The Beauty of Literary Translation

The third book in the "Another" series by Japanese author, Yukito Ayatsuji. We just received our advanced copies of the English translation we provided for Yen Press. The book is available for pre-order in hardcover via Amazon and other book retailers. 

 

It's no secret. We love languages.

The beauty and art of the script.

The sound of the words spoken or sung.

The complexities of the meanings and metaphors in different cultures.

Our work is particularly rewarding when we are able to contribute translation for creative projects, such as marketing translation and literary translation. It’s a fascinating exercise, moving a creative person's work (their meaning, thier vision, thier dream) from one language and culture into another, because it goes beyond translation.

Metaphor, idioms, slang and hidden meaning pervade creative works and most times there is no cultural equivalent for them in the new language.

In Spanish there is saying a saying, “Salir en un ojo de la cara.”

It literally means, “To take an eye from my face.” Not only does it sound like something horrible from a book you probably wouldn’t want to read, but the translation is also incorrect. What it actually means is, “That is really expensive.”

However using that translation, while correct, would lose the spice and flow the original author wanted in her writing. A good literary translator that is fluent in both English and Spanish cultures would replace the phrase with something like, “That costs an arm and a leg.”

Literary translation is so challenging because the translator is so often tasked with finding more than the right meaning, but the right metaphor. The right voice. The right mental image that conveys the author’s creativity in a culturally relevant way for this new audience.

One of the greatest examples of the importance of literary translation is that of the story of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Originally written in Spanish, one of the best lines from the book is:

“Demasiada cordura puede ser la peor de las locuras, ver la vida como es y no como debería de ser.”

Had lines like this one from Don Quixote been given to someone who was simply bilingual we might not know the man from La Mancha. A straightforward translation of the line above would follow something like:

“Too much good sense can be the worst of follies, to see life how it is and not how it should be.”

Instead, a literary translator gave us this:

“Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

The difference, makes all the difference.

Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your literary translation or other multilingual creative project. Call 831-655-9588 or email info@translationbydesign.com