To my absolute shame and utter mortification, I mistranslated those few words of Irish. Perhaps it’s time to go home home. Instead of reading How many authors do you take to bed with you, it should, of course, have been How many translators … mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
While I will never know whether the original was as good, better, or worse than the translation (being hopelessly monolingual), I had a quick think about what I’ve read recently and translations by far outweigh original texts in terms of enjoyment offered.
I’ve noticed, too, that my non-native-English-speaking friends have a lovely way of expressing themselves in my mother tongue. A Serbian friend of mine taught me a new one the other day: preaching water and drinking wine! A Hungarian friend once described someone as seeing them as ‘nothing more than an attached file’ while another has been heard cursing: ‘you son of a vacuum cleaner!’
So, to atone, here’s a list of my favourite reads in translation:
From the Chinese: Village of Stone by Xialou
And anything by Xinran – my favourite is Sky Burial
From the French: Happy Days by Laurent Graff
From the German: Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
From the Hebrew: Uncle Peretz Takes Off by Yaakov Shabtai
From the Hungarian: The Door by Magda Szabo
From the Italian: I’m not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti
And absolutely anything at all from Giovanni Guareschi’s Don Camillo series
Or anything by Andrea Camilleri from his Inspector Montalbano series
From the Russian: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Boris Akunin’s series with Sr Pellagia as the nun/detective is good, too.
From the Szerbian: Lake Como by Srdjan Valjarević
And to my favourite translator, BA… am suitably chastised 🙂