You may have read my post “On typos and small presses…”. In it I respond to a critical amazon.com review regarding a book I’ve published containing a typo. I took a day or so before I wrote it, because I didn’t want to be defensive in my response. Another critical review for a different book has been posted, and I would like to respond.
No translations, April 27, 2014
By Brandon S. Frazer
This review is from: The Philosophical Writings of Edgar Saltus: The Philosophy of Disenchantment & The Anatomy of Negation (Paperback)
The content of this book deserves five stars. Saltus’ presentation of Schopenhauer makes it worth buying alone. The publishers spared no expense in a nice cover, thick pages, and large print but for some reason neglected to translate the many quotes Saltus makes in French, Italian, German, and Latin. It’s a shame and there is no excuse for it no matter what twisted rationalization they obviously made in order to not do it. Shame on them.
I appreciate reviews on amazon, and seeing that it’s a “verified purchase” assures me Mr. Frazer bought the book, and so I thank him for that as well. We agree that the content of the book deserves five stars, and the reviewers appreciation of the design and typesetting of the book is appreciated. I love books and book design.
Though I could do without the “public shaming” aspect, I will eschew discussing his hyperbole to address his actual objection without my taking offense at his taking offense. He may or may not see it as an excuse, and he may or may not accept it. I’m writing not for him per se, but for anyone interested.
The original editions of the two works combined into one did not contain translations. I believe it may be that Saltus’ audience at the time was assumed not to have needed them, that they were literate enough to either understand or diligent enough to translate them on their own. But Saltus’ presumed intended audience is probably not mine. I, personally, would like my book to have translations of all non-English text, and it was a topic I discussed with a number of people, and specifically a few fellow publishers.
It could also be that the same considerations that led Saltus’ publishers to leave passages untranslated were those of mine as well. As someone who spent over a year managing a large translation project, to say I have gained a sense of respect for translation is to put it mildly. Translation is a difficult, tedious task, and it will be criticized. I have, indeed, received a private “shaming” e-mail because one reader disagreed with the translation of a few lines of text in that book. I understand he, like the reviewer above, have a great deal of appreciation for the work, and therefore any problem they see is magnified by that attachment.
One consideration, and an important one, is that a mis-translation of any sort would certainly draw greater criticism than non at all. This is similar to the typo problem, if there was just one unit of noise among the 1.4 million units of information in this book (letters, numbers, spaces, punctuation, etc.), some people would be absolutely furious. Not necessarily the reviewer here, but certainly MANY readers would “take offense”. Translation is no mere task of switching out a foreign word for an English one, especially when you’re dealing with more literary sources as Saltus is. Certainly any translations done during Saltus’ time would also probably differ greatly than translation work done today.
So, if a translation of sections of a half-dozen languages were to be mounted, how would that be done? Professional translation, and proofreading by competent editors of the respective foreign languages. This means either connections to (for low or no paid work) or hiring one or many professionals. I do not have connections to people who do professional translating of all the languages needed. A few, certainly…. and if there were any Japanese or Spanish I could have covered those easily enough. So there would have to be a budget for translation. There is none. No rationalization needed.
There was only one decision that needed to be made once it was decided that translations were not feasible, was simple: “Is the book worth reprinting as the original, adding a new introduction by Chip Smith, but without adding translations?”
My answer should be obvious.
That said, I’m willing to make a proposal to get this reviewer and any future possible readers translations of the foreign language passages:
1. Anyone who can prove they have experience and capability to produce the necessary translations, is offered 15% commission on sales of any edition that contains their work. Once the job has been completed, we would produce a revised edition of the book. Translator would need to agree to allow the translations to be hosted online by us as a free service to anyone who purchased the current version. They must either do the work or hire out the work at their expense so the copyright on the translation can be transferred to Underworld Amusements.
2. Anyone can organize a “crowdsourced” translation project and the results would be hosted on our website or any other reliable site for reference by anyone. A note will be placed on the copyright page with a URL where readers can find the translations for their own referencing, with a caveat emptor that they may contain errors.