

Zee said...

Arghh! I had a whole long response typed up and then my computer ate it. Let's try again.

Aarti~~I too worry about the truly great books that don't get translated. Often I think these books are books that maybe won't end up on the bestseller list and therefore they don't have the same money making potential.
As for taking the conversation in a different direction, translation has so many aspects and I am happy discussing them all.

Al~~Flow in translation is such a difficult thing. Many languages have different sentence structure and this impacts so much more than one first thinks. This makes translation so hard. I don't even want to think about poetry. It is so dependent on rhythm.