Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Best Translations?

The Society of Authors has posted a list of the 50 best translations to English from the last 50 years. In a way, the list represents the usual suspects. It’s perhaps not surprising that many of the books reflect the few foreign books English-speaking readers have actually heard of. What do you think?

4 comments:

Andrew Shields said...

Perhaps it's also not surprising that great authors make such a list, no matter how good the translations are.

Masked Translator said...

Yeah, I suppose my comment is basically the same. This list should be called "50 best authors not writing in English." It's not really a judgement of the translators apart from a sort of rubber stamp of approval equivalent to, "this translation was good enough that we could judge the author." It is nice to see a list of books where the translators' names are mentioned, though.

Personally I find it sad that only 5 or so female authors made the list. Women must really not be able to write well. Same for Africans, apparently. Sad, isn't it?

Also I don't think any list of great translators is complete without Erdag Göknar, a professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University. He translated Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red and even though I can't read Turkish, I can assure you it's one of the most amazing translations I've ever read. And I wasn't even that impressed with the book itself.

Janine said...

Tha New York Times ran an interesting article over the weekend about American publishers bypassing non-English language books at the Frankfurt book fair.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/18/books/18book.html

B.J. Epstein said...

Thank you all for your comments! I am with you, Andrew and Masked Translator -- it's a list of great non-English-writing authors. Like all lists, it's quite subjective. And like some of the recent comments related to the Nobel, it's Eurocentric.
And Janine, that article will be in the next article round-up!

Best wishes,
BJ