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Translators bring books to new readers

Update: October, 30/2014 - 10:25

HA NOI (VNS) — Vietnamese and French experts this week joined an international conference focusing on literature translation.

The meeting was told that translated works were playing a more important role in reading culture.

Titled Literature Translation: Theoretical Issues and Lessons of Experience, the event was hosted by the Ha Noi College of Social Sciences.

Vietnamese translators and professors Pham Xuan Nguyen, Le Huy Bac, Dang Thi Hanh, and Tran Ngoc Vuong attended together with four counterparts from the University of Aix-Marseille in France.

Speaking at the two-day event which closed on Tuesday, Professor Vuong said the Vietnamese market was filled with translated works.

"Locally-created literature works fail to meet the real reading demand, thus, it's necessary to have translated works," he said.

Previously, only classical works were chosen. Now, translated works are more diverse and closely follow the global trend. Many works are even translated and printed in Viet Nam before they appear on the silver screen.

For example, Viet Nam published the translated version of James Dashner's 2009 novel The Maze Runner in 2013, a year before the production of the American action film of the same name.

Similarly, the science-fiction film The Giver hit Vietnamese cinemas early this month while a Vietnamese translation of the children's American novel The Giver was available in 2008.

"None of the translated versions are everlasting," said Professor Noel Dutrait. "They are edited, criticised and renewed again and again. Many works are translated [into a same language] with different voices. This does good for the translation sector.

"Authors of an original literature work deserve its glory, because the original work is unique, not the translated one," Dutrait added.

The director of the Institute for Research on Asia also admitted that sometimes it was hard to completely convey the spirit of the original versions into other languages due to the difference of cultural context.

Thus, Dutrait said, a fine translation needed numerous factors, of which the most crucial was that translators must be master of both languages. They also should be well aware of the cultural context of the work.

Nevertheless, this is not always feasible. In Viet Nam, many translators self-study to become fluent in a foreign language. They also learn about translation theory as well as foreign cultures through indirect sources, including books.

"I've translated many works from Russian, French and English, but I self-studied all these languages. I'm able to use these language in writing, but not in speaking," said renowned translator Pham Xuan Nguyen.

"I even had translated works from countries before I travelled there."

Regarding what the French profession said earlier, it's easy to recognise that the translation of a foreign literature work in Viet Nam sometimes arouses debates and doubts about previous translated versions.

A world hit will have plenty of competitive versions in Vietnamese, often creating arguments. But this proves good signals about the freedom in literature translation.

"I find it interesting to have such a democratic life in translation work," translator Ngo Tu Lap said.

Do Thi Huong, who addressed the conference with a report on Lolita by Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, said no translated works were valueless.

"If a translated work is completed with mistakes, it will be a good basis for translators to create much better works in the future."— VNS

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