Too often translation is discussed in terms of loss. What hasn’t come through? How is the translation inferior to the original? Multiples, refreshingly, does the opposite: it asks, instead, what is it that survives? And in particular, can something like “style”, which we attach so closely to the specificities of linguistic activity, survive being wrenched out of a language entirely and remade in another? Novelist Adam Thirlwell devised an experiment to put these questions to the test. The outcome is this impossible, fascinating book. The idea in brief: get a story translated several times in series (Russian to French, to English, to Dutch …) and as the distance from the original increases, watch what changes and what remains. To put extra strain on the original’s integrity, Thirlwell invited novelists to do the translating. Many hadn’t translated before. Some possessed – it transpired – only the ropiest understanding of the source language. And novelists are expected to have styles of their own (unlike us translators, who aren’t allowed), so might struggle to avoid incorporating their particular stylistic distortions. How could an original survive?
more from Daniel Hahn at The Guardian here.