Found in Translation

Translators are often invisible heroes.

Their influence on the texts we read is often unnoticed and little appreciated.

But a translator's personality, and their relationship with the author, inevitably leave a mark on the final result, even if we can't always feel it.

So, do some authors work with some translators better than others?

At the Slovo literary festival earlier this month, we met Hugh Aplin and Arch Tait, who are both translators of Russian literature into English.

Hugh Aplin is renowned for His translations of 19th and early 20th-Century Classics, like Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground  Or Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita .
But he says that the satirical writer Nikolai Gogol is closest to his temperament.
"I think it's a humour thing as far as he's concerned. And certainly I have been asked whether I would translate Dead Souls, because again somebody else thinks that my voice would perhaps fit.

"The problem there is, although I don't generally mind retranslating works, there is a very very good translation of Dead Souls, which is only about six or seven years old.
"So I'm rather loath to be compared with such good translation so soon after it was produced."

Arch Tait, the leading translator of contemporary Russian fiction and non-fiction, spoke of his emotional kinship with two bestselling authors.

"I think My All-Time favorite HAS to BE Lyudmila Ulitskaya. I Just Love the Tone That She HAS. I'm A lapsed Presbyterian, somewhere in My Past and Distant She HAS this strong Moral Voice That Comes always through.

Somebody said that the main character in all her novels is actually the narrator, or the implied narrator. And I don't have a problem with that, I love it, I think it's very nice. I loved translating 'Daniel Stein, Interpreter', which I hope is going to be a great success in the United States and in this country.

"And I'm looking forward, I hope in the future, to carry on translating her."

 " I Would Have to Have liked Victor Pelevin translated. I Love His Sense of humor, but hasn't That Happened. Nevertheless, he's been Very Successful in the West and deservedly so. GOT He's A Very Wicked Sense of humor, and I think he's a real sparkler. "

Does translating fiction from earlier periods in Russian history differ from translating contemporary works? And how do translators keep up with the rapidly changing Russian language?

More here.


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