Friday, October 10, 2014

So shall we pass judgement my liege on this novel's torturer?

"Bad translations can ruin a book. It's a sad fact of life. As someone who has dealt with translations myself, I know how hard it must be to do a book justice - managing to maintain both tone and style, while making sure the writing fits the new language and its many nuances. Translating is tough stuff, but it still stings a little when a good book is poorly translated, and suffers at the hands of its new audience as a result."

So what got me aggravated with this series? 

"It's true that no translation will perfectly capture the original and some are downright travesties, but you got to play with the hand you're dealt. If a poor translation inspires you to learn the original language, that certainly doesn't hurt you any, but it is a shame if a low-quality translation turns away those who would otherwise enjoy a given work. So it goes."

I mean it MAY not even be low quality. I by no means want to insult this particular translator. He is obviously a fan of German Medieval - or whatever he thinks it is - language and he goes through quite some pains reproducing it in the books at hand. It makes at times a very awkward and difficult read, adding elements which aren't in the originals - no wonder some German readers call the works a pain in the ... to read, wordy and tedious. But this is by no means true in the English version - quite contrary it's a fluent read and there is no artificial archaic language dragged in by head and shoulders! Easy going, sometimes bantering dialogues turn into stilted prose that makes you want to puke and I am sure the characters are more than slightly embarrassed by what they have to let loose suddenly. Besides, the added elements get kind of weird and at times hysterically humorous where no humor is intended by the author.

Let me give you some examples.

No I haven't grown up at court but by now I am convinced that a lot of the occupants have been rather slow witted. There can't be another reason for using all this baby-language I have last heard in nursery school. Or why does a pony - of which the German translation is quite simple Pony as well - become a horsey?! A daughter is not translated as such but becomes a girly, a boy becomes in German the baby-form of little boy. There are endless accounts of that and in all honesty I got and get quite p...ed after a while. Maybe he - the translator - just had kids or Grandkids during this job?! Guess that's why all characters refer to chits all of a sudden. The German Court language obviously also made it necessary to add to the original: so does a very down to earth, matter of fact exchange between the teenaged king and his same age cousin of "watch it!" "Don't worry!" become something like "Beware of your actions, prince!" and the cousin now answers "So do not worry my king!". I bet they both turned first green and than collapsed bursting with laughter. In German of course.
With all this elaborate phrasing one wonders how at the same time unbelievable mistakes as the following can occur: the medieval toilet - garderobe - is basically not translated, here he simple used another word for the German word of the same spelling, thus another character does not puke down the toilet but throws up in a cabinet. Poor guy. And it wasn't even in his quarters but those of his king.
Lucky he wasn't hanged, drawn and quartered. The translator would have been.

Let me tell you - it's definitely not a fluid read for me either. Alas not because I simply don't get IN the story as most readers in German forums complain, hindered by the flourish language, but because every other sentence makes me pause and think back on the original. By now I even have it next to me to flip through to the same place and confirm that the author did originally indeed not mean what I just read. 

Sometimes I really want to get on my mountain horsey and flee this foreign historical site of anguish.

Oh, there was hope in the beginning. I prayed that after the first trilogy the translator would have tasted enough medieval blood that he decided to write himself and never return to his former domain.
He appears to have a lifelong contract to this author's novels.
And so the pain continues.
Alas I'm afraid after that I will never be able to write anything in German again.