A literary translator’s work is never done, with new classic literature translations appearing every week. Literary translators are often found behind the scenes, working to translate stories for a demanding audience, or for the pleasure of the challenge. Here are four new incredible literature translations of books you likely grew up reading:
Original language: English
Latest translation: Welsh
The Deerstalkers of Welshpool, a Welsh Sherlock Holmes society, recently translated one of the super sleuth’s short stories, The Speckled Band, into Welsh: Y Cylch Brith. It cost £1,400 to translate and publish the book, with translator Eurwyn Pierce Jones working for up to 5 months on the text and producing 5 drafts before the first 100 books were printed in August 2013.
Deerstalkers founder Roy Upton-Holder hopes the books will sell quickly, even though most of those who have ordered a copy cannot even speak Welsh. “The president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London has asked for a copy as have members of societies in the United States and Northern Ireland,” said Mr Upton-Holder. “They’re collectors. It doesn’t matter that they can’t read the book in Welsh. I collect the books too and I have copies in Polish, Spanish and Danish.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories have now been translated into 99 languages.
Original language: English
Latest translation: Yiddish
More than more 1 million Yiddish speakers are accustomed to reading in some other language, primarily Hebrew, English, Russian, or French. However, retired computer programmer Barry Goldstein has translated all 95,022 words of The Lord of the Rings prequel for readers, a process he found “surprisingly relaxing”.
“After years of obsessing about complicated computer programs, I found reproducing the Trolls” grobe diburim, or rhyming poems, to be challenging enough, but much less stressful than wrestling with a recalcitrant computer, he explained. “It drew me right in.”
The challenge when translating literature is always in the details. Goldstein was forced to admit defeat when Bilbo Baggins plays with the meaning of his name in a long discussion with the dragon Smaug. “There’s no way to do it, there’s just no way to translate it,” Goldstein said. “So, I put in a footnote and said, “This is a pun and I give up.”
Although only a little more than 130 copies of Goldstein’s translations have sold since December, he says the sales are still double his original two-figure estimate.
Original language: French
Latest translation: Broad Scots
One of Tintin’s adventures, The Derk Isle, takes him not only to Scotland but has also been translated into Scots for the first time. Dr Susan Rennie, a lecturer at Glasgow University, translated the book from its original French version and described the process as a challenge. “Any translation into Scots faces a number of challenges. First of all, you have to decide which form of Scots you’re going to use because there is no standard form of the language… and also decide on your spelling system.”
Tintin’s adventures have been translated into over 70 languages.
Original language: Dutch
Latest translation: English
Although her stories have appeared in English for a number of years, as she approaches her 60th birthday, Miffy’s original English translations by Olive Jones are due to be updated by Poet Tony Mitton. Publishers Simon & Schuster are hoping that by updating words like “father” to the less formal “daddy” will help the lovable rabbit continue to take Britain by storm.
Miffy was originally written by Dutch artist Dick Bruna for his son while they were on holiday. In Holland, she is called Nijntje (“little rabbit”) and it was translator Olive Jones who gave her the name Miffy. Since then, Miffy has been the subject of more than 30 books which have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Today Translations is a London-based translation agency who can translate stories of any length into over 200 languages. We have talented linguists around the world who can work quickly to help tell your story. To learn more, get a free quote online or contact us on [email protected].