Sunday, July 6, 2008

Decir Que?

This week, the back page of the New York Times Book Review is devoted to an article amusingly titled, "Transloosely Literated" written by Henry Alford and prompted me to wonder how much we as readers are truly able to appreciate books originally written in foreign languages. Are we picking up on all the nuances and messages the author intended to convey? How important to the reading experience is understanding the author's intentions? The answers to those complex questions are not going to be answered on this blog, but here are some fun tibits regarding foreign translations of popular novels written by Americans:

  • The Russian title for J. D. Salinger’s classic tale of adolescence translates as “Above the Precipice in the Rye.”
  • A clerk in a Yokohama bookshop once told John Steinbeck's (author of the classic novel, "The Grapes of Wrath") wife that yes, he had a copy of Steinbeck’s “Angry Raisins.”
  • The Brazilian title of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel “Prep” translates as “Pre-surgery Shaving.”
  • In the Brazilian edition of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s novel “The Deep End of the Ocean,” the passage “Beth truly wanted to be mad. A few bricks shy of a load. A few ants short of a picnic” was translated as “Beth felt like an ant who hadn’t been invited to the picnic.”
(p.s. the books pictured above are comical translations of the following classics: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; The Fall of the House of Usher; Watership Down; A Farewell to Arms; Pride & Prejudice; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; The Satanic Verses; The Call of the Wild; The Naked and the Dead)

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