Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Observer Fails to Observe Michael Hofmann

It'd be funny, really, if it weren't quite so tragic. Today's Observer has an interesting piece by Dalya Alberge on the unexpected success of Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin in the UK. Unexpected, of course, because the book is translated. And as everybody knows, nobody wants to read those nasty foreign books by people with unpronouncable names. Except that in this case, 100,000 people already have and Penguin is expecting to sell a whopping 250,000 copies.

The article ticks all the right boxes - talking to the British Centre for Literary Translation, bemoaning the lack of published translated fiction, etc. etc. And then Alberge fails to mention the small matter of the translator himself - Michael Hofmann, whose prose genuinely shines in the English version.

While the Observer's weekday sister paper the Guardian is clearly making an effort to credit translators in its reviews, it seems the Sunday journalists or editors haven't quite caught on. It's enough to make you bang your head against a wall, really it is.

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