Gifted Tongues

Max is reading The Savage Detectives and liking it, which means that I should probably give in and put it on the list. He notes, however:

This is the first translated novel I’ve read since Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk, which is not to say that I have a distaste for translated fiction in general. I read a ton of translated fiction under ordinary circumstances, but last year I decided I would make more of an effort to read Americans writing English. This has paid huge style dividends — there’s no better place to learn a language than at the feet of the masters, and the language spoken, and prose written, in America is different than that spoken and written in England and throughout the international world.

Immersing myself in Faulkner, Hemmingway, Steinbeck (oh, Steinbeck!) has been a joy, and excellent for my writing, but it’s fascinating to return to worlds where the main characters do not speak English at home, and where a different set of giants tower over the literary landscape.

I think Bolano has one of the better translators I’ve seen. Another person who’s been very well-served by their translator is Arturo Perez-Reverte, who despite initially refusing to have his books translated into a language other than French, relented, and ended up working, at least on some of his projects, with Sonia Soto, who is just a G. The Club Dumas, one of her jobs with him, is a gorgeous piece of English prose.