This week’s Read This Next title is David Bellos’s Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything, which is coming out in late October from Faber and Faber.
As I mentioned on a couple of our Three Percent podcasts, this is one of the fall books that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. And now that I’ve had a chance to read it in full, I feel confident in saying that this is a perfect book for anyone involved or interested in translation. It’s wide-ranging, very readable, filled with fascinating anecdotes, and very thought-provoking. You can read my full review by clicking here.
Over at Read This Next you can read three chapters from the book: “Global Flows: Center and Periphery in the Translation of Books,” “Match Me If You Can: Translating Humor,” and “Style and Translation.”
In addition, you can read this piece about how Bellos came to write this book.
But when in June 2009 a plump, pink-faced person offhandedly remarked at some academic party that “a translation is obviously no substitute for the original”, I pedaled straight home, sat down at my desk and dashed off a squib against that thoughtless cliché.
It struck me that other translation clichés deserved similar treatment. I sketched out short essays against “making it sound like the original,” “traitor, translator,” and “les belles infidèles.” It was good to get them off my chest.
A few weeks later my son came to visit, and I showed him my pages. “Dad,” he said, “if you could stop writing like an academic, you could make a living out of this.”
There’s also a really great interview with David over at the Foyles website.
How would someone keen to work in the field of translation be best able to develop the required skills?
Go to university. Read lots of books. Write. Then read some more. Live in the country. Get married, have children and learn their nursery rhymes. Watch television. Read some more. Write. Then try your hand at translating. Best to start with a book you feel passionately interested in. But actually, there is no ‘main’ or ‘direct’ route into a career as a translator into English. Most of my colleagues in the field got into it by happenstance. Just don’t expect it will ever pay your rent.
And if you want a different sort of intro to the book, watch this video:
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
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We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .