The Terrors of Translation by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

The Terrors of Translation

 

A few years ago I was appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival with Ivan Klima. As it happened I had recently received copies of the Czech edition of one of my Roman novels. So I gave him one - a small matter of courtesy, also an opportunity to get rid of a copy. 'Your novel,' he asked, the next time I met him - 'is it written in some sort of slang?' 'Not at all,' I said. 'Then I'm sorry,' he rejoined , 'but it's very bad Czech.'

Perhaps it is. He should know. I certainly don't. Authors generally have to take the quality of translations of their books on trust . Few of us can claim to be a master of many tongues like Anthony Burgess. For my part I can read Italian – but newspapers rather

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