Translators Who Should be Ashamed of Themselves

Article from the Guardian Unlimited: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/09/jules_verne_deserves_a_better.html

I’d always liked reading Jules Verne and I’ve read most of his novels; but it wasn’t until recently that I really understood I hadn’t been reading Jules Verne at all.

I’ll explain what I mean. Verne has been globally popular since the 19th century, and all his titles have been translated into English, most of them soon after their initial publication. But almost all of them were translated so badly, so mutilated that “translation” is something of a misnomer.

Then he gives some well-known examples of how previous translators butchered Verne’s work, going on to say:

But when I checked the 1877 translation against the original my heart sank. It was garbage. On almost every page the English translator, whoever he, or she, was (their name is not recorded), collapsed Verne’s actual dialogue into a condensed summary, missed out sentences or whole paragraphs. She or he messed up the technical aspects of the book. She or he was evidently much more anti-Semitic than Verne, and tended to translate what were in the original fairly neutral phrases such as “…said Isaac Hakkabut” with idioms such as “…said the repulsive old Jew.” And at one point in the novel she or he simply omitted an entire chapter (number 30) – quite a long one, too – presumably because she or he wasn’t interested in, or couldn’t be bothered to, turn it into English.

Holy cow! I can’t imagine trying to pull a stunt like that.

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