Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No Translation

Someone asked me this weekend whether or not I'd ever have my manuscript translated into Czech so my relatives could read it. Well, first the person asked, "Are you ever gonna finish that thing?" then they asked about translating it. I didn't have an answer then, but now I do. No. I'll never have anything I write translated. I don't want it translated. Not into French, not Czech, not British.

My father speaks Russian, Czech, English, and a little German. When Gorbachev wrote his book after the collapse of communist Russia, I bought my dad the book. I bought an English translation. He looked at the first few pages, shrugged and said I could take it back. He said that he knew right away that the words weren't Gorby's, because Misha's words were far more eloquent. It said the same thing, it just didn't say it like Gorby would. I didn't understand, I do now.

Translations of books, unless they happen to be translated by the author himself, are like playing the same piece of music on a different instrument. Even if you get a translator who can perform the music as well or better than the original piece in the new language, the reader still hears a different sound. I want to be responsible for my own sounds. I don't want Czechs hearing a better or worse version of what I wrote.

p.s. More book covers to look at. I don't know if they're covers, I just think they're cool and MIGHT fit my MS. (sometimes after it downloads, there's nothing there, in that case you click on "view original"




I really like this one:



  1. I agree, Fred. I read the Dragon Tattoo books and they felt translated. I refrain from comment on what I thought of them. I recently read a Danish thriller called Mercy - it was far less obviously translated than the Larsson books though there were still a few issues. Each language has its own cadences that can still be heard in reading and it doesn't take much to stop you in your tracks when something is wrong.

  2. But I'm glad translations exist, because I've enjoyed some of them.
    I've always heard that a good translation is as much a work of art as the original, even though it's not the same. I'll bet authors bite the bullet, though, when the $$ are offered for foreign rights. Same thing with movies.