Revenge of the Translator

If you, like me, translate for a living, you might, like me, have been waiting to get your hands on this for quite some time.

I ordered it ages ago, and when it finally arrived, I was about to take two weeks off work and the last thing I wanted to read about was well, work.

But I got sucked in. It was the translators’ notes that did it.


Yes, I wanted to shake this narrator-translator thoroughly, and edit his notes down to size, but I could imagine where they were coming from.

After all, authors and translators can end up pulling the same text in different directions, like a tug-of-war, and it’s easy to see how the relationship could take a dramatic turn. As indeed, in this case, it does. A little further on, not for the first time, it was the author I wanted to shake. Especially when I got to the postscript.


I proceeded, bristling. Only to realise that all was not what it seemed, not at all, in fact. Identities were far from clear. Who was writing (about) whom? Did anyone know where this text was going? At a certain point, the roles flip:


This feels like a very male book, so hats off to the wonderful woman who wrestled it into English. I would certainly have felt like taking a red pen to it myself, and turning it into something else. Which the narrator seems to feel is very much allowed. If not essential. If not unavoidable. Until someone else starts doing the same to his writing…


It all gets curiouser and curiouser, and to share any more would be to spoil the story.

I didn’t like all of this book, let alone the characters, but it certainly kept me reading. I loved the fact that I didn’t quite know where it was going, and nor did anyone in it – whatever “in it” means.

If you do this sort of thing for a living, it’s worth a look. If you don’t, it’s also worth a look, to get a taste of the tensions that translation and any kind of text work can draw you into. So get yourself a copy – and take a red pen to it, if you dare…

Translator, editor, writer, reader

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Posted in books, language, translation
2 comments on “Revenge of the Translator
  1. lolarusa says:

    OMG I have to read this.

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