The 6 Best Translations of Literary Classics

In search of some new reading material and wondering about the best literary classics in translation? Take a look at our list.

Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls,” Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Often hailed as the great comic masterpiece of Russian literature, “Dead Souls” weaves a wildly exaggerated tale of the antihero Chichikov, who roams across the Russian backcountry in search of “dead souls,” deceased serfs who can still be traded in for money. An amusing but realistic depiction of the pomp, vulgarity, and banality of Russian peasant life, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s English translation is as amusing as the original Russian text. These two master translators, both winners of the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, have garnered critical acclaim for their translations of major classics from authors like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita,” Translated by Mirra Ginsburg

Written between 1928 and 1940, what is now Bulgakov’s best-known work was not actually published until 1967. The work chronicles Margarita’s efforts to win back her lover with the help of the Devil, who mysteriously appears one afternoon in Moscow’s Patriarch Ponds. Believe it or not, this masterpiece actually inspired one of the Rolling Stone’s hit songs — “Sympathy for the Devil.” Written by Mick, the song recounts the atrocities of human history from Lucifer’s first-person viewpoint.

Chico Buarque’s “Leite Derramado” (“Spilt Milk”), Translated by Alison Entrekin

Published in 2009, “Spilt Milk” isn’t a classic just yet, but we can assure you that it’s well on its way into the cannon. Winner of the 2010 São Paulo Prize for Literature, “Split Milk” is narrated by a dying patriarch who presents the history of his family as he lies in his hospital bed.

Gabriel García Márquez’s “Cien Años de Soledad” (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”), Translated by Gregory Rabassa

It is impossible to mention Latin America’s Literary Boom without bringing up “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Arguably Nobel Prize winner García Márquez’s best work, this novel recounts the story of the mythical Macondo, inspired by the real-life banana town where Márquez grew up. Since its publication in 1967, the work has been translated into close to 40 languages and has sold well over 30 million copies.

Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary,” Translated by Lydia Davis

Often hailed as the greatest novel of all time, “Madame Bovary” tells the story of the infamous Emma Bovary, a doctor’s wife who has an illicit adulterous affair in order to escape the banalities of her dull provincial life. As James Wood wrote of the work, “Flaubert established for good or ill, what most readers think of as modern realist narration, and his influence is almost too familiar to be visible.” Lydia Davis manages to breathe new life into this iconic classic with her skillfully rendered translation. Also a French translator of literary giants like Proust and Camus, Davis perfectly captures the tremendous subtly of Flaubert’s prose in English.

Grazia Deledda’s “After the Divorce,” Translated by Susan Ashe

When an innocent Constantino is convicted of murdering his uncle, his wife, Giovanna, divorces him and remarries a wealthy but cruel landowner in order to secure her family’s economic future. When the true killer confesses and Constantino is released, he and Giovanna begin a passionate but illicit affair. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1926 for “for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general,” Deledda is one of Italy’s most important writers and “After the Divorce” is arguably her best work.

Should You Translate Your Closed Captions?

Online video is increasingly being deployed by Internet marketers as a way to attract consumers’ attention and boost consumer engagement. 100 million Internet users watch videos online each day, and a third of all online activity is spent watching video. 90 percent of online shoppers at major retailers’ websites report that video content is very helpful in making a purchasing decision, and 75 percent of consumers visit a marketer’s website after seeing a marketer’s video content.

After viewing a video ad, 12 percent of consumers will purchase the product mentioned, and click-throughs on average double when video content is included in a marketing campaign. The bottom line is that video marketing strategies can be incredibly advantageous.

But what to do if you are targeting your video material toward consumer segments that don’t speak English as their first language? Should you translate your closed captions? If you are wondering whether or not you should translate your closed captions, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Translating your closed captions can be an excellent way to help to facilitate increased engagement, improve your ROI, and expand your audience.

Translation: The Key to Reaching a Wider Audience 

Believe it or not, a mere 1 of out of every 4 Internet users speaks English as their primary language. Furthermore, 80 percent of YouTube video views come outside of the U.S., and over two-thirds of YouTube videos come from non-English speaking countries. The bottom line is that multilingual captions can significantly enhance the number of consumers that your brand is reaching with Internet marketing materials.

