"The fact that," or Is it possible to be a good translator but a bad writer?
I started tallying the number of the fact thats in Anne Holt's 1222, but I stopped when I got to fifty. 1222 is a fine novel, but I wish translator Marlaine Delargy had avoided that clumsy phrase, which is easily replaceable, never necessary, and wholly characteristic of slapdash, amateurish writing.
There's more weirdness in the book, too, writing that's not exactly bad, but that lacks the polish I expect and generally want. The narrator calls one character "A thief, without a shadow of doubt" — not beyond, but without. When the book's trainload of passengers settle into the hotel where they have been stranded by a derailment, we are told, "Basically, everything was more or less OK." Coffee is described as "red hot," which liquids don't get, except maybe molten steel. A character receives supplies "on a daily basis" (Why not "every day"?) A crowd panics, and "total chaos" ensues. How does "total" chaos differ from any other kind?
Elsewhere Delargy gives us scenario when the right word would have been scene. Scenario means script — something written down, in other words, and not something visual. And no, the narrator does not describe a scenario being played out before her. She uses the word as if it meant scene, which it does not. And then "The noise level was rising." Why level? A character "has been tasked" with keeping everyone calm. And why "With every harrowing experience that occurred ..." rather than "With every harrowing experience ..."?
The narrator recalls an earlier conversation, and "I could literally hear his tense, high-pitched voice." Literally? Really? Not unless Holt intended an infusion of the paranormal or the narrator was having auditory hallucinations. If you're still with me, you won't be surprised by "This person must also carry within them a hatred powerful enough to make them murder Cato Hammer ..."
Is it possible to be a good translator but a bad writer?
(By comparison, The Devotion of Suspect X, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander, offers only a character "vainly attempting to do some damage control," unnecessary words italicized by me; tarp and prepping rather than tarpaulin and preparing; and three gottas, which is three too many.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2012
Labels: Alexander O. Smith, Anne Holt, Elements of Style, Elye J. Alexander, Keigo Higashino, Marlaine Delargy, Strunk and White, things that drive me nuts, translation, translators, Who needs copy editors?