ADDING WORDS TO FLAUBERT. I posted here on the controversies among translators about how close the translator should stay to the author. There, I cited the example of a new translation of WAR AND PEACE by Pevear and Volokhonsky in which they translate a passage by Tolstoy which uses the Russian word for “wept” seven times. They translate the word as “wept” every time. Three other translators “follow the stricture of ‘good writing’ against repetition, using ‘wept’ three or four times and ‘cried’ three or four times.” Lydia Davis apparently stays very close to the original, but I was surprised to see in a review of her translation by Sam Anderson in New York magazine (October 11, 2010) that other translators feel free to add words to Flaubert, who was famously precise about his word choices. Davis gives an example of a passage from MADAME BOVARY in which Flaubert writes that: “des cantharides bourdonnaient…” Davis translates it as “cantharis beetles buzzed….” (subject and verb only). She then points to a translation that throws in an adverb (and a cliched adverb at that): “cantharides beetles droned busily….” There is no adverb like “busily” in Flaubert. I will be more wary of translations in the future.

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