Which Translators do you Trust?

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This is not a question as to how well a particular translator carries out his/her craft, but their taste as to what they do translate. I guess this question assumes they are allowed a taste and translate fictions they like in the first place. I don't know how the process works.

I like Michael Hoffmann quite a bit - he has translated several works by Joseph Roth, and looking at the list of authors he has translated there are one or two there I hadn't heard of before and would love to find and read (Ersnt Junger, Irmgard Keun).

Also Sophie Wilkins.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 6 September 2009 11:11 (ten years ago) link

Mike Mitchell's translations of Meyrink, among others, for Dedalus, read like a dream - as they should.

Soukesian, Sunday, 6 September 2009 19:04 (ten years ago) link

Michael Hoffmann is great--never been disappointed by his taste.

Anthe Bell's another good guide: she translates from French and German, and has done Stefan Zweig and a number of others for Pushkin Press, as well as being co-responsible for bringing the Asterix comics into English.

George Steiner for your Hungarians, Tiina Nunnally for your Scandinavians.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Monday, 7 September 2009 00:26 (ten years ago) link

D'you mean Szirtes?

alimosina, Monday, 7 September 2009 02:32 (ten years ago) link

Szirtes translation of Krudy's "Adventures of Sindbad" is an all-time favorite.

Soukesian, Monday, 7 September 2009 10:41 (ten years ago) link

Yes, Szirtes, sorry! Had been reading an article by Steiner and got confused.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Monday, 7 September 2009 23:56 (ten years ago) link

I've been googling and trying to acquaint myself with Hungarian fiction for the last half hour.

Thanks all!

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 21:17 (ten years ago) link

xyzzzz__, try Iván Mándy's short stories in On The Balcony.

alimosina, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 17:06 (ten years ago) link

Antal Szerb as well. At least Journey by Moonlight (and I'm assured the translation is good as well). The other stuff I'm not so keen on, although I enjoyed Oliver VII. Other people would definitely rep for his other stuff, mind.

GamalielRatsey, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 18:21 (ten years ago) link

one month passes...

Journey by Moonlight is excellent.

A Hungarian not mentioned: Sandor Marai. Just paid a visit to my local library and saw Szirtes' translation of Esther's Inheritance so I am having a go in between Proust(s).

Lydia Davis might become another guide of mine -- her translation of The Way By Swann's is one of those books for life, and I see she has translated many other French authors (esp interested in looking at the Blanchot translation). Trying to find a web source that lists all of her translation but no luck so far.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 17 October 2009 14:09 (ten years ago) link

Marai's 'The Rebels' is really good, too: a bunch of Hungarian teenagers get up to increasingly odd shenanigans while their fathers are off fighting WW1.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Sunday, 18 October 2009 01:42 (ten years ago) link

I don't know, but I found some of the ideas in this interview (with one of my old intro. to English Lit. teachers) somewhat interesting:


_Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 02:47 (ten years ago) link

Thanks for linking to that. A bit depressing, really.

My journey into translated works has centred on early 20th century European fic so its been easier to get hold of several authors from certain countries. I'd say I'm fairly satisfied at the amount of fiction that is translated from these, insofar as it allows me to grasp certain historical-political contexts from those periods - it can give me a picture, or it can get me to a point of interrogation...

There is space here for the role of foreign films. But again there is a whole separate issue as to what films are selected to make it into screens overseas (I'd venture that way more foreign horror films make it whereas almost no horror lit from other countries is ever translated?)

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 10:50 (ten years ago) link

Try these guys for foreign weird/horror fiction:


Soukesian, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 11:41 (ten years ago) link

Margaret Jull Costa's involvement is enough to get me to look a book, at least: I have especially enjoyed reading her Pessoa, Atxaga (oh man I love Bernardo Atxaga), Gaite, Saramago; a number of bits and bobs I've picked up over the years largely due to her involvement and have liked very much: "The Migrant Painter of Birds" by Lydia Jorge, "The Yellow Rain" by Llamzares (sp?)

That I can't be arsed with Javier Marias and Perez-Reverte can't be her fault, can it? And not even her involvement has tempted me in the direction of Paolo Coelho. I wonder if I'm missing something?

Talking fo missing something, any tips on where to start with Eca de Queiros much appreciated.

Tim, Thursday, 22 October 2009 12:15 (ten years ago) link

Couldn't get into de Queiros at all. Tried Mario de Sa-Carneiro? Barking mad Portuguese Decadent, friend of Pessoa.

