by Albert Camus, translated from the French by Sandra Smith
London: Penguin, 128 pp., £7.99 (paper)
Albert Camus; drawing by Pancho
One of the most widely read French novels of the twentieth century, Albert Camus’s L’Étranger, carries, for American readers, enormous significance in our cultural understanding of midcentury French identity. It is considered—to what would have been Camus’s irritation—the exemplary existentialist novel.
Yet most readers on this continent (and indeed, most of Camus’s readers worldwide) approach him not directly, but in translation. For many years, Stuart Gilbert’s 1946 version was the standard English text. In the 1980s, it was supplanted by two new translations—by Joseph Laredo in the UK and Commonwealth, and by Matthew Ward in the US. Ward’s highly respected version rendered the idiom of the novel more contemporary and more American, and an examination of his choices reveals considerable thoughtfulness and intuition.
During the process of localizing a text, unforeseen events may arise that imply an extra effort on the part of the translation team; from technical or specific vocabulary, to terms with different meanings or connotations in other languages. Nothing that a little research and dedication canât solve. Many glossaries, term bases and style guides are …
…we highly recommend that you ask your prospective translators to translate a small sample of your work… Upon getting the translated sample, the translatee can now make a very informed â¦
The story of the OED’s most prolific contributor, a sex-addicted murderer who lived in an insane asylum.
A new memoir lends a fresh perspective to one of the great mysteries of modern linguistics.
Pseudo-anglicisms are words in other languages that seem like English but aren’t. Though some people are still concerned about them creeping into use.
DO YOU know what a deadhead is? Or a squawk? Or how to respond to a pan-pan?
The OED is the largest dictionary of English, covering the history of the language, and aiming to include all vocabulary from 1150 onward.
In one way or another, I have been translating since the age ?of eight. This is how old I was when my family moved from Princeton, New Jersey, to the shores of the Bosphorus.
After we settled in Istanbul, we spent our summers and large parts of all the other seasons exploring the shores of the Mediterranean. Each time we arrived in a new city, we walked until we got lost. And after we got lost, we’d walk some more, until suddenly, without warning, we’d find ourselves approaching our hotel from a new angle. But it took a few moments before we recognized it.
What is the status of translated texts? Are they essentially different from texts in their original form? One of the arguments I have put forward is that there is a natural tendency towards rhythm, alliteration, and assonance when one writes even the most ordinary prose, and that editing to conform to the linguistic conventions of a different culture can interfere with this. The translator gives priority to the semantic sense, but that sense was also partly guided in the original by what one might call the acoustic inertia of the language.
How did the 'blimp' get its name? A playful act of onomatopoeia? A rather grim blend of 'blister' and 'lump' (thanks, Tolkien)? Or something else entirely?
This Word Watch, guest blogger John Kelly ponders the potential of 'Fenty', the growth of 'shrinkflation', and the lifespan of so-called 'eve-teasing':
The Endangered Poetry Project has just been launched, aiming to gather up vanishing voices. Fiona Macdonald looks at how preserving a dying language can give us a different worldview.
Guest blogger Dr Sandie Byrne explores the relationship between language and class politics in the works of celebrated English poet Tony Harrison.
These days the question of what it means to be a “true” American resists rational analysis. Whatever one can say about Americans that is true, the opposite is equally true. We are the most godless and most religious, the most puritanical and most libertine, the most charitable and most heartless of societies. We espouse the maxim “that government is best which governs least,” yet look to government to address our every problem. Our environmental conscientiousness is outmatched only by our environmental recklessness. We are outlaws obsessed by the rule of law, individualists devoted to communitarian values, a nation of fat people with anorexic standards of beauty. The only things we love more than nature’s wilderness are our cars, malls, and digital technology. The paradoxes of the American psyche go back at least as far as our Declaration of Independence, in which slave owners proclaimed that all men are endowed by their creator with an unalienable right to liberty.
W.B. Yeats: A Life
Volume I: The Apprentice Mage and R.F. Foster
Oxford University Press, 640 pp., $35.00
The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats
Volume II: 1896-1900, edited by Warwick Gould and John Kelly and Deirdre Toomey
Oxford University Press, 790 pp., $75.00
W.B. Yeats was born in Dublin on June 13, 1865, the eldest child of mismatched parents. His father, John Butler Yeats, came from an Irish Protestant middle-class family much reduced in fortune and repute: he furthered the reduction by being a barrister who did not practice at the bar, a portrait painter who rarely completed a portrait, and a gentleman who cultivated a social style without adequate means. JBY, as R.F. Foster calls him, acted upon the belief, which he conveyed to his son Willie, that “a society of poor gentlemen upon whose hands time lies heavy is absolutely necessary to art and literature.” He remained improvident, except for the production of conversation, letters, speeches, and an engaging manner, all his life. WBY’s mother, Susan Mary Pollexfen, came from a Protestant trading family in Sligo: they had money enough from shipping and flour-milling, but they retained it in Sligo; it did not find its way to Susan and her debt-ridden husband. The Pollexfens, as Foster says, “were drawn to mysticism and morbidity.”
