Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Håkan Nesser on Translation

At the SELTA meeting in London last month, the Swedish writer Håkan Nesser gave a guest talk. Mr. Nesser is best known for his crime novels (he mentioned that “life is reflected in death,” which is one reason why he writes such works), but he has also written literary fiction as well.

He was very entertaining and, as befits the setting, he spoke in part about translation. Mr. Nesser’s works have been translated to many languages and he said he’s received questions or comments from about half his translators. He said that he once offered some comments on an English translation and got the following response, “Håkan, I thought you knew English!” After that, he’s avoided critiquing translations. The way he thinks about the translated target texts is that they are “written by the translators with [his] books as the basis.”


A translator said...

"written by the translators with [his] books as the basis."

After nearly 8-year working as (most for company documents) translator/intepreter, I absolutely agree it.

Now, I realized that translating of a text is almost like imitating of a painting. HA!:-)

B.J. Epstein said...

Thank you for your comment! It is like copying a painting or performing a play, I think.

Best wishes,

Masood Khoshsaligheh said...

"written by the translators with [his] books as the basis."

As TS scholars say, translation is rewriting which is severely dependent on the poetics of the target language as well as the worldviews of the translator; interestingly, even if the translator has no intention of such mediation, they do manipulate the ST as a result of their (un)conscious orientations in the real world which leads to marked changes in the text world.

I guess the translator can't help it, and as such not to blame for it.