Tuesday 30 July 2013

Lost in Translation

No, no, I am not talking about the movie. I am talking about the linguistic concept. Right now, I am reading Jolie Blon's Bounce by James Lee Burke. it is the very first Burke novel I ever read. No problem here, as you might think. He is a reknown crime writer and it was about time. But here is the thing that is bugging me since I started it: I'm reading it in a French translation. This is the one published by Rivages, a French publisher which I have an enormous respect: they re-popularized the genre in France and they published many American writers who do hardboiled like no other. I prefer their titles to the ones of Gallimard's Série Noire. That said, it struck me, the translation really feels fake, like the Louisiana described is lost in the French vocabulary, the French expressions replacing the American ones, the whole attitude of the novel is weakened like some lukewarm weak tea. I have been sometimes so utterly irritated reading it I wanted to stop.

Of course I won't, as I wouldn't in my right mind stop reading a novel from Burke. Besides, this was a gift from mum, dating back from Christmas or my birthday a long time ago, so long I didn't even know I had this book until I found it on my bookshelves in Chicoutimi back in 2010 (I think). I brought it back here because I wanted to discover a new author. But between the time when I received this present and the time when I opened it, I had started reading a lot of books in their original English language. In fact, I have been for the last five years (at least!) been reading almost exclusively untranslated novels. Unless I do not know the original language of course. I feel sorry for mum, because she knows my tastes in terms of books, she buys them faster than I can read them, she chooses them carefully from reviews she reads in the newspaper and she obviously mainly has access to the translations. But yesterday, starting the first page of Jolie Blon's Bounce, I had this epiphany: so much is lost in a translation.

1 comment:

PJ said...

J'ai lu un chapitre de Catcher in the Rye en français (ça s'appelle L'attrape-coeurs). Mettons que c'est pas génial comme traduction. Le registre populaire est difficile à retransmettre, il devient souvent bizarre (parce que trop français de France). Il se perd non seulement du sens dans la traduction, mais l'atmosphère même.