Tuesday, 30 November 2010

found in translation

I am not a literary translator, although I would rather like to be - I would especially like to have been the translator of Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood, anyone?  Time to re-read I think.  My Japanese teacher told me many years ago when I was studying in Japan, at a time before Murakami had really begun to be published and known in Japan, and certainly before he was translated, that Murakami had been a college friend of his and that they had argued about the ending of the Beatles song "Norwegian Wood", the two of them reaching different conclusions.  (My teacher was right in my opinion and Murakami was wrong, so the book was inspired by a mistake, not a lot of people know that).  Some writers would have remained undiscovered by me if they had not been translated, such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon, as I cannot read Spanish - and translated works can be real money-spinners for publishers, though publishers do not always see it that way.  My knowledge of Turkish literature is just about zero - the only Turkish writer I have really heard of is Orhan Pamuk, and only then because he has been translated into English.  The journalist and translator from Turkish Maureen Freely writes this about her translation of Turkish, and how a translator, at least in Turkey, is part of the politics as well as part of the literature.  Orhan Pamuk and other Turkish writers have been subjected to hate campaigns for acknowledging the Armenian genocide, and writers have been prosecuted under the infamous law on "Turkishness".  The Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink was murdered.  As was the Japanese translator of  The Satanic Verses (a truly dreadful book btw for anyone who wants to remember what all the fuss was about).  Translation is political.  But a translator shadows the writer and lives in the world of that book, and not only in Turkey and other countries where the medieval obscurantism of Islamism threatens to rub out culture.

Hat-tip Margaret.


Anonymous said...

Now! Went to Turkey for a holiday in July/August and I bought two books by Pamuk - The Museum of Innocence and My Name is Red.

I have not yet read either but hope to do so over Christmas.
I always buy books when in another country - better and more representative than buying clothes - although if cash is sufficient, I will do both!

Augustus Carp said...

I am grateful that someone took the trouble to translate Cavafy.

I once had a lunch in the City when a serious argument broke out about the relative merits of Scott Moncrieff and Kilmartin as translators of Proust. (I had nothing to contribute on the subject!)

Anonymous said...

Cavafy? See David Hockney's early pictures of life in America.

dreamingspire said...

Have you read Dr Zhivago? (The film disappointed me, but one should expect that, I suppose).
I really mean: have you read Pasternak's poetry linked to the book? Better than the book, I thought. (Wish I had learned Russian.)