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Topics - Alia

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Literature / Reflections on re-reading favourites
« on: March 05, 2014, 07:42:21 pm »
So, I've decided to write a longer post based on something I talked about in the Quorum - that is, re-reading books that were my favourites when I was a teen (let's say, secondary school age, 14-18). And re-reading them in English now.
This idea came upon me some time last year when I suddenly realised that Howard's work is now in public domain. So I downloaded everything that was available on Project Gutenberg and got to reading. And I was surprised. I quite liked Conan when I was a teen, but on second reading (in original) I was rather disappointed. Now, it's possible that when I was younger, I did not notice rather obvious racism and naive glorification of our honest, if sometimes amoral barbarian, as compared to degenerate civilised races. But I'm pretty sure that our translators improved at least the language - quality of language is something that I've been very sensitive to, even as a teen.

And then I decided to try my all-time teenage favourite, that is Karl Wagner's "Kane" series. Also in English. I'm halfway through it now and I'm astonished at my own enjoyment.
First of all, Wagner's books had really awful translations (yes, that's something I could notice even then). In early 1990s, after the fall of the communist regime, a lot of small publishing houses opened and they started literally spewing out translations of books that were not available earlier. Some chose LeCarre, Follet and McLean, and some chose fantasy and s-f. And they were in such hurry that they sometimes divided one book among three or four translators - you can guess the results. Now, reading in English, I'm really impressed. Wagner's language is very rich (sometimes surprisingly so - but then, Kane is not your average dumb sword-wielder) and vivid, really fascinating.
But that's not all. 20 years later, I have a lot more reading experience, not to mention some formal education in it. Which means that I notice much more. Like - if a book has a motto from Lovecraft, then you really should not expect a typical sword and sorcery. And then, there is this lovely little detail - when we meet our protagonist for the first time, it's a dark and stormy night.   8)

Next in line - Zelazny's "Amber Chronicles". Here, on the other hand, I am sure that the translation was OK, I know the translator and he's really good. But I wonder how much more I will notice, things that I missed because I was too young and too inexperienced.

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