Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Good Review

I’ve sometimes felt that reviewers of translated books don’t seem to really understand translation. They might write that a review is “fluent” or “poor”, but they don’t say what they mean by those terms, and they don’t usually compare the source text to the translated text. They often appear to judge translations based on how they read in English.

So I was really pleased to see the recent review in the 29 August issue of the New Yorker by Daniel Mendelsohn, whose work I always find worth reading. In this article about Arthur Rimbaud’s career, Mr. Mendelsohn names various translators (sometimes even that is beyond reviewers), compares translations, and shows knowledge of the source text, which helps him to analyze the translations.

This is a well-done translation review and I wish more reviewers would review and think like Mr. Mendelsohn.

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