Profile Picture

What's the worst literary translation you've ever seen?

4 years ago
I was just reading this fascinating article in The New Yorker about Russian translations of The Catcher In The Rye. (Here's the article in Russian, by the way: )

The author makes a lot of interesting points about how the motives of a particular translator, or translation industry, can impact the way the readership perceives the work.

In the case of The Catcher In The Rye, the most popular translation was a Soviet-era version that distorted a lot of things, but was well-received. A more modern version, intended to be more loyal to the source material, was panned, and is no longer in print.

I think about this sort of thing a lot when I'm reading bilingual editions of Spanish books. For example, I've got a collection of poetry by Pablo Neruda, with Spanish on one page and English on the next. In many cases, I disagree with the translator's choices. Then again, if I understood the reasons for those choices, I might feel differently.