Books In Translation

I’ve been thinking about books in translation a lot lately. About a month ago, I listened to an audiobook a friend recommended, Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People. The book is set in a small town in Sweden. As I listened, I knew that there were things that I wasn’t entirely understanding such as when people used the term “Stockholmer” as if it meant something very, very specific and not just someone who lives in the capital.

But that’s okay because it was obvious that I was reading, or at least listening, to a book set in another country. I loved the feel of being somewhere else in story form.

Then I listened to another Swedish book. This one came recommended by my cousin. I’m not going to name drop here because I was a little baffled by parts of the translation. Early in the book, one of the characters refers to an ancient Suomi curse. My son’s godmother is Suomi so I know that happens to mean Finnish, but I really wondered why on earth the translator left that as Suomi. Then later in the book the characters are in a thunderstorm. There is a flash of light and then the POV character starts to count. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi.

Seriously? I somehow doubt that people count Mississippi’s in Sweden. I mentioned this to a friend who is from Oregon. She grew up saying one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. So Mississippis aren’t even universal in the US. I would love to have known what they count in Sweden!

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Then Friday I picked up my library books. I had requested The Immortal Boy by Francisco Montaña Ibáñez. It was translated by a writer I chat with on Twitter, David Morales. Guess what I didn’t realize? You can read it in English or, flip it over and turn it around, in Spanish! Both text are included in one book!

I tried to photograph the book descriptions so you could see one in English and one in Spanish but the shiny paper made it impossible. Still I love that readers can choose either language or both.

What was the most recent book that you read in translation?


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