Sunday, April 04, 2010
Marian Schwartz Interview
Boston Globe interviewed Marian Schwartz, the Austin-based acclaimed translator of Russian fiction, history, biography, and criticism. Her most recent translations include Ivan Goncharov’s 19th-century novel “Oblomov” and Olga Slavnikova’s futuristic novel “2017.” Schwartz is also the principal English translator of the works of Nina Berberova.
Schwartz started by defining a "good" translation as one which "readers like". With my due respect to all readers of various temperaments, IQs and levels of intelligence - the fact that I love fries does not make the fries a health food item. I read Bulgakov's books both in Polish (which is a close relative of Russian) and Arabic, so I knew a bit about the hazards of translations before I landed the Glenny English version - and so I can say that the English boo in question shares a title with Bulgakov, and that's where the story ends.
Schwartz also states that in her opinion a translation cannot be bad when it gives people access to works that they would never otherwise have read. But are they actually reading the book they would have read if they could, say, read French, or Spanish, or Arabic? Or is it a book written by the translator and passed under the pseudonym of some foreign dude with a literary reputation? If I say "I am hungry" and Ms Schwartz translates it as "Sam is experiencing stomach pain and would like a steak" - is that representing faithfully what I said? I know she wouldn't - she is too brilliant a translator for that. It is just a rhetorical question, and I hope Marian was not watering down her IQ because this was a newspaper interview!
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