Ramblings: Literary translations

Back when I was little I used to only read books in Dutch, my native language. But after our move to the US I started reading in English because these were the books that were available to me. After moving back to Belgium I continued reading in English, but also some Dutch. At first reading English books was just a way for me to keep hold of this language, now that I’d mastered it. But now I see myself drifting away from the Dutch books if they were originally written in English. I have a couple of reasons for this, and here is where I tell you why.

Influence of the translator

However great a translated work is, it will always carry a bit of the translator with it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, this is just something that happens. They color the story a bit with their unique flavor of writing and sometimes they even adjust the book just a smidge because certain things don’t make sense in a different language (a popular one here is names). The translated works will always differ from the original more than just the language it is written in, and sometimes this is not a problem at all, sometimes it can be.

Language differences

Dutch is not a language that is spoken world wide, in fact not  a lot of people speak it. We in Belgium speak it (the Flemish part of Belgium that is) and people in the Netherlands speak it too. (Some ex-colonies also speak Dutch) All in all it’s safe to say that the Netherlands are the biggest group of Dutch-speaking citizens. Being the biggest group they spend more time/money in translating literary works to Dutch. It’s great that this causes more books to be translated to Dutch than there would be if the Netherlands didn’t exist (or spoke a different language). The thing with Dutch is that just like any other language is that there are different dialects within the language (just like with British English, American English and all the other kinds too). Reading books that were translated by a person from the Netherlands isn’t the same as reading a book from a Belgian translator, they use words we never do or differently than we do. And sometimes it’s these differences that make me feel a bit more distance to a book.

Speedy translations

A reason because of which I will reach for the original work 100% of the time is if the translation was done too fast. I’m talking about books that are coming out in the middle of a hype-epidemic and there is just a lot of pressure for the publishers to get the book out ASAP. It’s very often in these books that you find either sloppy translations or sloppy editing. In any case, you find turns of phrases that just don’t work in the language you’re reading the work in, where it was just clearly translated verbatim. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. That’s exactly what I mean in the first reason for reading original works. It’s always up to the translator to pick how they are going to take these turns of phrases and translate it so that it works in the new language. My favorite example is that I once read a book in Dutch that used the literal translation for “a robin’s egg blue sky”. This is not a thing in Dutch, there are a lot of words that can describe different hues of blue, but this isn’t one of them. In my opinion it is up to the translator to pick a good fit here, so we don’t feel these rough patches. This book clearly had a case of ” the speedy translation” because there were so many pieces were I could just tell exactly what the original text would be in English, it was a huge bummer.

 

So if you are someone who speaks a second language, let me know how you feel about translated works! Do you agree with some of the things here or do you feel differently? Do you have other reasons for wanting to read the original books? And to people who don’t read (a lot of) books that weren’t written in English, do you easily find translated works in your area?

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Review: Dragon Age Inquisition

I think this might be the first game I review on here. So I’ll just start with the following small disclaimer: I’m actually a very bad gamer, in the sense that I don’t have amazing insight in games, I don’t have a lot of skills when it comes to gaming either. But I really enjoy it anyway, and that’s all that counts really.

Dragon age inquisition is a highly enjoyable game. I actually bought it on a whim, because it just looked so amazing. I had also heard a lot about the dragon age games, most of which was very good. So I decided to give it a go, and let me tell you that I was not disappointed in the least.

At the beginning of the game you get to “assemble” your hero. It’s definitely a lot more fun to play the whole game with a character you really like the look of (all those scenes!) so it’s wise to spend plenty of time on this. Don’t rush it. A little pro tip from me to you: turn the lip shine way down. I didn’t, and boy did I regret that later (it looks fine in the creator, but in-game it’s way, waaaaaaaaaaay too shiny). I choose to be a warrior elf, while secretly harboring the wish to be a mage or a dwarf (mutually exclusive things; hence my choice), in the end I played with my mage team-mate very often to make up for this though.

The story is a little slow at the start, as it sometimes is in these kind of games. This is usually to allow enough player growth to really enjoy the parts later on (nothing quite as horrible as continuously dying right from the start because you haven’t mastered the combat-mode yet). And for people like me, who have never enjoyed dragon age franchise yet, it’s a great way to dip yourself, slowly and easily, into the lore of the land (which is as rich and bountiful as you could ever wish it to be).Quickly though the story leaves enough room for you to pick up the speed if you want to. There are plenty of quests that help you get ahead, but there’s also plenty of quests for those of us who feel like sticking around and admiring the scenery.

