A little while ago I read Viz's translation of Usurper of the Sun, by NOJIRI Housuke
. (I try to read novels in Japanese, but it's slow and taxing. . . so I cheat a lot.)
The book's been sitting in my pile of stuff to talk about ever since. It's a bit of a problem for me -- I like it, but the prose is terrible. It's got an evocative title, a neat premise, and an elegant minimum of character development. It's a pretty good book. But the style made it a difficult slog.
I'm not claiming to have perfect taste in prose style -- I have strong tastes, with which reasonable people may disagree. But the writing here -- and, to be clear, I blame the translator entirely -- is leaden. Ponderous, slow, inelegant. And somehow the dialogue is even worse. Stilted and unnatural, even in the most emotional moments.
But, you know, it's a hard thing they set out to do. Dialogue takes practice. Translation is difficult. I couldn't have done it, so I shouldn't judge John WUNDERLEY so stringently. I did read the book, and I genuinely enjoyed it. And maybe the style is a perfect translation of the original, in which case I redirect all my criticism accordingly.
It reminds me of something Jeff mentioned to me once. He was talking about the most famous translator in Hong Kong, a legend in his field, who said that he never read the original. He worked from detailed summaries and wrote afresh what he perceived the author intended. They said that he captured the spirit of the work -- that a person reading one of his translations would be affected just as one who read the original. And I think that's really the most you can ask.