Historical Research, Translation Issue

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In Book 3, I have a woman reading a book to a boy, so I tried to chose a novel that would be appealing to boys and available in Portugese at that time.

I settled on King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard. It was translated into Portuguese by Eça de Qeirós in Porto in 1903. Perfect.

At the time I thought I could just pick out some English passages and quote them (since it’s out of copyright), but then I discovered I had a problem: the translation.

If you look at that photo above, all that text between the brown brackets is what we see on the page in the Portuguese version (on the kindle). About half the number of words.

It turns out the Portuguese translator abridged it considerably. (Not that I really blame him.) So I’m going to have to be careful about randomly picking out a line and expecting the Portuguese version to be the same.

Here’s an example.
From the Portuguese translation:
O homenzarrão passou a mão pelas barbas,–e distinctamente, muito distinctamente, o ouvi murmurar: “Ainda bem!”

Here’s about how that translates:
The big man passed his hand over his beard, and distinctly, very disctinctly, I heard him murmur, “Thank God!”

Here’s what the original says:
The big man made no further remark, but I heard him mutter “fortunate” into his beard.

Those two aren’t particularly close. The translator captured the idea there, but I expect that ‘muttering into his beard’ is an idiom that doesn’t exist in Portuguese…so the translator had to change it to a version that would make sense to Portuguese readers.

So my current fit of researching is talking me through the two versions of this novel. It’s a real lesson in how translation works!

#SFWAPro

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