It’s no secret that literature can be difficult to translate. That said, some books are definitely more challenging than others. Here are five novels that required epic levels of time and/or devotion from their translators.
1) Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
From a translator’s perspective, David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece could not have been more appropriately named. At one thousand pages of prose, with footnotes and 388 endnotes, the length alone makes translation an intimidating prospect. On top of that, there’s Wallace’s stream-of-consciousness prose style, packed with sly humour, allusions and hints that need to come through in the target language if readers are to have any chance of making sense of the tangled plot.
Nonetheless, Infinite Jest has been translated into six languages: German, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and French. The French translation just came out this year. It took two translators a dozen years to finish! Read more