Boosting SEO With Multilingual Captions

It is also crucial to note that multilingual captions can also substantially boost SEO efforts. Keep in mind that YouTube is among the world’s largest and most popular search engines. One of the major factors used in YouTube algorithms is watch times. In other words, the longer consumers watch a piece of video content, the higher it will rank in results. When captions are in your target audience’s native language, they are bound to watch longer, boosting your content’s rankings.

Quality: The Key to Success

However, it should be noted here that quality is the key to success when it comes to translating closed captions. Many closed captions are translated via software or automated translation programs. But this isn’t necessarily the best way to go. The best way to get quality closed captions translations? A professional translation company like The Translation Company.

British Publisher to Translate Patrick Modiano’s Children’s Book


British publisher Andersen Press has just snagged a deal to publish one of Patrick Modiano’s children’s books. The work, “Catherine Certitude,” is a mystery set in Paris. The publisher is rushing to get books into stores before Christmas and has compared the work to “The Little Prince.”

The deal comes amid a frantic flurry of deals to publish the recent Nobel Prize winner’s works in English. Prior to his Nobel win on Oct. 9 of this year, only one of Modiano’s works was in printed in English, “The Search Warrant,” which tells the story of a young teenager who vanishes during the Nazis’ occupation of France during WWII. The work’s publisher, Harvill Secker, has rushed a reprint of the English translation. Meanwhile, Yale University Press has just secured a deal to publish a trio of the author’s novellas, “Afterimage,” “Suspended Sentences,” and “Flowers of Ruin.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that the award of the Nobel Prize will reignite more than curiosity for his oeuvre. It is reasonable to expect that many of his books will now be translated, and that is all to the good. In every other country in Europe, his publishers have roughly a dozen books in print,” said publisher Christopher MacLehose Press MacLehose. “Modiano’s books are intensely moving. They are also deeply personal. The context that recurs is the occupation of France and the loss and grief that is its legacy,” MacLehose added.

Who Is Patrick Modiano?

A French novelist and winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, Patrick Modiano has been hailed as one of the greatest writers of the 21st century. Born in the suburbs of Paris in 1945 to a Jewish father and a Belgian mother, Modiano published his first novel, “La Place de l’étoile,” in 1968. It tells the story of a Jewish collaborator during World War II and was partly inspired by his father, who survived World War II by collaborating with the Nazis on the black market. It garnered critical acclaim in Germany, where it was hailed as a key post-Holocaust work.

Modiano’s best-known work is arguably “Missing Person,” for which he was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1978. The novel tells the story of a detective who has lost his memory and traces his attempts to recover it. Most of Modiano’s works are variations on the same themes: memory, identity, loss, and seeking. The Nobel Committee awarded him the prestigious prize “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

“Even though he addresses some fundamental topics of human existence and responsibility – first and foremost, the moral legacy of the Nazi occupation in France and the ambiguous actions of many Frenchmen under it – he does it with remarkable lightness of touch, and with a personal relevance that makes these questions pertinent to his contemporaries, French or not. One thing that will surely strike readers discovering his books is how deceptively simple they are, how straightforward, and at the same time how deeply they can resonate,” said Mark Polizzotti, Modiano’s English translator.

The Need for French Translations

Modiano is a widely celebrated author in France, and his works have been translated into an impressive 31 languages. However, only one of his works are currently in circulation in English. “Lots of customers have been really disappointed that they haven’t been able to read more of him,” explained Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles. “Modiano is a French author people would like to explore. French translation services are key to make Modiano more accessible to readers everywhere.

We’ve been able to sell a wide range of original French language books by him, we’ve seen a huge leap in sales for those. The ‘Search Warrant,’ the only one that’s been available in English, has been doing very well, too – the only paperback fiction title which sold more than it last week at Foyles was ‘Gone Girl.’” All in all it looks like Modiano is situated to become a big name in the English-speaking world.

Quote Sources: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/10/british-publisher-translate-patrick-modiano-childrens-book

A Secret Code in Google Translate?


It is true that if something can’t be proven, that doesn’t make it necessarily false but this kind of approach leaves too much space for paranoia. Personally, I tend to steer away from conspiracy theories in the online environment and outside of it, but when it involves one of the most powerful corporations in the world, Google, then it’s hard to steer away without showing any interest. After all, it might influence our everyday lives, and it is only natural that you show more interest in things that might have an impact on you personally.

