December 07, 2010
Wu Ming 1 talks about translating Stephen King:
King's style looks simple, but it is actually very difficult to translate. As an author, he's very fond of puns, neologisms, idioms, local slang and so on. He plays with all the singularities of the English language, precisely the stuff that can't be translated in any way! This is typical of, er, "monoglot" writers, by which I mean those writers who don't care about what happens to their works when they're translated into other languages.
If you're a careful, attentive reader, you can tell one kind of writer from the other simply by reading. There's a prose that's translation-conscious, and a prose that is not. It can be a very subtle difference, but you can detect it. ... King's English is very much self-contained, very much grounded in Americana. King's stories are usually set in places and milieux that are both quintessentially American and very particular, very singular, like some island off the coast of Maine, the New England countryside, etc. There are idioms, details, objects, and customs that can't be found anywhere else...
[W]e Wu Ming are extremely translation-conscious, while writing we always think: how will this be translated into English, or French, or Spanish? Sometimes we place landmines into the text, bombs that will explode only during translation. For example, in my novel New Thing, there are hidden rhymes that will appear only when those pages are translated into English