In conversations with a couple of different writerly folk about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the issue of translation has come up. Mostly from people who didn’t like the book, wondering whether it’s a better read in the original language.
My personal dislikes about that book go beyond anything a bad translation could achieve, but it’s still an interesting question.
And a part of questioning how we relate to a story that clearly comes from a culture that, while very similar to our own, is not our own. This is different to, say, reading something translated from Japanese, as Japan is different to a much greater degree than northern European countries are to the country I live in.
I was still pondering this when I picked up two novels – one originally in Swedish and the other Danish – at the library.
The novel translated from Danish was unfortunately not a great translation. Particularly the rendering of dialogue felt ‘foreign’, as though maybe the translator had gone a bit too literal to the Danish.
That’s always the tough thing with translations. An obviously bad translation can really ruin your enjoyment of the book, but with a good translation, you are always left wondering how much of what you love or hate about the text is the author’s work or the translator’s.