Roy Jacobsen - Child Wonder

Rating 6.2

Bought in the only actual bookshop of Abingdon-on-Thames out of fondness to support a laudable independent business.
That and because I've got a fascination for bildungsroman novels set in poor pre-oil Oslo. Call it a hang-up.

Unfortunately, I should have known that Roy Jacobsen is no Jan Kjaerstad nor Lars Saabye Christensen nor Dag Solstad.
Furthermore Child Wonder suffers from a weird four-handed translation by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw.

What's the purpose of having two translators, I wonder? Especially considering how Mr Shaw's speciality is Danish (to the point he wrote a Danish-Thai-Danish dictionary!) and not Norwegian bokmaal.
I reckon how bokmaal itself is but an adaptation of written Danish with merely 106 years of history, but - for goodness' sake - it's not Danish. Nor Thai.
A good answer on the double translator business came from Robert after posting this review on Goodreads:

There are many reasons to have two translators. Some work as a team, due to different skills, most notably Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Sometimes a young translator does a mediocre job, and someone more experienced is brought in to fix it up. Sometimes the work of an American translator is Britishized by a Brit (almost never the other way around). Sometimes someone just helps out enough to be given credit. As an editor of translations, I sometimes became very involved, but never took formal credit. Having another ear and eye can be very helpful
Which makes perfect sense.
And yet, my impression is that one Don didn't help the other here. I mean, the final result of this translation is certainly a mediocre job. If not worse.

I don't know who's actually to blame for the mess they made with this book, but I'd like to discover who had the brilliant idea of NOT translating Mr, Mrs and Miss so that characters are called, say, herr Syversen and fru Amundsen.
Was that supposed to make one think of a play by Ibsen?
So why 'Uncle Bjarne' is not 'Onkel'? And 'Mother', 'Mor'? Lack of inspiration? Mere distraction?

My distant Norwegian memories shook, rattled and rolled when the butcher boys Don&Don called 'legendary restaurants' the sportsstue (literally 'sports lounge', technically cafes for skiers) of Sinober, Soerskauen and Lilloseter.
Really? I mean, we have a scene of anticipation for a Sunday ski-excursion in the forests of Lillomarka and later a working class kid in ski overalls swallowing waffles in a no-frills sportsstue and Don&Don chose the expression 'legendary restaurant' to define it.
Go check a better dictionary, guys; possibly not a Danish-Thai-Danish one.

Ah, and thank you to Don&Don for having left "the 1961 edition of 'Hvem, Hva, Hvor', an almanac" with its original Norwegian title. Which is, I am sure, extremely understandable for the standard Anglo-Saxon reader. Who? What? Where? May I add 'Hvorfor', why?

Child Wonder is no masterpiece and, overall, a somewhat frigid and dispassionate novel, but nonetheless a decent effort of a book that I would have liked to enjoy without frowning too much in the reading process. It's a pity that I couldn't rely on Don&Don in order to do that.
I hope Roy Jacobsen had the chance to have a look into this Frankenstein of a translation

No comments:

Post a Comment