Soukesian, Thursday, 22 October 2009 16:38 (ten years ago) link

i like Richard Pavear and Larissa Volokhonsky, they've translated a large number of russian classics and done a really good job with it.

access flap (omar little), Thursday, 22 October 2009 17:40 (ten years ago) link

Lídia Jorge! I had no idea she was even translated.

Talking fo missing something, any tips on where to start with Eca de Queiros much appreciated.

The old Penguin Classics translation of The Maias is mostly sound, as far as I know - it's an intimidating book (500 page doorstop, the main love affair plot often being interrupted for long descriptions of portuguese social life), but it's the best thing he's ever written, and I got at least two non-portuguese speaking friends to dig it. Pick it up if you like Il Gattopardo. If you want to start off with something lighter though, there's Cousin Basilio (also hueg, but a lot more plot driven; probably his most overtly Flaubert/Zola influenced work), or The City & The Mountains, which is reasonably short and, if you get past the reactionary "city bad country good" message of the book, has a lot of fun moments and a nice lyrical touch.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 22 October 2009 20:08 (ten years ago) link

Atxaga (oh man I love Bernardo Atxaga),

I'd forgotten about him! I've read two books by him and they were great. Must find more!

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Thursday, 22 October 2009 22:10 (ten years ago) link

five months pass...

Robert Chandler is also someone who I think is doing good work:


xyzzzz__, Saturday, 27 March 2010 10:35 (ten years ago) link

four years pass...

Michael Hamburger looks like a guide to much German poetry.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 24 April 2014 12:50 (five years ago) link

Yes, I've been enjoying his Holderlin recently.

woof, Thursday, 24 April 2014 12:55 (five years ago) link

Almost certainly get that Goethe. Holderlin looks good too.

Been scanning the Avill Press site, v tasty looking, need to get that Petrarch.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 24 April 2014 13:16 (five years ago) link

first came to Hamburger through his translations of Celan, he really is amazing. He also did Sebald's long poem After Nature, which is masterful imo.

will rep for this as well: http://www.amazon.com/German-Poetry-1910-75-English-Edition/dp/0856351628. long out of print but deserves a repress.

kyenkyen, Thursday, 24 April 2014 14:17 (five years ago) link

Believe he also translated Hans Magnus Enzensberger.

Kilgore Haggard Replica (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 24 April 2014 19:49 (five years ago) link

I have an Enzensberger 'Modern European Poets' vol. on Penguin (poll idea once I score enough of them) tr. by MH.

That German Poetry anthology does look good. Will look at ILL.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 24 April 2014 23:29 (five years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Tim Wilkinson for Hungarians maybe?

Marignalia on Casanova looks really interesting.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 13 May 2014 09:40 (five years ago) link

two months pass...


^putting this story up here for later.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 16 July 2014 12:36 (five years ago) link

Richard Howard

cakelou, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 05:23 (five years ago) link

Ah yes I have his Baudelaire.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:01 (five years ago) link

two months pass...

Realize I sometime subconsciously mix up Michaels Hamburger and Hofmann.

Bobby Ono Bland (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 11 October 2014 17:05 (five years ago) link

Standalone thread on the latter, for yr reference: Michael Hofmann: poet, translator, critic

Bobby Ono Bland (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 11 October 2014 17:07 (five years ago) link

two months pass...

Really enjoyed that, thanks!

.robin., Friday, 9 January 2015 14:17 (five years ago) link

Funnily enough I came across an old bilingual anthology of modern Russian poetry later in the day while I was browsing at Notting Hill book exchange - checked the contents and there was no Shamalov.

Didn't get it but I'm counting the days to get hold of this one. I assume this will have poets from the Perestroika-era and also some Lermontov.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 10 January 2015 11:16 (five years ago) link

Thanks for that link.

Zings of Oblivion (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 10 January 2015 11:39 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

This is a talk on the book.


xyzzzz__, Monday, 16 February 2015 13:15 (five years ago) link

Booked that - quite excited. I rarely go to literary talks or poetry readings.

This is a good piece on Platonov, and it has a further translation of Chevengur. I hope to read the full thing one day.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 19 February 2015 09:26 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

On Sir Thomas Orquart: http://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog/2015/03/12/the-cromartian/#more-5691

xyzzzz__, Friday, 20 March 2015 10:48 (five years ago) link

six months pass...


