So, this whole TMOP/DGVP thing may not work out. Like almost every translation, some subtleties seem to be slipping through the cracks. I mean, I don’t expect every word to be perfect, and unless you’re William Weaver or Alfred Birnbaum, it’s unlikely that a masterful, enthralling tone will be consistently preserved throughout, but…well, here, look at this.

TMOP: “What do you think?” It was Arthur. Though his tone was light, he looked angry, or preoccupied, anyway.

“I think Riri’s father is a white slaver. Say, this is some party.” I tried to get that tone of slogan in my voice. Then I chanced a slight indiscretion. “Did you find ‘someone um’?”
He evaded the question, physically. He averted his eyes, and blushed, like a maiden, like Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.

DGVP: ‘En?’ Het was Arthur. Hij praatte op luchtige toon, maar wekte een boze, of op zijn minst gepreoccupeerde indruk.

‘Volgens mij handelt Riri’s vader in blanke slavingen. Hé, dit is me wel een feest!’ Ik probeerde net zo’n slagzintoontje in mijn stem te leggen. Toen waagde ik een lichte indiscretie. ‘Heb je “iemand ehm” gevonden?’
Hij ontweek de vraag, letterlijk. Hij wendde zijn blik af en bloosde, als en maagd, als Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.


Two things that bug me here. The "Say, this is some party" line. Are you allowed to change punctuation from a period to an exclamation point in a translation? These two sentences mean two really different things to me, especially when we know the speaker is a bit of a smart-ass:

"Say, this is some party."
"Say, this is some party!"

The fact that, as a 21-year-old in the 1980s, you're even beginning a sentence with say, this means you're being sarcastic, because young people haven't spoken like that since the 1940s. The punctuation indicates exactly how sarcastic you're being. A period is subtle and dry, more like a wisecrack. An exclamation point is mocking and asshole-ish.

And "He evaded the question, physically". The Dutch is interesting because it switches out physically for literally, which is a crafty distortion of the English. Correct me if I'm wrong here: ontwijk apparently has a couple of meanings, the relevant one is "to change direction in order not to collide against something." Meaning that, yes, Arthur is literally changing the direction of his face in order to avoid Art's question, but it seems like the translation is being a bit too clever for its own good.

Since we’re here anyway, we might as well look at some vocab:

: avoid, evade



Zora said...

This is interesting to read so closely. I vote yes on changing punctuation where necessary, and I think the literal ontwijking is pretty clever--and that's just about the only kind of pleasure a translator ever gets out of these things, so you have to allow a bit.

Incidentally, I had an undergrad translation seminar with William Weaver himself, and it was illuminating to see just how much leeway he took, and encouraged others to take. I'd spent years translating Arabic, only to prove I knew each and every grammatical nuance--and it seems like that's how most Arabic translators _still_ work. European langs aren't so burdened.

MEM said...

I guess it's the difference between reading fiction for pleasure and reading fiction for scholarship. If I'm reading Murakami in English translation, I could care less about leeway and punctuation: I care about the story and the tone.

But here, since I like the tone of the original so much, I was hoping that the Dutch version attempted to preserve or, ha, translate that without taking too many liberties.

I'll probably end up aborting this little project soon (although I am in fact getting something out of it) and just try reading Reve again.

Interesting about the Arabic/European difference...