During one of my many plane trips this summer, I was catching up on reading. In an issue of The New Yorker from July, I noticed that a review of a translated novel (Christian Jungersen's The Exception) described the book as "invisibly and expertly translated from the Danish by Anna Paterson". What exactly did the reviewer, Jeffrey Frank, mean by this? Was the translation expertly done because it was invisible? Would he have criticized the translation if he had felt it was in some way visible? Did he mean that the translation was both invisible and expert? Mr. Frank, I have learned, is fluent in Danish and has recently translated, together with his wife, The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen: A New Translation from the Danish, so obviously he can compare the source and target texts and also is familiar with the work of translators, all of which makes me wonder if he would like his own translations reviewed as "invisible." What does that term mean to him and to other reviewers of translations?
As I have posted before, critiquing a translation means much more than simply reading it as a text written in the target language and seeing whether you can tell that it was translated, and I wish reviewers, especially at such major magazines as The New Yorker, would start to understand that. I would be curious to know why the idea of "invisibility" persists.
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