Tricks of the Translator's Trade

When I still worked as a translator I often had to tweak texts to make sense in the target language. I am sure that all translators or interpreters are familiar with this.

I always wondered what it would be like to have to translate a bestseller or any other wonderful piece of writing, my work centred around business, legal and technical work.

Reading ‘La Sombra del Viento’ in Spanish, French and English has shown me something quite interesting about the individual translators. Here are a couple of examples of how differently people deal with the same text.

On page 28 of the original it says “…pero algo en su porto y en el modo en que el alma parec[a caerle a los pies, como …” The French version says “…quelque chose dans sa manière de se tenir; une sorte d’abandon de tout son être, comme …”, but in English it given as “but there was something about her manner that made me think…”

On page 34 "…pese a que se llamaba Hortense y tenía cierta propensión al vello facial. " The French text says "bien qu’elle s’appellât Hortense et eût une certaine propension à la pilosité faciale. " The English text reads "even though her name was Hortense and she limited her reading to twenty-francs notes.

Quite a difference, unless a propensity for facial hair is a euphemism for a hooker…?

What a pity that I couldn’t find a second-hand German copy! I find this comparison of the individual translator’s approach fascinating.

Are there any translations that you find particularly well done?