Richard Zenith Interview: http://www.asymptotejournal.com/interview/an-interview-with-richard-zenith/

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 15 October 2015 15:15 (four years ago) link

No idea how accurate they are, but really enjoyed David Magarshack's trans The Idiot, Ann Goldstein's version of the Neapolitan Novels, Natasha Wimmer's take on 2666, and Norman Thomas Di Giovanni's work with Borges. Borges does seem as close to translator-proof as possible, but NTDG mixes rule.

dow, Thursday, 15 October 2015 18:03 (four years ago) link

His widow-executrix does not agree, on either count.

dow, Thursday, 15 October 2015 18:07 (four years ago) link

Yet another link from Asymptote (its like translator porn) but I love this review. The book is interesting and its written by one of Krasznahorkai's translators, writing about a key-looking piece of the modernist puzzle.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 18 October 2015 20:10 (four years ago) link

five months pass...


So cool to see Hofmann is working on Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Castle Gripsholm and Death Sentence are such fantastic books in their own ways. Real gifts to the world.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 25 March 2016 12:13 (four years ago) link

Was Alexanderplatz even translated into English before?

Woke Up Scully (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 25 March 2016 13:11 (four years ago) link

only know of the the early jolas trans.

no lime tangier, Friday, 25 March 2016 13:12 (four years ago) link

...which is the one i have, complete with photo section from the fassbinder film. dunno if the penguin i see around is a different translation or not.

no lime tangier, Friday, 25 March 2016 13:14 (four years ago) link

...or tv series if you prefer (scored a copy for 15 pounds recently!)

no lime tangier, Friday, 25 March 2016 13:16 (four years ago) link

I vaguely remember seeing that translation but thinking it was cheesy for some reason.

Woke Up Scully (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 25 March 2016 13:17 (four years ago) link

no lime re: TV adap, you are in for a treat!

Was Alexanderplatz even translated into English before?

― Woke Up Scully (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 25 March 2016 Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Oh yes its been in circulation for a long time. Read it about ten years ago. Not Penguin, can't remember it had a red cover.

I would say its the only Ulysses type novel I am interested in revisiting (including Ulysses in the not bothered).

xyzzzz__, Friday, 25 March 2016 16:51 (four years ago) link

I think the Jolas translation is the only one in print; it's nice to have a version by one of Döblin's contemporaries, but I'm glad to hear that it'll have a supplement. I think NYRB is finally coming out with an English collection of Döblin's stories this year, too.

one way street, Friday, 25 March 2016 18:59 (four years ago) link

Yes - really looking forward to that, and there is this too, from their Calligrams series

xyzzzz__, Friday, 25 March 2016 19:14 (four years ago) link


Don't know where else to put it - but this interview with a very cranky blogger - is terrific and there are a good dozen books that I'd love to see translated.

Great on Portuguese from Portugal and Brazil, and also on Guimaraes Rosa's novel - which is one of those I know about and love to see translated.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 26 March 2016 23:26 (four years ago) link

Just finished Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah, which I picked up on a whim - very interesting read, the descriptions of Tanzania 100 years ago felt vivid enough that I got that feeling of being a child again reading a book where you don't know what's going to happen next because you literally don't know what the possibilities are. Something I also get from Amin Maalouf.

Next up is Two Lives, my first William Trevor.

.robin., Sunday, 27 March 2016 04:16 (four years ago) link

William Trevor is great, but I found Two Lives one of his least interesting books, despite all the praise. Go with a volumeof his hort stories, they're brilliant.

like Uber, but for underpants (James Morrison), Sunday, 27 March 2016 10:14 (four years ago) link

this thread is gonna make me buy more books that I'll look at and go "hope I get to that one before I die" about. I'm a Margaret Jull Costa fan, she sure does keep busy. on the other side of the coin, I don't speak German so I'm not sure, but Tobias Shnettler, who translated my book into German, asked such great and intelligent and thorough questions during the process that I would be surprised if he isn't an ace translator

tremendous crime wave and killing wave (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 27 March 2016 12:04 (four years ago) link

Funnily enough I have a Margaret Jull Costa translation ready to go - picked up Juan Jose Saer's The Witness from the library just yesterday.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 27 March 2016 12:06 (four years ago) link

Looked up Tobias Schnettler, and he seems to have translated you, David Cronenberg and Lena Dunham. An odd mix.

like Uber, but for underpants (James Morrison), Sunday, 27 March 2016 22:30 (four years ago) link

William Trevor is great, but I found Two Lives one of his least interesting books, despite all the praise. Go with a volumeof his hort stories, they're brilliant.

