I’ve never been a huge fan of reading translated books. For example, Les Miserables. I always feel that there is a certain thing that is lost when the language is translated…certain meanings of words and even just the cultural inflections. I understand that translators attempt to preserve all of this, but I just feel like I’m reading the story through a foggy lens – I’m not getting the real thing. Maybe this is just a misinformed mental block that I made up when I was in High School (as a High Schooler worried about this, I’m sure I was in the minority). Lots of people love reading works of foreign literature translated into their own language. I quite enjoyed the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, and that was a translation. I didn’t really think of it being a translation, even, as I enjoyed the story so much. I guess it comes down to more “literary” works. But maybe that isn’t even important – maybe I should just focus on the story and the general themes of the story and not so much on the words themselves. It’s a work of prose, not poetry, and although the language crafting is important, it’s not the whole thing.
I’ve been reading a bit on the internet about translating and even learning a new language. The website Little Language Site has a great section on translations and how languages have come about in the first place. It’s been an interesting read and I’m definitely smarter for it. I’ve been wondering if I even might want to learn a new language.
And then I was reading more articles on translations, and realized this: since when have you read a recent popular translation of a foreign work of literature? Probably the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but besides that? How much literature is going unnoticed simply because it’s not being translated into English? I suppose my earlier point may become invalid – we’re missing out on a lot of cultural ethos because there is no translation for us. And this is perhaps important to understanding different parts of the world and different views.
I’m going to make a point of seeking out obscure translations of modern fiction. I’m sure it would be quite interesting and would be a great topic for random conversations. How could it not make you sound smart and very well rounded to say that you’ve read Russia’s latest bestseller, or Italy’s newest crime novel.