I just finished The Stonecutter by Camilla Läckberg (http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=6133). I have read several Scandinavian mysteries the last two years and I have to say that most of them were very good.
Anyone here reads translated books?
I have heard a theory where someone said she reads nothing but foreign books because if they were good enough to be translated into English, they must be excellent.
I have had some exceptions to this rule (and I think that English translators are not doing a very good job - but it's an industry/readers expectation thing) but for the most part she's right.
Do you think translating is an art onto itself?
Translation is definitely an art. I read a lot of Russian books in translation because my Russian isn't quite up to par for reading a novel. One of the neatest books that I've ever owned is a collection of Pushkin's poems that features side-by-side comparisons of the original Russian and then two or three different translations of each. You can see the trade-offs that each translator chooses to make between the literal meaning of the words, the spirit of the text, rhythm, and readability. It's fascinating.
I have read translated books both from English to French (when I was in school) and other languages to English. It's definitely an art and skill. unfortunately, many books I've read have been poorly translated and I think I missed out on a good story because I couldn't get beyond the 'clunky' translation. I have read Several books by Umberto Eco, translated from Italian and The Millenium Series (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc) which were translated well. I wouldn't refuse a book because it was translated, but I am definitely have less high expectations of it.
The hard part is knowing when a book is just not for you because it's a (in your opinion) bad story or if it's the translation to blame.
Luckily for me I read in several languages, but the best translated books I read have many footnotes to explain the nuances of the cultural references, explanations of references which are not common in other countries, etc.
These are things which are absent in English translations from some reason.
For example, I read a “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery (http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=3074) which I thought was very good. Others didn't and the reason is that they didn't get all the cultural, philosophical and literary references. I got a few but mostly relied on the translator's footnotes.
I, like you, can read books in several languages and have noticed that sometimes the translation can make a book more interesting or boring. There are also things that can't be translated and need a footnote (or several). Specially if there are some jokes with words that don't make sense if translated.
I have also seen that sometimes when a translated book has slang or insults, sometimes things are translated too literally and don't really mean what the author meant anymore. The result is that the person who is talking looks stupid or weird, because nobody would talk like that.
Translation is definately an art. If you translate something word for word from another language, it will sound weird and awkward, and much of the meaning might get lost. A translator has to not only make the translation, but make sure that the writing flows, the metaphors make sense and the dialoque is not stilted. I speak Russian as well as English and can't read Russian books translated into English. The translations are usually awful.
I agree, A good translator also try to match the authors style as closely as possible
I thoroughly enjoyed The Stonecutter and I would imagine that translating it to english wasn't easy. I can see where that theory might hold true...