Novel translation criticism - Blood-Drenched Beard
Thread poster: Alistair Gale

Alistair Gale
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:52
Spanish to English
Jun 2, 2014

This is an interesting letter by Alison Entrekin doing the rounds on Twitter. It is in response to Justin Cartwright of the Guardian regarding his criticism of her translation of Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera. First the review:

http://translatorswriteback.tumblr.com/post/87599126951/response-to-review-of-blood-d
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This is an interesting letter by Alison Entrekin doing the rounds on Twitter. It is in response to Justin Cartwright of the Guardian regarding his criticism of her translation of Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera. First the review:

http://translatorswriteback.tumblr.com/post/87599126951/response-to-review-of-blood-drenched-beard-translated

then the response:

http://translatorswriteback.tumblr.com/post/87599126951/response-to-review-of-blood-drenched-beard-translated


Would love to know what you think about this...

Alistair
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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:52
Russian to English
+ ...
In memoriam
Response link twice Jun 2, 2014

You put the wrong link in for the review. The two links are identical, they are both for the response.

 

Alistair Gale
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:52
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Oops! Jun 2, 2014

So I have... My apologies for that.

You can get the link to the review in Alison's letter


 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:52
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
This could become a great thread Jun 2, 2014

I can't read Portuguese well enough to judge Justin Cartwright's review but I think Alison Entrekin defends herself very well and with great dignity.

One of the hardest parts of translating literature is overlooking subtleties, peculiarities and idiosyncrasies in formulations. We all have a tendency to translate standard formulas with standard formulas and to normalise the abnormal.

Daniel Galera must have remarked the translation of his text with "in front of a beach"
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I can't read Portuguese well enough to judge Justin Cartwright's review but I think Alison Entrekin defends herself very well and with great dignity.

One of the hardest parts of translating literature is overlooking subtleties, peculiarities and idiosyncrasies in formulations. We all have a tendency to translate standard formulas with standard formulas and to normalise the abnormal.

Daniel Galera must have remarked the translation of his text with "in front of a beach" and he didn't suggest on a beach, at a beach or near a beach to Entrekin.

Review in The Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/18/blood-drenched-beard-review-postmodern-barzilian-mystery-daniel-galera

Response by Entrekin:
http://thetranslatorwritesback.tumblr.com/post/87599126951/response-to-review-of-blood-drenched-beard-translated

Favourable review:
http://avenidabrasilblog.com/2014/05/28/blood-drenched-beard-by-daniel-galera/

Cheers,
Gerard

[Edited at 2014-06-03 11:45 GMT]
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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:52
Japanese to English
+ ...
Not there Jun 3, 2014

Unfortunately the response by the translator appears to have been removed...

[Edited at 2014-06-03 00:59 GMT]


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:52
Chinese to English
Modern writing Jun 3, 2014

As the response that prompted this thread has been taken down, I'm going to feel free to derail the thread.

This is a paragraph from the review that makes me think:

The protagonist (we will call him Nameless) suffers from a rare neurological condition, prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness), which – I discovered – Oliver Sacks has written about. The small number of people in the world who suffer from this condition cannot recognise faces; they cannot even recognise their own face in a photograph or a mirror. The condition can be congenital or it can develop with age. The connections between recognition and love, misunderstanding and intimacy are part of the intrigue which swathes the novel.


My initial feeling on reading something like this is that it's just terrible writing. A sentence with three parenthetical comments; a random name drop; failure to properly link the last sentence into the preceding ones; bad word choices: "intrigue which swathes". The writers I love best (I like Brit authors like McEwan and Ishiguro) would never write this way.

But I also wonder whether this kind of writing is just the modern way in English. I have read books which despite being full of "infelicities" like disjointed sentences and bad use of vocab nevertheless seemed to develop real narrative power. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just too snobby about prose and structure, and if I should relax and accept this kind of stuff. After all, when I'm translating an oddly-shaped Chinese paragraph, if I could just leave it all misshapen then things would be much easier.

Has anyone read anything by Cartwright? Is this style deliberate, and is it acceptable? One thing that translation has made me see is that the English sentence and the English paragraph are quite arbitrary, conventional structures, and they can be remade.


