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Found in Translation – Part 2

23 Jun

I started reading Émile Zola’s Germinal at the beginning of last week – somewhat coincidentally to the timing of these posts – which I am thoroughly enjoying, although if reading about the tough struggles of a mining village in 1860’s France can indeed be called enjoyable, is perhaps a debate left for another post.  I originally picked Germinal up in the local library which these days is the closest thing we have resembling a Tower of Babel, although I doubt there were no screaming kids on that building site ruining my reading whilst parents indulgently look on…but I have digressed already despite my intentions so apologies in advance for the muddled mass of musing hereon in.

Babelicious

The Tower of Babel painted marten Van Valckenborch 1534-1612

With the advent of printing presses then translations due to public thirst, through to the joys of bookshops adorning all decent streets, the book market has grown to massive proportions.   The huge plethora of tomes these days makes amassing a huge personal library something really easy and cheap to do as well as a source of pride and a hobby all itself.  Back in the day 20 books would have been regarded as a library but as universities taught reading and the power of the church waned, everybody could get involved and create as they wished, I wonder how many of you authors out there have considered getting your work translated?  Just a thought…

Technology keeps becoming ever more impressive and has helped us no end with opening beer bottles easier and negotiating those tricky TV channels but can it be programmed to know the nuances of language and to understand colloquial interpretations?  These things are pretty impenetrable for us reasoning beings quite a lot of the time but for a mere computer…at least we have the consolation of knowing that when the machines take over all our jobs and probably the world, we will still have that and plenty of strange customs steeped in the deepest tradition, that defy belief yet must be elucidated upon for us to understand them in our own social terms.

It’s always a problem to keep the unique touch of the original whilst giving it a good pace in another language, it’s a true talent to be a translator with big decision who must sometimes disregard a word or a feeling in the tone of the book in order to make the story flow, or to be understood from a cultural perspective in the translation.   It leads me to thinking of what I would try to preserve in an English book were I to translate it but that would involve perceiving in full another culture, is it just me or does this sound like an ideal job with plenty of trips abroad and snacks.

A quick internet search on which books have influenced top authors shows that there is usually an eclectic mix of styles and nationalities in there, take Haruki Murakami, he cites Dostoyevsky, Kafka and Raymond Chandler as inspirations.  Whilst Hemingway lists Stendahl, Tolstoy, Virgil and Thoreau amongst his. It’s a heady mix and its one we probably all have in our collections but now just don’t make the distinction between transliterated books because that barrier of the mysterious land far off and the strange styles of writing has been removed and are so prevalent in society that it  has almost become one homogenous pot where everybody seemingly speaks or is adapted to our own language.

As I’ve said in posts before, each reader’s unique journey through books is something immense, it’s not just the books we read but that they are order read in, the dizzying combinations of ways to travel through the literary world is one we should always treasure and not look with envy at somebody at anybody else’s journey. Imagine what it would be like without all those translated books in your collection and then think about how rich you are for having them and to all those hardy souls who have taken the time to decipher a language and customs and make them innate to our own sensibilities.

A round of applause then to all the interpreters methinks, without them we would be reduced to a world of mime artists when going abroad and that is a thought to truly make me shudder.

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32 Comments

Posted by on 23/06/2015 in Languages

 

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32 responses to “Found in Translation – Part 2

  1. shadowoperator

    23/06/2015 at 19:19

    I can tell you have devoted a lot of time and thought to this–and perchance you are suffering a trifle of “separation anxiety” when away from your hoard of culled books? Ha! Just joking!

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    • Ste J

      23/06/2015 at 19:30

      I get separation anxiety when I go to work so I have to take a book with me just I don’t collapse into a pathetic mass of emotions. It is interesting that every time I do cull my books people send me more so I always retain the same amount, not that I am complaining or anything, of course. when I don’t have a book with me I realise how much I miss touching and sniffing their pages, it almost a bit sensual.

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  2. Seyi sandra

    23/06/2015 at 19:37

    My applause to those translators.
    Being a translator is indeed, a very rich job in my opinion. You get to delve into the minds of people whose views and thinking, could perhaps be different from yours. And to readers like you and I, who simply love reading books for the ability to either live in the head of the writer, or just have profound experiences. It’s like a love affair.
    I get a thrill when I’m reading a new book, whether from a writer I’m familiar with or not. It might not even be a book, a blog post like yours which makes me think on how lucky I am to be literate and able to read and write. Books keeps the world sane (that’s my opinion, maybe I’m wrong)
    Let me stop here.
    I really enjoyed reading this and I hope you’ll expand more on it, it’s kind of inexhaustible!

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    • Ste J

      23/06/2015 at 19:52

      It does make me wish that I had been a better student of French and Spanish whilst at school. I think you nailed it when you said a love affair. Literacy is yet another thing we take for granted, it is sad that so many people choose not to use the skill for enjoyment, books do a huge job to keep us all sane, they are therapeutic. I won’t labour the translation point for more than one more post for the time being (possibly) but in the future I will be looking to do more posts between the usual postings, I’m glad you enjoyed my humble offerings.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Seyi sandra

        24/06/2015 at 12:45

        I really do. I’ve kind of taken translators for granted but your post opened my eyes to their importance in the scheme of things. I would look forward to reading more on it.
        I always love reading your posts though time is the major reason why I missed some of your posts.
        Take care! 🙂

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        • Ste J

          24/06/2015 at 16:38

          The eternal woes of a blogger, to combine offline life with writing blog posts and other projects whilst failing to keep up with all the wonderful blogs out there, you aren’t alone on that score my friend. It is a pleasure to see you around whenever you get the chance, like translators, I try not to take you or any of my other readers for granted.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  3. Purpleanais

    23/06/2015 at 20:56

    I thought Germinal didn’t come across as well in English as it did in French. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever been really happy with any of Zola’s english translations, but it might very well be me being fussy. In any case, you are right, thank heavens for translators and interpreters.

