Friday, 29 October 2010

Translations Please

As I have suggested before there is a great deal of Catholic literature out there but far too much of it simply hasn't been translated. There are Catholic novelists in China, for example, who are virtually unknown in the West. There is an interesting interview here with the award-winning Catholic, Fan Wen, for instance. NB: Fan Wen's answers are more nuanced than some of the interviewer's rather loaded questions.

But it's not much better closer to home. Take Martin Mosebach, one of Germany's leading novelists and a good Catholic to boot. You can get his book about the liturgy, The Heresy of Formlessness, from Ignatius Press but why stop there? Why are his highly successful novels not available in English?

Of course, translations can have their problems. The Nobel-Prize-winning Paul Claudel, for example, would be all but forgotten in this country if it weren't for James Lawler's translation of some of his prose poems but, to be honest, they don't make for easy reading in this translation. If you can manage them, the originals are much more satisfying, though the translation at least points us in the right direction.

Sometimes we might even get both, as in this version of Paris by one of France's greatest writers of the 20th Century, the American Julien Green. However, this is very much the exception: most of Julien Green's books also languish in untranslated neglect.

The answer, of course, is to get learning those languages but we have to be realistic: life is short and the list of languages to learn is long. So in the meantime let's please have some more translations.

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