The thing about these quests is that you get to make a lot of decisions. And the thing is, in this game it matters what you decide. I don’t think it will alter the general outcome of the game (actually I’m sure) but it will matter as to how you get there. This makes the game feel more realistic because there will always be consequences to your choices and actions ( I found this out the hard way when I wasn’t able to save a bunch of people from their death).

The graphics in this game were beautiful. There was also a lot of artwork (in the shape of tarot cards for the characters and creatures) which was equally stunning. The story was intriguing. The game-play was good (better than Dragon Age origins which I’m playing right now!) In all honesty I don’t know why you’re still reading this instead of checking out this game if you haven’t already. And if you have, why not play it again with a completely different character who takes action in ways you choose to forgo last time? That’s what I’ll be doing anyway. The game is just so huge and with so many variables, it’s well worth to be played at least twice!

Raving: Revisiting things you love

For those who have been around for a little while: you guys know that I love re-reading and that I do so copiously. I don’t know if it’s also as obvious that I re-watch a lot of things as well. In fact I just revisit a lot of things I love in general. I love going to the same sea side town that we used to stay at during summer, eating that food that blew me away at that one restaurant, etc. In a way I really like this about myself but at other times it really gets in the way of finding out new things as well. For example, if I keep getting the same dish at the same place, I’ll never find out if their other food is awesome as well. (For that I do have a very easy solution: I make my boyfriend get different things and taste from his plate). But in the more broad sense of revisiting things you love the one con that I have in mind is that it takes up time that I could be using to discover new things, reading new books, watching new series and movies. Instead I am watching Frozen again, or re-reading Harry Potter (again).

But there is definitely something to be said for revisiting the things you love. Sometimes rereading that book you know you love is a great way to get out of a reading funk. Sometimes re-watching that hilarious movie will no doubt get you out of that sulky mood you’re in. Sometimes it’s just nice to know what you’re in for before you dive right in. I’m not saying I’m scared of trying new things or that that’s bad in any way, I’m just saying that sometimes it can be really comforting to know what you’re getting yourself into. And sometimes for me I just know exactly what I’m in the mood for and then I just can’t resist watching or reading that certain thing again.

There’s one final reason that I love revisiting things: nostalgia. I’m definitely one of the people on earth that nostalgia has a very strong grip on. Often I’ll think of something that reminds me of that book and then I get nostalgic about that book and the time in which I was reading that book. Within a couple of days this usually spirals out of control and makes me give in to revisiting that certain thing. For example: right now I started listening to the Veronica Mars audiobook (the thousand-dollar tan line) and it’s read by Kirsten Bell (the actress who plays Veronica Mars). And now I just have this overwhelming feeling that re-watching that show is the best thing I could possibly do right now. To be perfectly honest I think I’ll give in before the end of the week. And to be even more honest: I don’t really mind either. Yes I won’t be discovering new things, but that really isn’t all that life is about for me anyway. Sometimes it’s just about being happy in the moment, and right now Veronica Mars can do that for me. So I’m gonna give into that urge and just watch the whole series again.

Rambling: 40 Days of Dating

So this is partly just talking about something I found but on the other hand it’s also a bit of a review. And on that cryptic note I’m just gonna dive right in!

So a couple of days I stumbled upon a site called Forty days of dating Right now it actually starts on a video about the book that they have released. But before this was a book it was actually just the site behind the video. And that site was the documentation of a social experiment, conducted between two friends. As the site name might have made you guess, it’s about forty days of dating. So if you put those things together you get the whole idea: two friends who date each other for forty days straight without them having any feelings beyond friendship at the start. Jessica is a serial monogamist who dreams of true love and wants to find it just like her parents and grandparents before her. Timothy on the other hand is a serial dater who shies away from most relationships from the moment things take a turn for the serious. They decided to head into this experiment to find out more about each other, themselves and their dating styles. At the start of the experiment they set some ground rules such as “see each other once a day”. They thought up a questionnaire that they would fill out on a daily basis and that is what this site is. All 80 questionnaires, sorted by day and interspaced with pictures, drawings and sometimes even videos.

And now for the review-y part of this rambling blogpost! When I started reading these people’s daily thoughts on each other and dating I was enjoying it a whole lot. I was completely engrossed and wanted to find out how this would work out in the end. Would these people still be able to be friends afterwards? Would they end up dating? What will they find out about each other and themselves during these forty days? To summarize: I was stoked, hooked, excited. I speedread through about half of the days but after that it sort of slowed down for me. Not because I came less curious about the outcome per se, but more so because I wasn’t enjoying the format any more. The same questionnaire for every day became a bit tired. After another short while it became clear to me how this thing would end.

