Literary roundup: Literature in translation 2013 and Topol’s deviltry

Chad Post has put up this year’s Translation Database at the halfway point (60% or so complete – download the xl here). The list is for US releases so there are a lot of books mentioned here that aren’t on it because they came out in the UK.

Here are some random observations on the list of Literalab interest:

There are no Czech books on it, only Monika Zgustová’s Silent Woman, though that will be translated from Spanish, as her previous book was. This turns out not to be true anyway (see below).

There is only one Romanian book on the list for this year and it’s being translated by super famous writer Ursula LeGuin. Even weirder than the identity of the translator is her manner of translating it. According to this article on the interesting sounding book, LeGuin’s translation “from Spanish into English was then checked against the Romanian original and a French translation.” Wha?

Where are the good old days when translating Sándor Márai’s Hungarian Embers from its German translation into English rubbed some people the wrong way?

Lots of Russian books, including two translated by Arch Tait, translator of this week’s upcoming Sunday European Fiction in B O D Y.

You can read more about the database on Three Percent, where Chad Post has a lot of interesting comments on Amazon Crossing’s rise to the top spot on the list, the growth in literature in translation and many other things.

The Devil’s Workshop

The latest novel by Jáchym Topol has just come out in a translation by Alex Zucker. The Devil’s Workshop deals with some pretty bleak subject matter but I heard Alex read a part of it a few months ago and I think the part of the publisher’s description in the link above that’s key is “blackly comic” and I would add surreal if that word still designates anything specific. Basically, the short extract I heard struck me as much stranger and more interesting than the publisher’s description.

On a blog devoted to the book Alex shares a great story about them having to change its cover design to add a hammer-and-sickle and take off a swastika.

An update related to both of the above posts:

Seconds after I posted this I was alerted to the following post by Alex Zucker on a more complete picture of Czech literature in translation. And as you can see it’s not easy to be certain about what’s coming out when. Still, there’s definitely more in the Czech pipeline than you might have thought at the top of this page.

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4 Comments on “Literary roundup: Literature in translation 2013 and Topol’s deviltry”

  1. 07/06/2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Well, well, well, look forward to reading the Romanian original vs. English (via several other languages) translation. Sounds a bit ‘invisible maniac’ to me (you know that age-old joke about ‘out of sight out of mind’).

    • 07/06/2013 at 3:54 pm #

      It’s admirable of you to want to make the (potentially very disappointing) comparison – though who knows, maybe it’s ok (I can’t imagine it’s better than ok though). I’m not sure why they didn’t check with the Chinese and Esperanto translations just for accuracy’s sake 🙂

      • 07/06/2013 at 3:58 pm #

        It’s frustrating that the critical role of a translator is not more universally recognised. I remember reading very different translations of Dostoevsky – one dry and old-fashioned, one full of vigour, snap and jargon – almost felt like 2 different novels.

      • 07/06/2013 at 4:01 pm #

        I had the same experience, and also with Dostoevsky. A professor at university practically screamed at me for reading one translation – he was right (screaming was a bit much though). But people rarely ever acknowledge behind the scenes work. When I studied film I discovered that many people thought a cameraman just turned a camera on and off. Easy work.

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