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Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything Hardcover – October 11, 2011
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“[Bellos] offers an anthropology of translation acts. But through this anthropology a much grander project emerges. The old theories were elegiac, stately; they were very much severe. Bellos is practical, and sprightly. He is unseduced by elegy. And this is because he is onto something new . . . Dazzlingly inventive.” ―Adam Thirlwell, The New York Times
“In the guise of a book about translation this is a richly original cultural history . . . A book for anyone interested in words, language and cultural anthropology. Mr Bellos's fascination with his subject is itself endlessly fascinating.” ―The Economist
“For anyone with a passing interest in language this work is enthralling . . . A wonderful celebration of the sheer diversity of language and the place it occupies in human endeavour. Conducted by a man who clearly knows his stuff, it is a whirlwind tour round the highways and byways of translation in all its glorious forms, from literary fiction to car repair manuals, from the Nuremberg trials to decoding at Bletchley Park.” ―The Scotsman
“Bellos has numerous paradoxes, anecdotes and witty solutions . . . his insights are thought provoking, paradoxical and a brilliant exposition of mankind's attempts to deal with the Babel of global communication.” ―Michael Binyon, The Times
“This informed book props open the door to the idea of translation with pop culture . . . This broad-ranging book reads like a survey course in translation, providing a look at its history, detractors, challenges, future--if computers are the future--and current practice, both spoken and written . . . The result is arresting.” ―Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
“David Bellos writes like a person who chooses his words not only carefully but also confidently and pragmatically. Translation is a challenging enterprise, but one he embraces vigorously and without the gloomy pessimism that leads some to declare that it's impossible . . . Rich, often playful chapters.” ―Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[A] witty, erudite exploration . . . [Bellos] delights in [translation’s] chequered past and its contemporary ubiquity . . . He would like us to do more of it. With the encouragement of this book, we might even begin to enjoy it.” ―Maureen Freely, Sunday Telegraph
“Is That A Fish In Your Ear? is spiced with good and provocative things. At once erudite and unpretentious . . . [it is a] scintillating bouillabaisse.” ―Frederic Raphael, Literary Review
“Forget the fish--it's David Bellos you want in your ear when the talk is about translation. Bellos dispels many of the gloomy truisms of the trade and reminds us what an infinitely flexible instrument the English language (or any language) is. Sparkling, independent-minded analysis of everything from Nabokov's insecurities to Google Translate's felicities fuels a tender--even romantic--account of our relationship with words.” ―NATASHA WIMMER, translator of Roberto Bolaño's Savage Detectives and 2666
“A disquisition of remarkable freshness on language, speech and translation. In short, punchy, instructive chapters that take in such things as linguistics, philosophy, dictionaries, machine translation, Bible translations, international law, the Nuremberg trials, the European Union and the rise of simultaneous interpreting . . . I could say anyone with an interest in translation should read Is That a Fish, but there wouldn't be very much point; instead, anyone with no interest in translation, please read David Bellos's brilliant book” ―Michael Hofmann, The Guardian
“Bellos has adopted a radically different approach: as his Hitchhikery title suggests, he has set out to make it fun . . . Is That a Fish in Your Ear? is essential reading for anyone with even a vague interest in language and translation--in short, it is a triumph.” ―Shaun Whiteside, The Independent
“Erudite . . . ultimately illuminating, even transformative.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Written by an award-winning translator and professor of comparative literature, this book is informed by considerable culture and an original, probing intelligence with a mostly light touch--the title riffs off of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, whose babel fish, when inserted in one's ear, could translate any imaginable language. If only it were that easy . . . It is a breeze to get lost in translation, and for this reason Bellos cannily exclaims, ‘We should do more of it.'” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
David Bellos is the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also a professor of French and comparative literature. He has won many awards for his translations of Georges Perec, Ismail Kadare, and others, including the Man Booker International Translator's Award. He also received the Prix Goncourt for George Perec: A Life in Words.
Top Customer Reviews
A good portion of this book is about what translation is. The notion of translating "sense for sense", not "word for word" is of course good advice, and very old advice. The author handles things like, what do we mean by "literal translation", and why it is harder to translate Asterix than Proust.
I loved the discussion of "UP translation" and "DOWN translation". (I won't tell you what that is, you have to read the book).
All-in-all, probably the best book I have ever read about translation, and very accessible to anyone, translators and people just interested in language. I can't recommend this book more.
A must read for translators.
In attempting to write a book that covers, well, pretty much everything about translation, David Bellos has produced a comprehensive and badly needed primer full of insight, yet a not-so coherent and cohesive unity. The book is divided into 32 small sections (yes, 32), each dealing with a different aspect of translation, from the meaning of "meaning", to the alleged "myth" of literal translation, with newswires and the ridiculous sophistication of coffee-shop language somewhere in-between. Some of these sections are delightful and concisely written, others are riddled with analogies and humorous attempts that distract from the main topic, yet others are frankly repetitive or well under-developed. The result is less a piece that seems to flow from chapter to chapter, but rather something that feels at times like a collection of disparate short essays that rumble from bananas to bibles to eskimos and back to translation. While some chapters indeed perform liaisons to previous or following ones, sadly that is not the overall feeling that one gets when tackling the text.
I guess this is the unavoidable result of attempting to put together so many different topics under a single umbrella, while trying to give equal importance to each and every single one. But my other assumption is that the book could have greatly benefited from a better editing job, which in turn would have resulted in a more 'natural' feeling to the final product.Read more ›
So, is anything lost in translation? Bellos dislikes the idea.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thoughts and insights about translation, language, and meaning.Published 10 days ago by Marvin Hampton
As someone who has been trained and has worked as a professional translator, I really wanted to like this book. But, alas, for professionals, it provides no new insight. Read morePublished 8 months ago by onceaparisienne
This is a terrific book on the nature of language and translation. Great chapters on Biblical translation, the history of translations and historical trends in translations, even... Read morePublished 12 months ago by William S Jamison
I am a huge lover of language, so I thought I would enjoy this book. It was much more specifically about the intricacies of translation and veers off in directions I didn't care... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Keith G. Bernard
Witty, informed, well-written. Required reading in the literary translation courses I teach.Published 18 months ago by Mark Statman