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:52
Japanese to English
+ ...
No Jun 3, 2014

Phil Hand wrote:

But I also wonder whether this kind of writing is just the modern way in English. I have read books which despite being full of "infelicities" like disjointed sentences and bad use of vocab nevertheless seemed to develop real narrative power.


It's just poor writing, plain and simple.

Re: this review, I am reminded of this passage from the Bible:

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.


 

Ian Giles  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:52
Swedish to English
+ ...
No such thing Jun 3, 2014

No such thing as bad translation - only bad editing.

 

Alistair Gale
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:52
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Updated link for response Jun 3, 2014

We now have an updated link for Alison's letter:

http://thetranslatorwritesback.tumblr.com/post/87599126951/response-to-review-of-blood-drenched-beard-translated


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:52
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, absolutely. It seems like quite an illiterate review. Jun 3, 2014

Phil Hand wrote:

As the response that prompted this thread has been taken down, I'm going to feel free to derail the thread.

This is a paragraph from the review that makes me think:

The protagonist (we will call him Nameless) suffers from a rare neurological condition, prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness), which – I discovered – Oliver Sacks has written about. The small number of people in the world who suffer from this condition cannot recognise faces; they cannot even recognise their own face in a photograph or a mirror. The condition can be congenital or it can develop with age. The connections between recognition and love, misunderstanding and intimacy are part of the intrigue which swathes the novel.


My initial feeling on reading something like this is that it's just terrible writing. A sentence with three parenthetical comments; a random name drop; failure to properly link the last sentence into the preceding ones; bad word choices: "intrigue which swathes". The writers I love best (I like Brit authors like McEwan and Ishiguro) would never write this way.

But I also wonder whether this kind of writing is just the modern way in English. I have read books which despite being full of "infelicities" like disjointed sentences and bad use of vocab nevertheless seemed to develop real narrative power. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just too snobby about prose and structure, and if I should relax and accept this kind of stuff. After all, when I'm translating an oddly-shaped Chinese paragraph, if I could just leave it all misshapen then things would be much easier.

Has anyone read anything by Cartwright? Is this style deliberate, and is it acceptable? One thing that translation has made me see is that the English sentence and the English paragraph are quite arbitrary, conventional structures, and they can be remade.

No serious literary critic can write in that type of language.


 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:52
Romanian to English
+ ...
A rant on bad terminology in translated novels Sep 4, 2016

Dear colleagues,

I don't really want to start a new thread, and this was the closest one that seems suitable for a rant.

I'm reading a novel, Rene Denfeld's The Enchanted. I like it, but the problem is I'm reading its Hungarian translation (no idea why, I prefer reading the originals if I speak that language), which is flawed. The style is not that bad, but I can't get over the mistranslations that are obvious not only in comparison with the original, but simply because
... See more
Dear colleagues,

I don't really want to start a new thread, and this was the closest one that seems suitable for a rant.

I'm reading a novel, Rene Denfeld's The Enchanted. I like it, but the problem is I'm reading its Hungarian translation (no idea why, I prefer reading the originals if I speak that language), which is flawed. The style is not that bad, but I can't get over the mistranslations that are obvious not only in comparison with the original, but simply because they don't make sense.

For example, here's this term "medical release", a form the death row prisoner needs to sign for the death row investigator to be able to access his medical records. The Hungarian translator used a completely nonsensical term meaning "request for medical discharge" (as in: discharge from hospital), although the context makes it absolutely clear why this form was necessary. I looked it up in the original simply because the Hungarian made no sense, and sure enough, the original confirmed my suspicion.

To be on the safe side, I also checked another translation, the French one, as that's the only other foreign version of the book I could access that I might understand. Surprise, the French came up with an even worse term, given the context: "demande de transfert pour raison médicale". My French is very poor, but I'm quite sure that expression means "request for transfer for medical reasons".

Does a careless translation ruin your experience of a book, even though the book may actually be good?

Rant over
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Novel translation criticism - Blood-Drenched Beard

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