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:
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .