Literary translators and cleaners/Putzfrauenprinzip für Literaturübersetzer

An article by Katharina Granzin in taz about literary translators and how reviews of books usually omit to mention them.

Burkhard Müller recently gave a talk (symposium at Literaturhaus in Munich) after analysing the book pages of newspapers. Over half of the reviews of translated books totally omitted reference to the translation. The translator Frank Heibert reported that a large German weekly paper devoted a whole page to a review of a book he had translated and particularly praised the language, but did not mention that the book was a translation.

However, at this symposium there was also criticism of the lack of understanding of language and of translation of reviewers. Joachim Kalke said he did not mind not being mentioned, since current literary criticism has descended to such a level that it is better not to be subjected to it.

On the whole, however, Granzin concludes that no great work of foreign literature seems to have been ruined by a bad translation and it is perhaps not necessary to mention the translation in every review. An exception has been made for new German translations of Dostojevsky (Swetlana Geier) and Chekhov (Peter Urban), and for translations where the original presented particular problems.

She concludes that literary translators might make do with the charwoman’s slogan: ‘As long as nobody complains, everything is OK’:

Möglicherweise sollten die ÜbersetzerInnen sich die Putzfrauenhypothese zu eigen machen: “Solange nicht gemeckert wird, ist alles in Ordnung.” Außerdem können sie sich ja, falls es bei ihrer Forderung nach mehr Übersetzungskritik wirklich um den Wunsch geht, Übersetzungen besser zu machen, innerhalb der eigenen Netzwerke spezialisierte Strukturen dafür schaffen.

(via Perlentaucher)

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