Saturday, May 09, 2015

The new English translation of Linna's Unknown Soldiers

Remember I wrote about Väinö Linna's war novel Tuntematon sotilas AKA The Unknown Soldier a while back? Check it out here. I mentioned at the end of my blog post that the new English translation by Liesl Yamaguchi is on its way. It's been out some weeks now, and the first reviews have come out. Here's the first one, from Independent. It's not overtly positive, but there's not much contextualizing in the review. The critic writes like it's a new book. And I had no problem with the multitude of characters, maybe it's because the critic is too accustomed to the habit of new novels introducing the characters a tad too carefully?

There's also the issue of the slang being translated in another language. It's never easy. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was translated in the seventies so that the African-Americans spoke the Turku region dialect (which to many sounds funny), the same with cockney in Stoker's Dracula. It's annoying and distracting and only mildly funny. So one can understand the difficulties the translator of Linna's war novel had to come over, since there are so many dialects in the book.

But do note that the new translation is called Unknown Soldiers, not "The Soldier", as the previous, reportedly bad piece of work. I was told, by the way, that the earlier translation should've been better. Alex Matson, whom I mention in my earlier post, wanted his name left out from the book after the publishers botched his work and cut several pieces from the text.

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