lost in translation

I had read  the book Steppenwolf and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, when I picked up his book Strange News From Another Star.  It was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.  The imagrey was so amazingly beautiful that I began to sob with the realization that if it was this beautiful in translation what was it like in the original?  How much was I missing.  So I put the book down and swore I would never read Hesse again until I learned how to read him in German.  Needless to say I haven’t read him since.

I was trying to explain to someone last night the difficulty in both translation (written word) and interpretation (spoken word).   The person I was speaking to was a native Spanish speaker and I gave him this example; a young woman had a miscarriage and explained that with the miscarriage it had looked as if  “se me habia salido todo mole”.  The man grimaced and I explained, see you knew immediately what that image looked like you can almost feel it can’t you?  How would you in a literature piece translate “mole”?  Unless you really know mole and its consistency, its texture, its vibrant color, unless mole is commonly familiar to you, you can’t translate that without losing something in the translation.

One thought on “lost in translation

  1. A couple nights ago I finished Carlos Fuentes’ This I Believe. I bought it in Asia so had to read it in English which was kinda annoying. In one of the chapters he praises Chilean women and their “eyes like grapes.”

    Somehow ‘eyes like grapes’ is incredibly unpoetic while ojas como uvas is perfect … perfect poetry and a perfect description of Chilean eyes.

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