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I always wonder about this too. Sometimes you get lucky and the original author translates it themselves (Waiting for Godot) or there's a translation that's endorsed by the author. But other times the best you can get is a widely-accepted translation, and even that's not always enough to assuage any fears that you're missing sometime.

I do think it's funny when the translator makes a point of shitting on other translations in the foreword. I think the version of Aristotle's Politics I read in college did that.




I really can't tell for certain, but I feel fortunate that Michael Kandel translated Stanislaw Lem's works; they read so well to me, I can't imagine them not being what the author meant. The fact that the poetry in "Cyberiad" works so well (in English) makes me feel he's a good and honest translator. You're right on Eco, though: I can't name the translator for Pendulum.


Funny. Lem, Eco are the two I always wonder about re: translations, because of their wit and wordplay. And of course all poets


I would add Murakami to that list. In my experience, Japanese doesn't translate all that well to English - although some Murakami's works, like "South of the Border", feels very close to Fitzgerald. I'm now a little surprised to realize that "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" was actually written before both it, and "Norwegian Wood".

At least for "Norwegian Wood", I found the translation to Norwegian to "feel" better than (the excerpts I've read) of the English translation. It's hard for me to say if that is because Norwegian is my first language, and I learned Japanese from living in Japan, or because there are some parallels between terse Nordic prose and poetry and Japanese. I could certainly see the Nordic sagas working "better" in Japanese than in English.


Re:saga-like literature, I first read Lord of the Rings in English, then the recent Norwegian translation "Ringdrotten". Ringdrotten feels almost more like a work on its own than "just" a translation, since it uses a wide range of Norwegian dialect features to convey the various species and social classes of LotR (making the language differences much more pronounced than in the English). Rather tough read though, due to archaic word choices.


Well, speaking of Italians, Dante is another great example. Reading a translation of the comedy that attempts to preserve the meter and/or rhyme is completely different from reading a prose translation.


If I'm not mistaken, Eco had a good hand in translating most of his works, or at the very least he was on good terms with, and selected, most of his translators. Given the character of his work, I'd find it hard to believe otherwise.


Well, why else would somebody bother making a new translation of an already-translated work unless they thought that existing translations were flawed?


I'm not just talking about acknowledging improvements; I read one introduction where he spent the majority of the time more or less calling a previous translator an idiot.

But another reason I could see to re-translate something besides previous translations being flawed is them being old. If a particular obscure work only has on English translation, and it's 100 years old, it seems pretty reasonable to want to translate it into more modern English.




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