― like Uber, but for underpants (James Morrison), Sunday, March 27, 2016 11:14 AM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Thanks! Quite enjoyed Reading Turgenev regardless, but I'll definitely look out for the short stories.

.robin., Monday, 28 March 2016 14:42 (four years ago) link

Looked up Tobias Schnettler, and he seems to have translated you, David Cronenberg and Lena Dunham. An odd mix.

strictly millionaires

(kidding hard, actually, they wanted me to do a reading/q&a tour over there but blanched at providing any budget at all for it)

tremendous crime wave and killing wave (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Monday, 28 March 2016 22:19 (four years ago) link

Tim Parks does not trust William Weaver:


xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 30 March 2016 08:52 (four years ago) link

All the recent Italo Calvino translations were done by either Weaver or Parks--"Perhaps when I find time and energy I will put together an article on Weaver’s work and reputation. It is long overdue." This should be interesting!

like Uber, but for underpants (James Morrison), Wednesday, 30 March 2016 22:47 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

(I am pleased to report that I have had some e-mail contact with Margaret Jull Costa as part of my Book of Disquiet project (as mentioned on the Pessoa thread) and she gives every indication of being delightful.)

Tim, Friday, 15 April 2016 09:08 (three years ago) link

seven months pass...

I missed this post but am so starstruck, she is amazing

though she denies it to the press, (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Tuesday, 6 December 2016 19:27 (three years ago) link

The Robin Buss translation of Count of Monte Cristo, which I read this summer, was so delightful that I planned to write him a fan letter as soon as I finished it. Was then peeved to find out he died in 2006.

Nonetheless - think I'll pick up some of his other translations.

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 6 December 2016 22:34 (three years ago) link

eight months pass...

Good interview with Lucy North, whose translations I've not read although managing to definitely given me an IN to the female Japanese writers she talks about.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:01 (two years ago) link

Ooh, nice one

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 17 August 2017 00:06 (two years ago) link

I just read a Kawakami translated by someone else, and liked it a lot (10p dream sequence aside)

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 17 August 2017 00:07 (two years ago) link

three months pass...

Isabel Fargo Cole is just incredible:


I love Sleep of the Righteous and At the Burning Abyss sounds amazing. Might have to actually shell out hard cash and buy myself a xmas present this week.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 28 November 2017 18:43 (two years ago) link

i just translated a book http://www.oupress.com/ECommerce/Book/Detail/2295/record%20of%20regret

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Friday, 8 December 2017 14:34 (two years ago) link


Dylannn - I'm translating a family memoir (just so my non-French-speaking family can read it - it's not for publication). Do you have any recs for translation tools? I've been using Scrivener, with a split screen for English/French.

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 8 December 2017 14:57 (two years ago) link

i'm sorry, just plain old word processing software.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Friday, 8 December 2017 15:26 (two years ago) link

good on you dylan

all of my literary translations have been borgesian in that theyre all very 'unreliable' ('too interpretive'), which is super frowned upon in the translation field

is yr translated book being distributed to libraries as well?

infinity (∞), Friday, 8 December 2017 16:51 (two years ago) link

Congrats on that Dylan, that looks great.

I'm translating an essay from English to a Dutch dialect right now and just have two Word windows on split screen.

Le Bateau Ivre, Friday, 8 December 2017 17:38 (two years ago) link

Dutch dialect to English I mean

Le Bateau Ivre, Friday, 8 December 2017 17:38 (two years ago) link

incredibly reliable translations by academics have ruined most books translated from chinese. translations of contemporary poetry are one place where there is still a lot of playfulness, and maybe youtube fansubs. especially with languages further from english, there's the chance to push the boundaries but it's fairly rare.

yeah should be, the other books in the series are in libraries

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Friday, 8 December 2017 17:48 (two years ago) link

cool man

infinity (∞), Friday, 8 December 2017 18:07 (two years ago) link

Dylann, you are excellent

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 8 December 2017 23:17 (two years ago) link

Kudos to Dylan!

Anne Git Yorgun (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 8 December 2017 23:42 (two years ago) link


an interesting thing about translators you don't trust

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Saturday, 9 December 2017 21:16 (two years ago) link

Should I trust Emily Wilson - there was a nice interview with her re: her trans of The Odyssey (the first by a female translator).

