Tuesday, February 05, 2008

graphic novels in translation

A light piece in The Times Literary Supplement on the pitfalls of Translation: David Baddiel expresses his disappointment in (and suspicions about) translations of Musil and Flaubert, amongst others. He raises the valid--if obvious--point that novels are not only about ideas and narrative, but language itself, "the resonance of the words, the rhythm and flow of sentence structure, wordplay." A good translator, however, should treat the difficulties of translation as an exquisite puzzle and determine how to pick and choose resonant words and a rhythm that captures the spirit of the original, even if this entails a slight loss of factual accuracy. (Ezra Pound's versions and Robert Lowell's imitations do this successfully, I think.)

This month, Words Without Borders has a feature on graphic novels in translation. The Duck is charming, if bizarre, and A Happy Childhood and Life of Pahé are somewhat interesting as accounts of childhood in Beirut and Gabon, respectively.

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