I wonder how they translated…

Generally speaking, I read books in the language in which they were written. Which means I read English books in English and Hebrew books in Hebrew. When it comes to books in other languages, such as La Vie Devant Soi, Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne or Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí I usually I have a choice of reading them in English or in Hebrew.

People ask me, which language do you prefer to read in?
Well, I read Hebrew faster than I do English. In Hebrew, I can take in a whole page at a time. This comes in handy, but it's no fun.

Thing is, I can rarely read without thinking of a possible translation.
Reading a Hebrew translation of an English book is exhausting, because I'm constantly back-translating in my mind, trying to figure out what the original was.

On the other hand, when reading a Hebrew book in the original, and knowing it's been translated into English, I can't help thinking, "Hmm… I wonder what the translator made of this… and if he/she got this word right… and how on earth did he find an equivalent for this idiom, which surely doesn't appear in Neri Sevenier's book?..."

I'd been toying with the idea of buying a copy of a translated novel or two, so I could indulge my curiosity. Preferably second-hand. But never got around to it.

So imagine my joy when my exercise-class pal S., recently retired after 18 years of work at Steimatzky's, offered me a load of books! I declined the Dan Browns (in English, but would have declined them in any language), but pounced on the English versions of Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness, translated by Nicholas de Lange; and of David Grossman's Someone to Run With, translated by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz.

What a treasure! Two novels that I thoroughly enjoyed. Now all I have to do is find time to read each book in both languages simultaneously, and all(???) my questions and wonderings will be(???) answered….


Carmit said...

I started reading Dan Brown in Hebrew and the translation was so poor that I gave up after twenty pages and bought the English version. It wasn't so bad, but certainly didn't leave a lasting impression.

Nina Rimon Davis said...

Here are my impressions of The Da Vinci Code, from March 2004:
"Interesting theories and page-turner plot, ruined by poor writing style, poor editing (or no editing), and main characters with no personality at all."
- Which is why I never read another Dan Brown, though I have a few at home. (So I can always change my mind.)

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