The translation accuracy of such translation software has long been a subject of discussion, and its development is under the watchful eye of the public for some time now. The reason for this has a lot to do with the growing importance of software and service localization in online business relations and customer relations. It has a lot to do with the ongoing process of globalization and the increasing cross-cultural relations that happen on a daily basis.

Google Translate: The go-to software for instant translation

Having a reliable, yet widely accessible and affordable translation software would do much for the budget and the time efficiency at which modern businesses can develop and expand. Unfortunately, the only thing the public has access to these days is Google Translate, which is suitable for day to day, private translation needs, but it is hardly a permanent and a universal solution for translation issues. The thing that Google relies on is the fact that its translation software is constantly learning and creating better results. It is a small wonder that such a hype broke out about the recent glitches it has shown.

Some other English translations generated by Google when inputting latin placeholder text:

  • China
  • Internet
  • Government
  • Police
  • Freedom

The thing that makes the whole story even more puzzling and interesting is that the “bug” can be interpreted in many ways. Is it a device to communicate with China and its Chinese native speakers without being detected by the so-called Chinese censors? It shows signs of premeditation, and people who take conspiracy theories as hobbies, as well as those who take them seriously, are really getting their money out of this situation.  Here is what the whole thing is about.

English Translation of “Lorem Ipsum”

Translating “Lorem Ipsum” to NATO is just one of the reported “mysterious issues”. We all know what the Lorem Ipsum text is and what it is used for but the thing that it is interesting is how Google Translate handles random strings of this text when translating to the English language. This irregularity was first pointed out by Brian Krab, a renowned online security expert. There are different results for different combinations of strings of this text and the origin of this bug, if you can call it that, has become a very popular subject for debate among internet users, and no official statement by Google has done nothing positive to quench this wildfire of theories spawned from various sources.

The only reaction we have gotten from Google so far comes was in the form of a Tweet which goes: “Garbage in, Garbage out”, probably referring to the learning algorithm of their software and the fact that it uses use input to learn, and since Latin is a dead language, it leaves a lot of room for manipulation. Still, it seems that random input doesn’t entirely explain the situation here and the terms that the software spits out seems a bit more premeditated.

While popularity is one thing and it might be in Google’s interest to milk this hype all the way, it might be a bit unprofessional not to let the public know exactly what happened with their software. So far, we had hackers, fights against Chinese internet blockage and so on. After all, Google is all about getting the information that you need, right?

British and American English – Between the Lines

The following article is based on the experience of a particular British woman who started to live in the US. Even though both nations speak English, they do not share the same mentality necessary for the proper communication at work. Of course, there are vocabulary items which are different (elevator-lift, boot-trunk, pavement- sidewalk etc.), but things like this are highly unlikely to hinder communication. As it was stated before, it is different upbringing and different customs that caused problems for this woman in her attempt to express her thoughts.

Translating British English to American English

One of our amazing traits, when it comes to language, is the ability to decipher much more than words in a certain sentence. When we are having a conversation with someone, or if we are communicating via phone or PC, we are able take into an account the prosodic and paralinguistic features of language, for the purpose of understanding what was truly implied in a spoken or written sentence. Additionally, we are fully capable of using the language in a phatic manner in order to overcome the situation in which we are pressured by awkward silence.

The problem of obstructed communication arises when our, let’s say, code that we use to decipher paralinguistic features is different than the one in another nation speaking the same language. It is what happened in this instance: the American co-workers could not properly understand what the Brit was implying when he wanted to give them feedback related to the work. Namely, it is one of British customs to be polite, or to say it more accurately, they want to create an illusion of politeness.

When composing an e-mail, Brits tend to say things like “I believe…” or “Could you perhaps…” in order to convey “It is like that.” and “You have to do that.” When using such a particular style in Britain, it is perfectly clear to the British people what is implied, in America however, they use a more direct approach, and thus the need to read between those lines never emerged. Moreover, if someone uses sorry in Britain, he or she simply states a difference in opinion whereas in US it is used as an admittance of guilt.

