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30 November 2010

Why bother?

I've just clicked, excitedly, on a link on the Observer website to an article from Sunday that promised:
Writers pick their favourite translations...
Novelists and translators on the translated books that have impressed them most

What a let-down! Six writers have a paragraph each, and three of them don't in any way mention the quality of the translation - including Tim Parks, who is himself a translator. Here's the most useless contribution (in whole), from Xiaolu Guo, author of A Concise Chinese‑English Dictionary for Lovers.
Some of the most poetic and imaginative sentences I've ever read are from Italo Calvino's novels, especially Invisible Cities, as well as Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. I think those works have reshaped and enriched our vision of history and reality.

A total waste of space. Once again, a reason to be glad I don't get the Observer.

(Apologies for this post, which might itself be considered a waste of space. But the Observer isn't taking online comments on the article, so I can't vent there.)

EDIT. Since writing this post, I've discovered that Jo Nesbo, one of the writers, is Norwegian, and his choice, Knut Hamsun's Hunger, is Norwegian. So he presumably didn't read it in translation (unless he's really perverse.) Pfft. Why didn't they just call the feature "favourite books in forrin"?

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