Few people realize how many books are now translated by more than one translator (often this is not made clear on the credits), nor how quickly translators are expected to work. But the success of translation very largely depends on the levels of complexity in the original text. It might be argued that the literary world is merely following the cinema with its international distribution circuits. But books are not films. While most films can survive subtitling or dubbing, the success of translation very largely depends on the levels of complexity in the original text. Above all there is a problem with a kind of writing that is, as it were, inward turning, about the language itself, about what it means to live under the spell of this or that vernacular. Of course one can translate Joyce’s Ulysses, but one loses the book’s reveling in its own linguistic medium, its tireless exploration of the possibilities of English. The same is true of a lot of the experimental writing of the 1960s and 1970s.
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