As strange as it may seem, although I am translator, I generally refuse to read books that were translated from another language. Not that I underestimate the talent of translators. Quite the opposite, I admire people who are able to translate 16 hours a day for 3 months in row so the book can come out on time. But although their text is usually of great quality, I feel like I am betraying the author and that though I am reading the exact same story in my language, I won’t get the same feel of the words as if I was reading the book in the original language.
I made two small exceptions two my approach to books. The first one was the first 4 Harry Potter books (my English wasn’t good enough yet but as soon as could understand it properly I switched to the original version). The second exception was the Millenium Trilogy. Most of the books I have read were either written in French or in English, so reading a book in its original language had never really been a problem. But the Millenium Trilogy was written in Swedish , which is a completely different story. I mean, I could simply have done like a friend of mine and wait till I can speak proper Swedish before reading it, but I had heard so many good things about that trilogy that I could NOT wait 2 or 3 years to read the books.
So I had two choice: reading them in English or in French. Either way, it would have to be a translation and so as much as the linguists were good, I was bound to miss some cultural elements. As I was particularly appealed by the English titles, I went to a London bookshop and got them:
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornest’s Nest
To me, they sounded much more attractive, obscure and intriguing as the French ones:
Les Hommes qui n’aiment pas les femmes (Men Who Didn’t Like Women)
La fille qui rêvait d’un bidon d’essence et d’une allumette (The Girl Who Fantasized about a Gas Can and a Match) –> I actually like this French title a lot
La Reine dans le palais des courants d’air (The Queen in the Air Castle)
Now, whether I like the titles or not doesn’t really matter as it is completely subjective. The really question is: which of the two versions is more faithful to the Swedish?
Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hated Women)
Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played with Fire)
Luftslottet som sprängdes (The Air Castle That Blew Up)
Needless to say, overall the French titles were more faithful to the original. And as much as I love the Enlish titles, I have to admit they don’t entirely follow the Swedish. What’s more, they shift the focus of the story completely. By starting each title with “The Girl…”, they create a sort of consistency throughout the trilogy, however they mislead the reader as they give the impression that the whole story is about Salander. And because of these titles, I myself was surprised not to read more about Salander, particularly in the third part.
Anywho, I thought I’d write a quick post about this amazing trilogy as I just finished reading it. I’m quite sad actually, as there is little chance a fourth book will ever be published. The late Stieg Larsson had started writing a fourth opus, but died before he was able to finish it. His partner Eva Gabrielsson, who played a major part in the writing of the first three chapters, would have been the ideal person to finish it, but due to legal prosecutions, she hasn’t been able to do so as yet.
One thing is sure, though, this book really made me want to learn more about Swedish culture and traditions, and who knows, maybe I will take up a Scandinavian language one day :-)
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Bye for now,