Lost in Translation


It’s tough enough writing a book. But what happens when that book is translated into an entirely different language?
PANELLISTS: Thomas Clegg, Angel Luis Sucasas Fernandez, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Mathieu Saintout, Cyril Sims, Michael Marshall SmithWorld Fantasy Convention, Brighton 2013

I came into this panel about half way through, having left the Broads with Swords one, and felt I should have come to this one in the first place. Parts of the discussion focused on the challenges of getting territory rights, which wasn’t especially fascinating, but the points they made about writing were great. To whit:

  • Ideas are non-verbal, then trapped in words. It’s already been done once, so the translation is really just doing it again with a slight Chinese Whispers effect. To get good translation, the key is to understand the ideas behind the words and trap it again, rather than doggedly translate the original words.
  • Following on from that, most problems come in when the translator hasn’t been able to clearly visualize what’s happening on the page.
  • Fantasy has a major challenge with made-up words, which almost always have connotations in their original language. How do you translate those connotations into a different culture? The translator needs to have a sense of playfulness and deep cultural understanding to tackle this.

I know that’s a very short post, but I promise to make it up to you with the next one, which was my favourite panel of the whole convention.


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