I mentioned in my previous entry that the translation into English of “Perfume”, the novel by Patrick SÃ¼skind, is not very good. At least the translation I read (and stopped giving away) when I was in the US.
In 1992 they released the movie “Like Water for Chocolate”, based on the novel with the same title by Laura Esquivel. The writer and her husband participated actively in the making of the movie so the final product was quite good. After seeing it in the theater, the next day I went out to buy the book. Carbondale was a small town and didn’t offer too many books in Spanish. So I bought it in English, trying to calm down my desire for the novel before my next visit to St. Louis, where I would find it in Spanish. I read it in one sitting and it seemed to me a second-rate book, lacking all the magic I’d seen on the screen.
From that moment on, I was gnawed by the following question: Was it a bad translation or did English lack the syntactic and semantic resources to express magic realism?
In the following months I devoured all novels written originally in English by authors of Hispanic origin, or focused on Hispanic themes. I discovered a wealth of good novels, and magic realism was alive and kicking, thanks.
How many times the novels we read and deem weak are a translating snafu?