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Nabokov has translated some of his Russian novels into English. And then there are also those writers who wrote great books in a forgein language from the start e.g. Joseph Conrad, but also various others. By the way, that is what makes Beckett even more interesting ... he chose to write in French although he could have written in English). Beckett is also a good example of someone who translated (his own works) very 'freely' (he changed a lot while 'translating' from Franch into English).
I am sure there are many many more writer especially nowadays who are not native speakers of English but write in English nevertheless (I am thinking of Indian authors for example). And all through the Middle Ages everyone was writing in a language (Latin) which was not their mother tongue ...
Regarding 'Should bilingual authors translate their works themselves':
Vi is right. Traslation is a very dreary job and a great author should probably not spend too much time on traslating (but who is to tell writers what they should do!?). After all, even a multi-lingual translator couldn't do all the traslations needed.
I am a bit suspicious about Vi's statement that 'the author knows what he wants to say'. Many authors (artists in general) do not seem to have a very clear notion that they 'want to say' something. They know how they want the text to be, but a text is (at least in literature) not simply a means of communicating a 'message' but more an end in itself (hm ... this is getting very postmodern/deconstructivist ...). Consequently, if an author is as good an artist in several languages he/she could check whether the translation 'sounds right'.
Interestingly, many authors are not as critical with their translators as some readers are and this does not always come from the author's ignorance of the language of the translation. I think, authors know - being creators themselves - that you can't expect others to recreate your work exactly as you did write it. A translator needs the freedom to alter the material. Knowing that the quality of a text does not depend on one single detail, the authors seem often very relaxed about translations. You have to trust the translator - which does not mean that she/he can't blow it ...
Regarding the interesting paper Vi has suggested above (one of yours Vi?) ...
Anke writes in it: "But as there is no similar polysemy of the word 'Soul' or the word 'Seele' in German an adequate translation probably remains an unsolvable problem."
This reminds me of a passage in Shakespeare's 'Julius Ceasar' (Act One Scene One) where the 'Second Commoner' is asked what his trade is. He says: "a mender of bad soles" (i.e. a cobbler) which is ambigous of course in the sense of 'sole'/'soul'. Now, this is also impossible to translate into German for the reason stated above, right?
Well Schlegel/Tieck have found a solution for it (it is so common now to critizise them for leaving out all the sexual allusions so it is time to give them some credit). They translated 'Ich bin ein Verbesserer schlechten Wandels'. So they were able to keep the ambiguity (at the price of the passage sounding a bit 'forced').
Has anyone read the German translation, and if so, what did you think of it?
I have, and there are quite a few things in it that make me feel the translator did not live up to his name. Especially annoying were the obvious inaccuracies - like making the roadster "quietschgrün" where it is clearly described as being red, green and blue - and the omissions and additions in numerous sentences. I was wondering whether the translator should be charged with a fiction infraction.
re: yooda on translating names (a while ago)
the German translator has chosen to change the name of the German LiteraTec Bight to Beicht, completely missing the point of the pun. He - or they or it, I have a feeling that it could well be a group effort or an edited machine translation in parts - need only have checked the word to realise he should have used Bucht, thus changing "German Bight" into "deutsche(r) Bucht", which is the term used in German shipping and weather reports
Owing to the fact that people seem to think this is a poor translation, and further due to the fact that I am an impoverished student ;-), would anyone with a copy be willing to give me a list of some of the translated names? I am working on a postgraduate dissertation about the translation of proper names (ie characters) in fiction, and having only recently come across Fforde's books, they struck me as perfect subject matter.
Of course, if this is too much trouble I won't mind buying a copy and leafing through for the translations; but if anyone could help I'd be most grateful!