The ‘Mouthfeel’ of Translation

"I'm sorry, that number is ex-directory. What might this tell us about the incompleteness of history, and the impossibility of objective truth?"

This post is probably just as well suited to a tweet, so I invite you to parse any excessive verbiage as shameless breakage of the 140 character limit, and a sort of poor justification for blogging. Excellent.

I’d probably read Julian Barnes’s transcription of the phonebook, so his essay in the most recent LRB was a pleasure. Ostensibly a review of Lydia Davis’s new translation of Madame Bovary (he doesn’t like it), it’s also a lovely expression of the problems of translation. Coming from a noted Francophile, Barnes’s objection to Davis is perhaps surprising – it sticks too closely to the original French, rendering Flaubert’s supple prose stiff and clumsy in English. Go read. The review, that is, but if you haven’t alsoread the novel already – where have you been?

3 thoughts on “The ‘Mouthfeel’ of Translation

  1. I have Lydia Davis’ new transation on order (its published by Penguin on 25 November). Perhaps I’ll consider cancelling, but I’d like to read MB again anyway. Interesting article

  2. How about coming back and letting us know what you make of Davis’s translation, Tom? Is Barnes right or wrong?

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