Science Fiction from Away and Translation

I’ve never read science fiction in translation to my best recollection. It turns out that there is such an animal, and some good SciFi was originally written in Russian, which should be no surprise, who sent people into space before anyone else did? A new translation of a Russian SciFi book is about to appear, and Books & Culture did an interview with the translator. This makes me interested in exploring other SciFi in translation. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Also, I’ve recently had some interesting discussions around translation of fiction in general. A small book entitled Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman recently turned up in my used book intake at the bookshop. Grossman works in the interface between Spanish and English, and is known for her translation of Don Quioxte. Plus translated books, the Millenium trilogy, translated into English from Swedish, have been lurking on best-seller lists over the last year. Apparently there is some dissatisfaction with the English translation of the books – some feel it is a little too word-for-word.

Something is always lost in translation — that is just the way languages work. The work I read most in translation is the Bible. I have studied Hebrew, so I can do original language work on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. I’ve learned through this study about the lost-in-translation factor. I kind of knew that from studying French through school (I live in an officially bilingual country, though I’m not anything like officially bilingual), but it was reinforced when I did Hebrew, then took a year of reading German. Languages are different from one another. Translation is a tricky thing – but for many people that is the only way to access literature originally written in another language. It might be better to read Russian SciFi in Russian, but the only way I can access it is in translation. I’d rather have something that gives me a glimpse into the thinking and imaginations of another culture than nothing.

What do you read in translation?


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