Saturday, September 22, 2007

All about translation

I've written from time to time about issues that arise in translation, from Siân Reynolds' decision to leave out mutual misunderstandings of French idioms between French and Canadian characters in her translation of Fred Vargas' Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand to Shane Maloney's vivid thoughts on making Australian expressions available to American readers to an excellent article in which leading crime-fiction translators talk about what they do.

With a hat tip to Nearly Nothing But Novels, I've found a blog all about translation. Life in Translation's author works mostly on Spanish-English translations, but she offers general thoughts on the art and practice of translation, as wel, and, in a comment, some thoughts on the Mexican crime novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Anonymous Maxine said...

I am just reading one of the Andrea Camilleri books, and there is a lovely pun on "tenor" -- as in the singing voice and the "tenor" of your argument. I don't know Italian, but I wonder if the word is also the same for both meanings in that language, or if the translator was particularly clever and inventive?

September 23, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Was the argument between Montalbano and Livia?

A quick look at a basic Italian dictionary finds only musical definitions for tenore. But if Camilleri used the language of music to talk about the argument even if he didn't use the word tenore, perhaps the translator (Stephen Sartarelli, probably) picked up on the musical analogy and took advantage of the coincidence of vocabulary.

This marks the second time I've wanted to consult one of Camilleri's novels in the original language to see why Sartarelli made the translation choices that he did. The other concerns a humorous string of cliches in The Smell of the Night (The Scent of the Night in the U.K.) Here's a comment I posted on that subject: http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2007/02/le-odore-della-notte.html

September 23, 2007  
Blogger Jim's Words Music and Science said...

Thanks for mentioning my site. Back when I spoke Spanish every day, I read a book called Tres Triste Tigres by G. Cabrera Infante, but I had to switch to English to finish it (Three Trapped Tigers is how the title was translated, presumably to keep the alliteration- maybe published by Picador in the U.K.). It turns out I was struggling because of the poor grammar "of the street", and I had understood more than I realized, but I didn't have confidence handling the idiomatic conversations. It is about Cuba under Batista and provides an illuminating backdrop for understanding the rise of Castro (which nobody in our country seems to want to bother with).

Jim
http://nearlynothingbutnovels.blogspot.com/

September 24, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

What has worked once or twice for me is to read a tranlation first and then the original version, or to read chapter by chapter: one in English, one in the original. That's an entertaining way to learn, as well.

September 24, 2007  
Anonymous Maxine said...

Thanks, Peter. It wasn't an argument in the sense of a fight, but an argument in the sense of making a case. I am sorry I didn't make a note of exactly where in the book the paragraph occurs -- but maybe Norm might remember?

September 24, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Montalbano and Livia have both kinds of argument, and Montalbano is prone to musing on the nature of the argument even while the argument is in progress.

This is of peripheral interest at best, but the Italian word argomento means subject or topic. And, yes, Norm, the King of Camilleri, is always a good source.

September 24, 2007  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Unfortunately my memory is not what it was and I can remember Montalbano's meals better than the intricacies of the plots.
But he and Livia do have a couple of telephone arguments in The Scent of the Night in which she scolds him for speaking in dialect. I don't recall the pun on tenor though. Sorry.

September 25, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I wonder if any of those arguments is the same one during which Montalbano thinks his marvelous, exasperated thoughts about Livia's cliches: http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2007/02/andrea-camilleris-humor.html, http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2007/02/le-odore-della-notte.html

September 25, 2007  

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