Here are our final two fiction in translation myths. Let us know if you have some of your own.
Myth 5. It’s always better in the original.
Thanks to that movie directed by Sofia Coppola, the word “lost” is often put up along side “in translation,” which is totally unfair. First of all, not everyone can read in the original language. Secondly, translators work very hard to bridge not only the language, but the culture, adapting subtleties linked to one context to another cultural context, so readers can truly appreciate the story. David Bellos, who translated the French authors Fred Vargas and Georges Perec, calls it “matchmaking” (more on fiction translation here). In the end, a translation is, in fact, an original. That’s what readers gain.
For more on this topic see: A Window to the World
For a great commentary on the writer – translator relationship: The Treachery of Translators
Myth 6: French fiction is stuffy
French fiction may have different codes, but going by just pure worldwide popularity—French is the top language translated into English—either people like it that way, or French fiction has something going for it. Following Agatha Christie, a French writer is the second most-translated author worldwide: Jules Verne. Remember Around the World in Eighty Days? Furthermore, among the top four writers translated from French, after Jules Verne, are Alexandre Dumas (adventure novels, notably The Three Musketeers), Georges Simenon (detective fiction, creator of Maigret), and René Goscinny (comics, and not just any comics: Astérix).