This is a topic that I had been kicking around in my head last week. When Louis suggested subtly that the translation of Murakami's prose may have stunted them, the topic jumped back into my thoughts.
I have an old, used copy of Swann's Way that I have been thinking about reading. The other day I was in the book store when I noticed that each volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time is now available in a new translation. Not only a new translation, an award-winning translation that has received robust praise for numerous sources. The little staff recommendation note hanging below the new Swann's Way dismissed my poor old copy as anachronistic. I ventured to the library in the hope that I would find the updated version in their collection. Alas, their volumes of Proust are even more elderly than my own.
I suppose now is the time to ask, Has anyone read any Proust? Was it the updated translation or the 1922 translation? What did you think?
According to the blurbs, updated translations usually offer things like new life and improved fluidity of prose and access to subtle humor. For example, the 1996 translation of Magic Mountain is supposed to read far more easily than its predecessors, improving on their "stiff and forbidding" language.
The effectiveness of a translation is something that is apt to bother me so much while I am reading a book that I'll attempt to expel it from my thoughts and just pretend that it was originally written in English. But it's a HUGE factor for any book that one reads in translation. Thankfully most translators are amazingly talented. Any good writer will say that each and every word within all of their stories has been meticulously selected. Every word that sits on the page sits their actively, with purpose, they do not reside simply to fill some quota. To take each of the words, and the strings of words that they produce, and bring them into a new language is nearly as meticulous as writing the book in the first place. I just don't know how they do it. Bravo, translators.
Has anyone had an experience where they read a book they simply could not make it through, only to find themselves reading a different translation of that same book later on and enjoying it? My hunch is that many of the differences would be too subtle to swing one's appreciation so wildly from one pole to the other. As an amateur in the world of letters I would guess that updated translations are best suited for those who wish to expand an existing appreciation for a work. But odds are I am wrong. In fact, I know I am wrong. So wrong that I don't think I'll ever read my 1922 translation of Swann's Way. If a better translation exists, why bother?
Another thought, Why are the new translations always found in super deluxe editions? Yeah, the words are new, but why must that require paper of the highest quality and snazzy design work? Damn publishers.