Tuesday, May 26, 2015

So I've Been Thinking.......

So Ive Been Thinking:

About translating literature into different languages.

Lets start with my favorite novel in recent memory, Overseas by the very talented, master storyteller Beatriz Williams, its been released in eight countries so far– the US, Australia, Germany, Poland, Russia, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. And I wonder what during the translation, if anything gets lost. Does it flow the same? Are the characters enriched enough to make them as special in Polish as they were in English? Was the significance of the historical time differences between the present and WWI explained so that the reader in Germany understood the terror like I did in the US release copy? And what about the love story, because it was epic, it survived the time and distance barriers, did it also survive the barrier from English to Italian? Its destined to become as far as Im concerned a future piece of classic literature, so did it come off to Russian readers that way too?


But then I think of all the classics that have survived not only the barrier of different languages but even different variations of the same language. Pieces like, Beowulf, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, Les Miserables, War and Peace, Madame Bovary; well you get the picture.
Or is it true that translating these ancient and not so ancient works of art are more accurately translated today, perhaps weve come so far as to be able to get those subtleties to translate more effectively than those of yesteryear.


Maybe today we can read all these different classics of the past and hopefully the modern classics being written today with the assurance that the translations today will be able to preserve those works even better then they were in the past.

I dont know too much about translating literature, who publishers use or how they pick them but I did just learn about a  software based translation company called Smartling that specialize in translating websites/blogs.
Have you bloggers ever considered having your website translated into another language? I mean how cool would that be.

I only speak English so I dont have any of the answers I raised above, my mother however speaks both English and German. While she was visiting friends in Germany she read a Sci-Fi novel by German author Fran Schåtzing called The Swarm, in German, she enjoyed it so much that when she came home and learned that it had been translated into English she bought it and read it again in English. She said that the read in both languages were exceptional and it translated well. And well I have to believe my mom. :)

So here are some things to think about –

Do you think we lose anything during the translation of novels?

Have you ever read a novel either a classic or recent release that's been translated and if so which one?

Today's Gonereading item is:
a collection of posters & prints
click HERE for the buy page


  1. I think sometimes we can lose some things but for the most part I think most novels hold their own. It's a wonderful idea though, to be able to read different novels from different countries and enjoy all kinds of literature.

    Great post Debbie and I hope you are doing better!! *hugs*

    1. Hey Ali, I think you're right. I am feeling better but doc wants a CT Scan next, yikes!

  2. Excellent piece. You did a good job of addressing the question.

  3. I'd think it would depend a lot on the actual book. Some I've read were heavy in things that really wouldn't be understood by those reading in a different country because of the humor they used (based on locale or such) or having lots of slang that wouldnt' translate well. But others I think would do fine on translation. In high school I was in both AP English and Spanish and often we read some of the same books in both classes. Some things were very similar and others had spots that would be quite different in delivery. It was interesting to see.

    1. Wow Anna, I love that you got to read the same book in two languages and felt the differences. That is so cool. And thanks!!