Translation

Maybe it’s because I’m bilingual, but I find that reading translated works is almost always less satisfying to me than reading things in their original language. I read Crime and Punishment┬áduring my last semester, and while I ended up loving it – which isn’t to say it didn’t drive me crazy – I also didn’t like it nearly as much as any of the other classics that I read that semester that had all be written originally in English.

Now I’ve started reading The Red and the Black, and I’m enjoying it immensely. The beginning was slow, though, and it took me some time to get into the flow of the writing style; once I did, I managed to begin to find the characters and the social dynamics to be fascinating.

And yet – there’s something missing there. I think, though I can’t be sure, that it’s the fact that I’m reading a translation from the French. I feel that there’s something inevitably lost in the translation process, and it’s something that is impossible to regain unless I learn to read French perfectly and read it in the original. Even then, I’ll have had to have lived in France long enough to understand the ins and outs of the idioms, the connotations of certain phrases and the way I’m supposed to feel about Napoleonic history.

I’m so glad that I’m bilingual and am able to enjoy reading books in two languages – English and Hebrew – and feel the incredible and fascinating difference between writing styles in each of them. However, I wonder whether I’d notice that hard-to-describe lack in the translated works I’m going to be reading this semester if I was monolingual.

Thoughts? Comments? Have any of you felt this or do you think I’m crazy?