A Horse Walks into a Bar
by David Grossman, translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
Knopf, 194 pp., $25.95
David Grossman’s A Horse Walks into a Bar is not funny; in fact it might be one of the least funny novels I have ever read. True, it is about an aging Israeli stand-up comedian, Dov (aka Dovaleh) Greenstein, and in the course of chronicling his performance one night at a seedy comedy club in a small town in Israel, Grossman includes many examples of his patter. Some of it is of the reassuringly familiar kind, featuring schlemiels and schlimazels, schmendricks and schmucks, assembled in such collections as Michael Krasny’s recent anthology of Jewish jokes, Let There Be Laughter.1
In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
by Marcel Proust, translated from the French by James Grieve
Viking/Penguin, 558 pp., $27.95, $17.00 (paper)
The six volumes of the new Viking Penguin translation of Proust received rave reviews in England. And yet the titles of the first two volumes approach monstrosity. Du côté de chez Swann, traditionally translated—despite Proust’s initial objection—as Swann’s Way, appeared in England as The Way by Swann, which echoes something along the lines of “How’s by you?” “By me is fine.” It is fortunate for Lydia Davis, the translator of Volume One, that Penguin USA decided to delete all traces of The Way by Swann and restored the old way, Swann’s Way. À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, the title of Proust’s second volume, for which he was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt, was not so fortunate. C.K. Scott Moncrieff’s title Within a Budding Grove was a most felicitous rendering of an untranslatable title. The title of James Grieve’s translation, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, is gobbledygook. What is a young girl in flower? Is she dressed in Laura Ashley prints? Or is a young girl in flower a girl who is just about to blossom? This punctilious and ultimately priggish commitment to word-for-word accuracy turns out not only to be a cunning way of attracting attention and of publicizing a radically new translation out to make sweeping changes, but it is, all said and done, thoroughly deceptive. Accuracy, particularly in this volume, is proclaimed, not practiced, promised, not delivered.
When the bombs began falling on Aleppo, Ahmad, a deaf father of four, couldn’t hear them. “I was frightened,” he tells the The Independent. “I didn’t know when it was happening, where it was happening. I just wanted to protect my family and move them away.”
It is impossible to anticipate every issue or question that may arise during the course of a translation project, but one thing you can do to be prepared before you get started is ask a lot of ques…
What is the correct reaction when we open the Confessions? It should, perhaps, be one of acute embarrassment. For we have stumbled upon a human being at a primal moment—standing in prayer before God. Having intruded on Augustine at his prayers, we are expected to find ourselves pulled into them, as we listen to a flow of words spoken, as if on the edge of an abyss, to a God on the far side—to a being, to all appearances, vertiginously separate from ourselves. The measure of the success of Sarah Ruden’s translation is that she has managed to give as rich and as diverse a profile to the God on the far side as she does to the irrepressible and magnetically articulate Latin author who cries across the abyss to Him.
In response to:
Confessions of a Polymorph from the December 8, 1988 issue
Nearly 8 million are studying English via Spanish
A new gender-neutral version of the French language has caused anger among purists. A member of the prestigious Académie Française has hit back at the adaption, which looks to reduce the masculine domination of grammatical gender. The French Academy is France’s 400-year-old voice of authority on language and its sole British member, Sir Michael Edwards, has deemed the gender neutral words “gibberish”.
'Comma splice' is now included as an entry in Oxford Dictionaries - but is using a comma splice grammatically correct? Does it even matter?
A blog about linguistics, language learning, and fitness.
Are you a 'centrist dad'? Is 'Catalexit' here to stay? Ready to 'double down' on the Double Down? Here's the Weekly Word Watch on this week's words:
“We must believe in poetry translation, if we want to believe in World Literature.” Thus Thomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet and winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, quoted in a recent essay by Robert Robertson, one of his translators. Robertson goes on to describe the difficulties of capturing Tranströmer’s spare voice and masterful evocation of Swedish landscape in English, particularly if you don’t know Swedish well. Robert Lowell, Robertson tells us, translated Tranströmer with only a “passing knowledge” of the language. Robertson himself describes a process wherein his Swedish girlfriend gives him a literal line-by-line translation into English, then reads the Swedish to him to give him “the cadences,” after which he created “relatively free” versions in English.
The linguistic field of prosody, the story of melody, pitch, and other hard-to-study verbal traits, is suddenly hot.
English has 11 words that everyone knows while the Bolivian Amazonian language Tsimane' only has three.