The difference in opinion

The main reason why Brits use this style of speaking or writing is because they believe it is rude to bluntly say your true opinion. Considering the fact that a whole nation knows what is implied by those words, they have this commodity of appearing nice. On the other hand, someone may adopt the attitude that this approach is dishonest, which is why it would be immoral to speak like this, since it would make one appear as a hypocrite.

There is nothing wrong with being polite but if there is no honest intention behind it, it would be wrong to expect people to see through that intention. It is worth mentioning that I used a lot of labeling here, and I do not intend to create an impression that all Brits are using this indirect approach. I wanted to say for the record that people I know who visited England stated how they met complete strangers who were very direct when expressing their opinions or intentions.

Behavior & Attitude

Additionally, it is not uncommon that whenever someone changes his or her place of residence, a difference in behavior and attitude (his applies even on a micro scale like changing the neighborhood, let alone changing cities or the country). In other words, our surrounding are responsible for bringing out the parts of our psyche we weren’t aware of. It is our general condition to strive towards acceptance and fitting in a certain community, even castaways search for other castaways to keep their company.

We try to find people with similar opinions in order to avoid the reconstruction of our personality. In some cases however, like in this one, such thing was not completely possible, the woman needed to change the way she used her language for the sake of being properly understood. This proves that translation services may be necessary even for a same language, and how spoken language is much more than grammar rules and word definitions.

7 Unique Words Without English Translations

Not everything can be translated. Check out these seven words from across the globe that lack a clear or direct English translation.

“Pana po’o”, Hawaiian

The Hawaiian language contains a number of unique words and expressions. Pana po’o is one of them. It means “to scratch your head in order to help you to remember something you’ve forgotten.”

“Komorebi”, Japanese

This highly expressive Japanese word, Komorebi, refers to the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees. The word is comprised of three different kanji (Japanese written characters), the first of which means “tree,” the second of which means “escape,” and the third of which means “light.”

“Forelsket”, Norwegian

 Interestingly, the Norwegian language differentiates between the feeling of being in love and the feeling of falling in love. Forelsket refers to that euphoric feeling that arrives when one begins to fall in love.

“Mamihlapinatapei”, Yaghan

TheYaghan language is an indigenous language spoken by the Yagán people of Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of the South American mainland. It is a language isolate, making it incredibly unique. One of the language’s most unusual words is mamihlapinatapei, which can roughly be translated to “a wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who both have a desire to initiate something but are reluctant to do so.”

The root of the word, ihlapi, means “to be at a loss as what to do next.” The prefix mam consists of the reflexive/passive prefix ma (derived from mam), and the dual suffix apei has a reciprocal sense when used in conjunction with mam. Mamihlapinatapei is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most succinct word, and it is widely considered to be one of the most difficult words to translate.

“Lagom”, Swedish

Though lagom is often translated to “in moderation,” “enough,” “sufficient,” “adequate,” or “just right,” the idea that the word expresses is actually much more complex. The word is associated with moderation and essentially means just the right amount — not too much, not too little. Highly expressive of Swedish egalitarian cultural values, it typically refers to the etiquette of taking your share and can be connected to the Law of Jante, which values collective as opposed to individual effort and mandates that a group member should not think of him or herself as better than other group members. The word might best be translated as the English proverb “enough is as good as a feat.”

“Razbliuto”, Russian

Razbliuto refers to “the sentimental feeling you have about someone you once loved but no longer do.” Interestingly, the concept inspired the debut album of electronic band Lark from South Africa.

“Psithurism”, Greek

This Greek word refers to the sound of leaves whispering in the wind. Interpretations sometimes vary regarding the sound the leaves make, from whispering to rustling to babbling to lapping.

And, now a bonus word. Maybe the best one!

“Waldeinsamkeit”, German

Waldeinsamkeit can be translated from German as “the feeling experienced while alone in the woods, connecting with nature.” This word is so moving that 19th century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was inspired to write a poem about it.

“There the great Planter plants of fruitful worlds the grain,
And with a million spells enchants the souls that walk in pain,”

He wrote, extoling the beauty and power of nature. Emerson, a leader of the Transcendentalist movement, believed that society and its institutions were a corrupting influence on the individual. He believed in the purity of nature and that a life well lived was one that allowed an individual to connect with his or her natural surroundings.

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