Thursday, October 24, 2013

Your Literary Passport: Must Read Books in Translation

There’s an entire world of literature out there if you just look beyond what was written in your native tongue. Major works in other languages are being translated into English all the time, meaning that there’s no time like the present for you to enjoy books from places like Russia, Egypt, Mexico, and other nations around the globe. If you’re looking to get your literary passport stamped, here are [some] destinations to start you off — but, by all means, don’t let these be the only translated books you read.
~Jason Diamond, "50 Works of Fiction in Translation That Every English Speaker Should Read"

When you read a book in translation, you might forget that the original book was written in a different language - if the translation is a good one! Did you know the University of Rochester runs an annual Best Translated Book Award?  Judging a book by the quality of its translation is nothing to sneeze at. Writer Daniel Mendelsohn, in a column in The New York Times, says that "no translation can work without...accuracy...sensitivity to formal considerations...texture...[and] tone." The following list of recommended fiction is heavy on classic novels in translation, but there are plenty of other books out there, from children's books to mysteries for adults, as any keyword search of "translated by" or any subject search using the term "Translations" can show you.

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Edith Grossman, translator)

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez (Gregory Rabassa, translator)

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, translators)

Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust (Lydia Davis, translator)

The Trial, Franz Kafka (audiobook, Breon Mitchell, translator)

The Stranger, Albert Camus (Matthew Ward, translator)

Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges (various translators)

The Death of Artemio Cruz, Carlos Fuentes (Alfred MacAdam, translator)

The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende (Magda Bogin, translator)

The Lover, Marguerite Duras (Barbara Bray, translator)

Austerlitz, W. G. Sebald. (Anthea Bell, Translator)

The Land of Green Plums, Herta Müller (Michael Hofmann, translator)

1Q84, Haruki Murakami (Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, translators)

My Name Is Red, Orhan Pamuk (Erdağ Göknar, translator)

The Nimrod Flipout, Etgar Keret (Miriam Shlesinger  Sondra Silverston, translators)

Day of the Oprichnik, Vladimir Sorokin (translated by Jamey Gambrell)

The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolaño (Natasha Wimmer, translator)

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, Alina Bronsky (Tim Mohr, translator)

Suite Française, Irène Némirovsky (Sandra Smith, translator)

My Struggle: Books One and Two, Karl Ove Knausgård (Don Bartlett, translator)

Act of the Damned, António Lobo Antunes (Richard Zenith, translator)

Satan Tango, László Krasznahorkai (George Szirtes, translator)

Stone Upon Stone, Wieslaw Myliwski (Bill Johnston, translator)

Books about translation

The undeniable reality is that the work becomes the translator’s (while simultaneously and mysteriously somehow remaining the work of the original author) as we transmute it into a second language. Perhaps transmute is the wrong verb; what we do is not an act of magic, like altering base metals into precious ones, but the result of a series of creative decisions and imaginative acts of criticism. In the process of translating, we endeavor  to hear the first version of the work as profoundly and completely as possible, struggling to discover the linguistic charge, the structural rhythms, the subtle implications, the complexities of meaning and suggestion in vocabulary and phrasing, and the ambient, cultural inferences and conclusions these tonalities allow us to extrapolate. This is a kind of reading as deep as any encounter with a literary text can be.
~Edith Grossman, from "Why Translation Matters"

What is it like to be translator?  How does a literary translator do their job?  Here are a couple books from the library catalog that will hopefully illuminate the art of translation to the layman.

Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche

If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents by Gregory Rabassa

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos

Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation by William H. Gass


Popular translated books - a Goodreads list

The 20 Best Books in Translation You've Never Read

What Do You Look for in Modern Translation?

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