Book Reviews, Equivalence & Untranslatables


  1. NY Times Book Review by Eric Schlosser April 20 2015

Asne Seierstad’s ‘One of Us,’ About Rampage in Norway translated by Sarah Death

“The flaws in “One of Us” are relatively minor. Seierstad’s prose is vivid and clear, but this translation does not always serve her well. There’s an excess of exclamation points and the occasional odd phrasing: “He . . . sauntered across the forecourt.” Some of the bomb-making details are too instructive; there’s no need to provide the brand name of a mixing tool that Breivik found essential for the lethal task. And the author’s brief cameo in the story momentarily breaks the narrative spell and seems to belong in the epilogue explaining her use of sources.”

This review has a combination of mixed feelings. For the most part, they describe the book as well written making the prose “vivid and clear”, however, the target text is explained as “not always serve[ing]” the author (source text) well. It is evident that there were some linguistic equivalence errors – syntax i.e. “phrasing”.

2.  London Times Book Review by August Kleinzahler January 2016

The Silver Spoon written by Kansuke Naka & translated by Hiroaki Sato

“The act of making a poem – and it is a made thing, like an Assyrian brooch or Bolognese sauce (thus the word makar for ‘poet’ in old Scots) – requires a large set of decisions, at least dozens, more likely hundreds, even in the shortest of poems. The translation of a poem from one language to another requires a large and not dissimilar range of decisions or, slender as the distinction may be, choices, in order to deliver the poem, still breathing, into a different language, culture and often era. There is a large and fascinating literature about the act and art of translation, often described metaphorically, as by Christopher Middleton: ‘The translator has to imagine his way on the tentacles of language through to the bedrock sea bottom of the imagination of his author.’ Some translators, like Middleton, are poets, most are not, but the capabilities needed to render a first-rate translation overlap with those required in the making of the original. A translator’s decisions involve overall tone, diction, syntactical arrangement, punctuation, rhythm, lexical intent, assorted phonic elements, organisation (shape, development), formal considerations like syllabic count, lineation and rhyme and other intangibles that rely on poetic intuition or instinct. There’s more than a touch of making one’s way in the dark, no guidebook to hand. A misstep or poor decision can be ruinous. Most translations, like most poems, fail.”

Here Sato is given a lot of positive face from Kleinzahler stating that the translator has a “large set of decisions,” taking away some probable blame. However, Kleinzahler never directly discusses Hiroaki’s translation. It’s either that he did very well and is applauding him or trying to save face for Sato while stating all the difficulties of the translator. The role of the translator is explained almost as an explorer – trying different linguistic/pragmatic ideologies and having no guidebook.

Natural Equivalence in Spanish

  1. el agua – water
  2. zapatos – shoes
  3. la puerta – door
  4. el autobús – bus
  5. adiós – goodbye

Untranslatable in Spanish

  1. echar agua al mar : ” to throw water into the sea” – to mean something is pointless
  2. po : Chilenismo – filler word
  3. empalagar : it’s so sweet, it’s disgusting
  4. duende : the feeling of awe and inspiration had when standing in nature
  5. resol : reflection of sun off a surface
  6. estadounidense : person from the United States

About Tyler Candelora

Tyler Candelora is a first-year student at Bucknell University. He is from Coal Township, PA. He speaks English but is currently learning Spanish, French, and Arabic. Tyler is a comparative humanities and language major.

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