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    • Ste J

      23/06/2015 at 21:10

      I’m enjoying Germinal but then again I haven’t had the pleasure of the original text. You could be being fussy or you could just be right, one day I hope to experience the original but until then I appreciate having the chance to immerse myself in his world and have a very dogy French accent in my head.

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      • Purpleanais

        23/06/2015 at 21:20

        Well, it is a book worth reading even if it’s not the original text 🙂 I’m a huge Zola fan so I’m biased.
        I have been discussing Kerouac in the last couple of days, I discovered On the Road as a teenager and I obviously read it in French at the time, not having yet mastered any languages but my own…and yet On the Road, french translation nonetheless, had a very profound effect on me so I can only be thankful for translated versions 🙂
        I read the original version of On the Road years after I first discovered it and was amazed to find that the French translation I had read had totally captured the essence of the book – again, thank heavens for translators 🙂

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        • Ste J

          23/06/2015 at 21:35

          Thank goodness for conscientious translators, I just read your latest post and admit that is seems I had Kerouac all wrong. I think it is all the clichés that have grown up since his work that has fuelled my wariness, I had no idea he had such depth to him considering the blurb I read which was rubbish I now realise.

          Liked by 1 person

           
          • Purpleanais

            24/06/2015 at 11:03

            I think Kerouac and the “Beat generation” have been getting a really bad rap for the last 15 years or so, and you’re right, it has given rise to lots of ridiculous clichés. Don’t let that put you off any longer 🙂

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  4. Sheila

    23/06/2015 at 21:03

    Very true – they’ve allowed us to travel to places and times we’d never normally get to. Without them, our individual worlds would be much smaller. They open the door to other cultures and the chance of possibly understanding each other. I like your idea of trying to perceive another culture with plenty of trips and snacks too!

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    • Ste J

      23/06/2015 at 21:14

      I like to think that if I put enough hints into my posts some rich person or company will feel benevolent enough to send me on a mission to go look at stuff and fill my face…all for you guys of course!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  5. clarepooley33

    23/06/2015 at 22:02

    Another very interesting post Ste. I have been thinking a lot about your last post and our attitude to translated books and the difficulty a translator must have to get the right feel of a story. I am reading Kate O’Brian’s ‘The Land of Spices’ at the moment and it is about an English woman coping with living in Ireland. The author portrays the Irishness and Englishness very well and as an English speaker and knowing a little of the history of our islands the book has very deep meaning for me. I wonder how this would come across in a translation? It almost makes me think I ought to read up on the history of a country, learn the language and visit the place a few times before I’m qualified to read a book written in a different language! I like your idea of the snacks as well!

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    • Ste J

      24/06/2015 at 17:23

      research on a subject is always helpful which is why I try and read as widely in non fiction as I do fiction to give myself as much appreciation as I can. It does bring a new perspective to books and does make me feel like a novice reader all over again, which is as a good an excuse to binge on snacks as any lol.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  6. Jill Weatherholt

    23/06/2015 at 23:27

    I agree, Ste J, interpreters are so important. Like yourself, I wish I’d done better in college studying foreign languages. I struggled with Spanish. I did fine in 101 and 102, but once I got to 201, the professor humiliated me on multiple occasions that I was afraid while in class.

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    • Ste J

      24/06/2015 at 16:42

      This is the problem, some teachers do more harm than good with the way they choose to teach, it’s always a challenge to speak in a foreign tongue and confidence is something needs to be nurtured. At least these days there are plenty of online programmes around to make use of and I’ll bet there are plenty of WordPress folk that would gladly help you as well.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Jill Weatherholt

        24/06/2015 at 18:19

        You hit the nail on the head. That professor destroyed my confidence.

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  7. gargoylebruce

    24/06/2015 at 04:14

    Germinal. Great word.

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    • Ste J

      24/06/2015 at 16:35

      It sound like a cross between a cleaning agent and a fertiliser which may or may not have relevance to the later plot, I shall soon find out.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  8. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    25/06/2015 at 13:28

    A great round of applause for those translators who made us understand other cultures and society…who helped us to travel distant lands and countries through books…. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      25/06/2015 at 20:25

      I’ll drink to that! I’m not sure where my imagination and vocabulary would be without such writers as Calvino, Marquez, Hugo, Tolstoy and Homer to name a few.

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  9. anna amundsen

    26/06/2015 at 11:45

    Another great thing about translation is that, while working on a foreign language text you are learning new things about your own language (shades of meaning, new/old words) and culture (conceptions, roots, premises), as well.. Comparison was always a powerful thinking and learning tool.

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    • Ste J

      26/06/2015 at 18:25

      Apparently there are 1,025,109.8 English words and I suppose a translator is one of the few people to truly appreciate and benefit form them, although I have tried to bring the word egad back into popularity but it isn’t working so far. Appreciating my language by learning another, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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  10. RoSy

    03/07/2015 at 22:24

    I join you & the others in applauding translators!

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    • Ste J

      05/07/2015 at 20:01

      If the wind is blowing the right way I believe they can hear us clapping you know!

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • RoSy

        06/07/2015 at 23:07

        Yep – That’s me! 😀

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  11. Andrea Stephenson

    04/07/2015 at 22:40

    The beauty of books, to take us on a journey into someone else’s world, whatever their language or culture.

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    • Ste J

      05/07/2015 at 20:07

      It would be a dull world without books and the joys and insights they give. One of the very reasons I set this site up was to agree with comments such as yours and know that there is hope for the planet because of the readers, amongst others. I now consider myself vindicated.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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