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Reading translated novels

I would say that all my favourite novels have in fact been translated, and I have never read any of them in their original languages.


The question I wish to pose is, when we read a translated book, are we reading the original author's novel or the translator's novel? The translator is interpreting what she reads and bringing that interpretation to life using her own words. She is, therefore, <em>creating</em> in a sense. Does this act of creation therefore diminish any sense of creation on the author's part? I don't think it matters if the subject matter is the same in both works, since two people can describe the same painting but their words will never be the same. 


Has anyone read books both in their translated and original state? What did you think? Was the original vastly superior or was the experience much the same?

I would very much like to learn French after Japanese so that I could hopefully one day read the works of Proust, Sartre, Apollinaire, Rimbaud and many more in French, but, I think such works are hard enough to read even if French is your native language. 

Apr 19, 2014 12:59 AM
Comments · 7

Okay I have read a few books in both their original language and the translated version. But I must disappoint you, I have only read those books with the objective to learn a language. I have read Katz und Maus a German novel, and although I liked the story as such, I disliked the complicated style of that Gunter Grass guy. So, if your question would be, is that style correctly copied to the Dutch translation. My answer would be, no because that complicated useless constructions, with half a dozen clauses, in every main clause, that crap that only set my teeth on edge, can only be made in German.


Sorry :-)


I did get a 100% score in my literature class though. So, for learning a language and passing the exam, I had made more than enough effort.

June 14, 2014

I think they are completely different. I don't think translation diminish any sense of creation on the author's part, but it can be difficult to have the same nuance as the original one.

I've never compared a translated book and its original one, but I've compared two translated books which were translated from a same book by different translators. Their nuance were different. I think translated books and original books differ according to a translator's sensibility or readers' cultural background and knowledge such as Japanese people never have an image of a green color as jealousy like American people do.


We have many words for " I " and they give us a different image so I always wonder how it can be translated into English.
You can see many Japanese words for " I " in the following dictionary.

April 19, 2014

I've always got the same question. Spanish is my first language and I really like classic literature, books such as Price and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Wuthering Heights, my personal favourite. When I was six I read The Canterville Ghost and last year (I'm fourteen) I re-read it in English. I think it's pretty much the same, at least the metaphores and the way to describe things, but you just can't compare them. Same happened to me with Wuthering Heights or some amateur texts.


The original is always going to be more expressive in some way I can't explain, but it doesn't mean that the translation lost the spirit of the book or was considerably worse. By the way, I'm also looking forward to learn French, their culture is amazing and getting to learn the language seems to be a great adventure.

April 19, 2014



 You might consider  the question from the reverse position for a Native English Speakers.


  One of the great novels of all time,


   <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Don-Quixote-Miguel-Cervantes/dp/0060934344/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402661747&sr=1-1&keywords=don+quixote">http://www.amazon.com/Don-Quixote-Miguel-Cervantes/dp/0060934344/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402661747&sr=1-1&keywords=don+quixote</a>;


   by  Spanish Author Cervantes,  is said to contain  many forms of subtle humor,  involving word play.

This humor shows up in the Spanish Language, but much of the humor is lost in the translation to English.  So I think it is reasonable to say that in some translation,  one reads something like a

paraphrase  of the original writing.  Some words are difficult to translate in their original form.


   Some translations read smoothly, and some   seem like rough translations.


  So you must have some caution when you read a translation.





June 13, 2014

In mu opinion translation can be effective and convey the meaning of the original author's novel in some cases, such as sci-fi and crime novels.

On the contrary,vI think that some books can't just be translated, because any translation will never be equal to the original text. For instance, I have started to read Jack Kerouac's "On the road" in English after reading some extracts in Italian and the effect is completely different: the musicality and the spontaneity of Kerouac's original work are unique.

This is even more evident in poetry, which is the most personal and deep expression of the author's thoughts. I often wondered how a translator could manage to translate the "Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri in a convincing way: I had the opportunity to read the original version and I believe that no translator will be able to reproduce the perfect figures of speech and the deep underlying meaning of  each word of the Italian text.

June 13, 2014
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