But the thing that was most poignant to me about this whole experiment was definitely how much both views differed on occasions. At times both parties really remembered things very differently mostly because they were clearly focused on different aspects of these shared moments. And there were definitely some times at which I just really wanted to knock their heads together because clearly they wanted to do good, but it didn’t always work out that way. For example: Jessica was suffering from cluster headaches a whole lot during the course of this experiment. But she is the type of person who doesn’t really tell people about these headaches because she doesn’t want to drag people down with her. So she doesn’t share it when she is suffering from these headaches. On the other hand there is Tim, who is constantly thrown by Jessica’s behavior which is just all over the place (due to headaches coming and going over the course of he experiment. And cluster headaches, or suicide headaches as they are also called, can definitely influence anyone’s mood). This results in a lot of miscommunications and unnecessary tension between the two parties. A lot of this could have been foregone if Jessica had just been open about these headaches, so that Tim would know her state of mind. This is definitely not the only case of me being frustrated with the experiment. There is a lot of miscommunication, and I really don’t blame these people at all, it’s not just them, it’s everyone having these situations happening to them in their lives. It’s just annoying when you see both sides and understand so much better why things are going awry when they could have gone smoothly if there had just been better communication.

 

In any case this is an interesting read. I’m wondering if I’m going to pick up the book or not. You should definitely check out the site and let me hear your thoughts about it all!

Rambling: Buzz words and dealbreakers

Because there are just simply too many books out there for us to read all of them, we have to try and pick out those that will appeal to us most. Sometimes we decide based on looks (how dare you! Book should never be judged by their cover! But doesn’t everybody secretly judge a little by the cover though?), or on recommendations and last but not least a synopsis. And that’s what this blogpost is all about. 

Buzz words

When you are reading a synopsis, which words will instantly draw you in to make you want to read that book? 

Give me a faraway magical kingdom and I’m pretty much sold right away. The rest of the synopsis has to contain so many dealbreakers and have had so many bad reviews for me to put it down after reading this.

I love a good boarding school story! Everyone knows that all the good stuff happens when there aren’t any parents around and this is just the ideal setting for that! Plus I think it also has to do with the fact that I really wanted to go to a boarding school when I was younger.

Mythology is something that really grew on me to the point that if it’s in a book I will most definitely be picking it up and reading it. And I’m not very specific as to which kind of mythology, I love it all!

You’re telling me about a sweet fairy tale retelling you’ve read? I’m running to the bookstore before you finished telling me what it’s about! I love the real deal and a strong retelling. I’ve always been a fan and I am not giving up now!

If a book is good I’ll just love it even more if it’s part of a series. This is something that strongly combines with other buzz words. On itself it means nothing to me if a book is or isn’t part of a series. But if it’s an epic fantasy, I want to be reading about that for more than one measly book.

A princess having to save her country, that’s okay. But an underdog having to rise up to save the realm, that’s ten times better. You don’t have to be privileged to rock my world, I’d even prefer if you weren’t.

Dealbreakers

Which words on a synopsis make you drop the book like a hot coal, never to be looked at again? 

A huge dealbreaker for me is an overload of angst. If the synopsis even gives me too much of an angsty feel I’m out before I even consider the rest of the story. This is just not something that I enjoy reading, it even annoys me on most days.

Those catchphrases (or whatever they are called in the literature world) on covers are all nice and dandy when they are good. But when they are corny I have to force myself not to physically throw the book away. Reading “She might not be all that she appears” or “Nothing is as it seems in Tiny Town” does not make me a happy camper. If you can’t think of anything that’s not a cliché, just don’t put one on there and stick to the title.

If there is already mention of the possibility of a love triangle I just don’t want to pick up the book anymore. I am very much done with these and don’t think it will come back any time soon.

If the story is about/takes place in World War I or II, chances are pretty big I won’t be very excited. I’m not saying it’s a definitive “no”, but it has to be pretty darn good if it’s going to persuade me to read it.

When people tell me that the author seems afraid to kill off characters that’s a “no” for me. It has happened on occasion that I don’t mind as much, but there has to be a lot of good stuff to outweigh this. In life people die and it’s never convenient to the plotline/characters, why does it have to be so different in books? Sometimes people die and it’s horrible, but I like this in books (it’s agonizingly good).

A good stereotype will always turn me away from the book. There’s nothing so un-entertaining as flat, one-dimensional characters just to prove a certain point.

Unnecessary sequels are a thing that will make me very sad. If you’ve read my buzz words too, you might be confused because it’s on that list as well. For me it’s generally a toss-up between yes of no. If it’s good I’m so ready to read more books of the same. But if I’m already feeling that the story has been told or that it is being unnecessarily stretched to fill more books I will be disappointed. A lot.

What are your buzz words and dealbreakers?