03 March 2011
Not easy to translate
“A book that is easy to translate is, after all, useless,” says Ludvík Vaculík. Extremely difficult to translate is a book that mixes languages, because the translation will mask a major feature of the writing (everything will be in the target language, making it appear that the original was all in the same language). Some translators resort to footnoting (e.g., “in French in the original”) but that impedes the reading.
Here is Eva Eckert's 1993 account of Vaculík:
“The articles by Brodská and Hrabik-Samal, stylistic literary analyses of two well-known Cz authors, Bohumil Hrabal and Ludvík Vaculík, further exemplify the relationship of the spoken code and the standard language. Both authors are considered difficult to translate; Brodská and Hrabik-Samal address themselves to the causes of this difficulty. Hrabal’s language is characterized by endless baroque periodic sentences. Vaculík’s, on the other hand, is elliptic; it contains typically Cz metaphors and also various forms of the northeast Moravian Valachian dialect. CCz is always used to a specific purpose in Vaculík’s prose. The author intentionally elaborates his own language variety, Brodská suggests, to a point where it becomes untranslatable, by using neologisms, playing with words, and altering established grammatical constructions. In Vaculík’s words, ‘a book that is easy to translate is, after all, useless.’”