Monday, May 12, 2003

More on Translations

Hi Neil!
Regarding translations, you wrote:
"The only edition of American Gods that I've not heard more or less
universal dissatisfaction with (at least, from anyone who's read it or
read both and mentioned it to me) was the Spanish translation, which I've
mentioned to NORMA."
I'm puzzled -does this mean the Spanish translation is generally well
considered? I ask, because it's pretty bad (I admit I've not read it
completely, but I've read the original and browsed the translation at
different points, as I always do with Spanish editions coz I'm not only a
fan but a translator myself), and people generally dislike it.
Usually there's so much of your work that gets lost in Spanish
translations, but American Gods seems to be the worst case (though it's true
it's a difficult one to translate) -I was not very satisfied with
Coraline either, but that might be just because I tried to convince the
publishers to give me the job and they blatantly ignored me, so I'm not 100%
objective here ;) (incidentally, I also tried to become interpreter for
you when you came to Barcelona, but was not possible *grumble* Had to
be content with just attending) :D

(And yay! to the people from the board too, it's true you got a nice
fuzzy group of fans there :))


oops. I took that stray *not* out and made a bit more sense of it. What I meant was that the Spanish translation of American Gods is the only one that everyone Spanish who spoke to me about it grumbled about (including all the journalists who came out to do interviews in Barcelona).

While a followup on the French Translation thing... (which almost makes me wish that this journal had a comments board, so you could talk amongst yourselves. Almost, but not quite, as the last thing I need is something else that has to be read):


To answer your french translator Patrick Marcel, I think that the
french translation of American Gods doesn�t work well because its french
isn�t always understandable (Mr Marcel, whose translations I like, can
find the first chapter of American Gods in french on the Diable Vauvert
website) and because its understanding of the original text is sometimes,
well, say, imperfect. I won�t make a list of the various things that
don�t work in the translation � it would be long and boring -, but I felt
really happy, reading it, not to have read you in french first, for I
probably would have thought American Gods was a fine story badly

I understand that translating is a very difficult thing (and have also
used to collect Rilke�s Duino�s Elegies translations, which made me
grin reading your blog this morning). I�d just like to be able to tell my
friends who can�t read you in english that they�ll love American Gods
if they read the book in french, but the fact is I�m not sure they will,
and so I end up telling them to either learn english or buy Neverwhere,
Good Omens or Sandman � Dream Hunters, which have good translations in

Sorry if I offended Mr Marcel, and I�m happy to learn that American
Gods has been nominated for french awards. Your book is excellent, and,
well, maybe I�m just being sort of a fundamentalist on the matter of
translations ? I�m going to try and make some friends read American Gods in
french, and will write you again to tell you if eventually I was wrong
about the translation. Honest, I won�t tell them I don�t like it
*before* !



PS : thank you for your answer about the french interviews. I�ll be
patient !

There... and I think that's the last word on translations. At least for now. Right. Back to work.