Sunday, 15 January 2017

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Sunday, 15 January 2017 01:41 pm
violetcities: (Default)
I was just having some thoughts about translated books. On one hand, awesome. The more languages a book is translated into, the more people can read it, which is fantastic. Also, people who learn languages can pick up their favourite books in their target language, something I do all the time. On the other hand, there's my personal allergy to translations. I always feel like I’m not reading the real story. I'm German but I read all my (non-German) books in English, unless it wasn't originally written in English, then it doesn't really matter.

I'm currently obsessed with Booktube, and being German I'm always looking for some German booktubers to watch, but everyone seems to read translations. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing, not everyone can read English fluently, not everyone cares, that's perfectly fine, but then I hear them say things like "I really disliked this author's writing style" and I'm like nooo you didn't even read the author's actual words! It's like listening to the cover version of a song, it might be really beautiful, but it might just be a thoroughly awkward interpretation. I like to know the original artist's intentions.

There's a whole website dedicated to all the 1,400+ errors in the German translations of Harry Potter. How many people are blaming JKR for certain passages that don't make any sense, because they will never know any better?

Of course it depends on the type of book too. I read The Great Gatsby last year and loved it, my mother decided she wanted to read it too, and picked up her own translated copy. I warned her that what I enjoyed most about it was the writing, not necessarily the plot, so her experience might be very different. She didn't finish the book because she didn't like it. Which is fine, she prefers very fast-paced, plot-driven books, I read a lot of books with very little plot just for the beauty of the language. You can probably read a whodunnit mystery novel in any language and it still works, but I shudder at the thought of reading something like Lolita in German. I will never touch that, because you can't touch that.

This probably sounds very snobby. I'm not saying you have to go and learn German to read Goethe. I just know that for myself, I find it hard to say I liked or didn't like something if I know I didn't read what the author wrote.

July 2017


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