I love Anne Carson's Sappho and she has also done a job on Euripides.


xyzzzz__, Monday, 11 December 2017 14:00 (two years ago) link

still get nightmares from translating latin

i dont think it was posted here but there is one fella (i think he was pope john paul ii's translator) who pwns all latin translators

i can dig through my files if people rly want his name

i dont remember if he translated any classical lit tho

infinity (∞), Monday, 11 December 2017 17:46 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

Robert Chandler seems to sell copies of his translations on Amazon marketplace - I'm just buying The Foundation Pit off him.

woof, Monday, 15 January 2018 00:34 (two years ago) link

Tempted by A Sparrow's Journey..

xyzzzz__, Monday, 15 January 2018 22:16 (two years ago) link

Susan Bernofsky

Who put all those zings in your thread? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:06 (two years ago) link

^^^ i have a crush

mookieproof, Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:33 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

Alan S. Trueblood

The Soundtrack of Burl Ives (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 9 January 2020 01:09 (two months ago) link

How do ppl here feel about Pevear and Volokhonsky? I want to read Anna Karenina this year, but the only version I currently own is the P and V translation and I know that it's 'controversial':


Ward Fowler, Thursday, 9 January 2020 09:26 (two months ago) link

I am probably not picking P&V up and it's not do much to do with that piece. I don't know if it was the translation or the book but Demons did flag quite a bit for me.

I think I have a copy of Garnett.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 9 January 2020 12:18 (two months ago) link

Is Garnett regarded as a direct translation. I remember giving up on reading one of her versions of Dostoevsky in my mid teens cos I thought it had gentrified or bowdlerised something darker.
Have more recently heard that Dostoevsky was borrowing style heavily from British and other European authors which has left me wondering if that was actually closer to the style he wrote in than I imagined from hearing other people's reactions to his work.
I don't read Russian so can't tell.

Stevolende, Thursday, 9 January 2020 13:14 (two months ago) link

I am suspicious of them

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 12 January 2020 04:55 (two months ago) link

I just started the Maude translation (revised by Mandelkern) of War and Peace and it seems really good to me. I've found this version very easy to get into. The dialogue feels lively and natural. The Maudes did an Anna Karenina as well so I may seek that out. I remember trying the P&V Anna Karenina and hitting some clunky sentences early on.

It seems like there was a bit of a translation war between the Maudes and Garnett at one time.

Maude wanted to publish a complete collected works of Tolstoy and enlisted his friends and acquaintances to help campaign for funding and support. There were many competing editions of the more popular works, some of them "very incompetent," according to Bernard Shaw, since Tolstoy had waived his rights over translation. Shaw wrote to The Times asking readers to support the project by "spontaneously giving it the privileges of a copyright edition" and "subscribing for complete sets" to make up for the "miscarriage of Tolstoy's public-spirited intentions." Shaw's signature was followed by many more, including literary figures like Arnold Bennett, Arthur Conan Doyle, Gilbert Murray and H. G. Wells. Thomas Hardy added his own independent letter, offering support though he did not feel equipped to comment on all the points in the main letter.[24]

After a protesting letter from an admirer of Constance Garnett's translations, the correspondence continued, with Maude asserting that "Tolstoy authorized my wife's translation" of Resurrection and Shaw insisting on the need for a complete collected works, going beyond the "great novels" which were "sure to get themselves translated everywhere," since other translators had "picked the plums out of the pudding." He went on to compare Maude's "devoted relation" to Tolstoy with that of Henrik Ibsen's translator William Archer, or Richard Wagner's Ashton Ellis.

jmm, Sunday, 12 January 2020 13:41 (two months ago) link

I'd just like to know if it was thought that Garnett kept her translations true to the original feeling she was translating from.
What I gave up reading just seemed too gentile and polite when i was expecting something rough and dark. BUt could be taht the original had a feeling I wasn't expecting it to have and just conveyed information and topics taht weren't otherwise being handled at the time.

Stevolende, Sunday, 12 January 2020 13:56 (two months ago) link

P&V’s literalness generally makes then clunky and unreadable.

P’s solo translation of Three Musketeers is atrocious.

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 12 January 2020 23:44 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Idk I’m reading P+V’s Brothers Karamazov right now (my first exposure) and the literalness makes it defamiliarized and engaging to me!

Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Monday, 27 January 2020 04:21 (two months ago) link

three weeks pass...

Still got to finish Anniversaries but Damion Searls isn't waiting for me.

“The Other Name” — the first two volumes of Jon Fosse’s 1250-pg “Septology” — will be published in April by @transitbks. Fosse is a genius. Hoping to write something on this. pic.twitter.com/7RancGdC5s

— Dustin Illingworth (@ddillingworth) February 18, 2020

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 22:04 (one month ago) link

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