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?


Ravings: TBR

So let’s talk TBR (To be read) books. Just for the sake of clarity I will split this up into two categories: the books that I physically own but have not yet read, and the books that I add to my Goodreads TBR shelf.

Physical TBR

This stack comprises about 50 books in my case. For some people this is a huge pile for others this is barely showing up on their radar. For me this is somewhere in between those two. Some of these books I received as presents, others I bought myself, very few are books for review. I have noticed that some people have what is called “TBR guilt”, which is basically the feeling that you shouldn’t have so many unread books on your shelf( there are even challenges and the like to help crush your TBR). And I have to say that this isn’t something I really struggle with. Yes, maybe it’s a little much, especially if you see me arriving home with yet more books this might be a little strange. But on the other hand I really enjoy picking a book from my personal library without having read it yet. It’s nice to have options, especially if you are a mood reader. I’m not someone who can just pick any book and go with it. I need to be feeling in the mood for a book before I pick it up. And that’s a lot easier if you have more than a couple of unread books on your shelf.. At first I thought this TBR-guilt was something I should have, something that should really be getting in the way of me buying even more books. Yet if I’m perfectly honest I notice that I really don’t care. It doesn’t bother me to see these books on my shelves, if anything it makes me want to read. And seeing as I love buying books, I don’t think that my TBR will go away anytime soon.

Goodreads TBR

This shelf is positively overflowing as it contains 1563 books at this very moment. Though this might seem like a lot, know that it used to be even more bountiful in the unread-books department. Recently I did the first wave of purging this shelf by removing all books that were not the first in a series that I have yet to start. This actually cut my TBR down by a good 200 books. I made the decision to do this because I don’t always end up reading the next book in the series and then it will accidentally stay on my TBR forever, because I never really end up cleaning off that shelf ( or coming close to emptying it).

There might be a second wave of this purge coming in the future, though I’m not really sure if I’m going to go through with it yet. This clean-up action would be centered around really finding out what it on my TBR-shelf and looking if I still feel like reading these books. Because I’m pretty impulsive when it comes to adding books to that shelf, as you could have guessed from the amount of books on there, there must definitely be more than a few books on there that I don’t actually want to read. maybe I just added them because I heard good things about it, maybe because it just looked really pretty. In any case, my adding to this shelf is out of control. The ratio of read books to unread books on my Goodreads account is so out of balance it’s a pretty comical sight. This second purge might bring those numbers closer to something that could pass for a weak semblance of balance (because I know they’ll never be in actual equilibrium). But on the other hand,I really love going into books blind, especially lateley I’ve just started picking up books without having even heard more than a whisper about the plot. And it’s been very enjoyable so far. Has it always been succesfull: no, but at least now I can be surprised by the story. And I’m afraid that going through all of the synopses to these books might not only be a really lengthy proces, but also spoil the fun of me going in blind. Because I’m sure that if I read the synopsis of books that sound really good I will want to buy them and hence cannot go in blind anymore.

As you can see I’m not yet sure on how to continue from here, but I’ll keep you updated on how these things go!

So, how are your TBR shelves looking? What’s your count? Do you have TBR guilt? If so: what do you do to alleviate the guilt? If you don’t have this guilt: what are your reasons to be guilt-free?

Rambling Reads

Rambling Reads is where I talk about what I’m reading at the moment. Currently I am actively reading 4 different books. While for some people this might seem confusing, to me it really isn’t confusing at all. This is mostly due to the fact that these books aren’t in the same genre which makes it very easy for me to keep the stories and characters apart.

The first book I’m reading is the Luminaries

I am really enjoying this book a whole lot though I don’t seem to be making a lot of headway somehow. For me this is definitely the kind of book that I have to read for at least half an hour at the time, preferably even longer than that. The reason for this being that it isn’t the most fast-paced of books. And while there is nothing wrong with this, if you only manage to read for about 15 minutes it will feel pretty unsatisfying. So I’m actually setting this one aside for those reading days.

The second book is 1Q84

I have only just started this book and I really wanto to get into it more. I’m really enjoying the writing but it’s actually not very wll matched with my mood at the moment (hence the other three books that I’m also reading). Plus this is also a little bit in the same boat as the luminaries, at least for now. The story hasn’t picked up speed (if it ever will) and while there is nothing inherently wrong with that I will refer you to my previous paragraph as to why this is not a casual reading book for me.

The third book I’m reading is the Wise Man’s Fear

I have just recently finished the name of the wind (review coming up soon) and i was so in love with it. So i had to pick up the second book right away. I love this world and I love the characters and I’m really really loving the format actually. I can see how it’s not for everyone but it’s definitly for me. Though I’m not very far into this book I have no doubt that this will change shortly because I’m just itching to read this (right after I finish book number 4!).

The fourth book on my currently reading list is Mr. Kiss and Tell

This is the second Veronica Mars book, I’ve just speedread the first one (review will also be appearing sometime soon) and I just had to read the second one right away. I loved the series with a fiery passion and the books are not any different. I love how I can visualize the characters and I just really love that this series is contuining, even if it’s in bookformat instead of a tv series. But this one is almost finished and then I’ll go back to binge-reading the other three books on this list.

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!