Plaza Voices: Found in Translation
Take a moment to think about your all-time-favorite, can't-do-without book... chances are fairly high that whatever book you came up with was originally written in a language other than English. While it is often debated exactly how much meaning is lost in translation, I know that I am grateful to be able to experience the works of authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy without knowing a word of Russian (other than "Niet"). And I am especially excited for the release of Haruki Murakami's latest book this August, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (which I am able to read without knowing any Japanese other than "Domo arigato").
According to a recent article in Entertainment Weekly, one hundred pages can take a translator one month of working full-time. While translators are rarely credited on the title page, and are usually are paid around $150 per 1,000 words, they play a crucial role in making books and films accessible to people all over the world.
One need only do a quick search online to see how quickly (and amusingly) translations can get muddled. The popular Girl With a Dragon Tattoo series (originally written in Swedish by author Stieg Larson) saw a few mistranslations as well, with only about 130 properly vetted pages. Translator Steven Murray said "there are things that don't match with the way Stieg wrote it. They're still gripping, but there are little details that I wish were different."
Obviously, reading and watching material in one's native tongue makes for a more comfortable experience, although we must remember that it's only a substitute for the original language. Meaning is often debated, even among speakers of the same language. Personally, I enjoy reading and watching films in Spanish to practice my vocabulary, as well as learn new words and gain some insight into the context in which they were written.
Here are a few translations (as well as originals) I currently recommend:
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (translated from French)
Zorro, Isabel Allende (translated from Spanish)
Autobiography of a Corpse, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (translated from Russian)
The Whispering Muse, Sjón (translated from Icelandic)
The Trial, Franz Kafka (translated from German)
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (translated from Japanese)
Sandalwood Death, Mo Yan (translated from Chinese)
Meditation in Action, Chögyam Trungpa (translated from Tibetan)
La Casa En Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (translated into Spanish)
Pan’s Labyrinth (Laberinto del Fauno), Guillermo del Toro (DVD) (in Spanish with English subtitles)
No, Pablo Larrain (DVD) (in Spanish with English subtitles)
What do you think--is meaning completely lost in translation, or does it offer a helpful tool for sharing experiences? What are some of your favorite translated works?
By Desiree S.