Five best Christmas 2018 books for translators

November 14, 2018
Five best Christmas 2018 books for translators

For those of you looking to treat the translation professional in your life to the perfect Christmas present, these top five Christmas books for translators should certainly hit the spot. And if you’re a translator looking to treat yourself to a new read, then why wait until Christmas?

The Translator’s Invisibility, by Lawrence Venuti

Whether you’re a first year language student or a seasoned legal translation professional, The Translator’s Invisibility will provide fascinating and thought-provoking insights. Published 20 years ago and still selling well, this history of the translation industry from the 17th centure to the present day is a must-read for all those with a link to translation. 

If Cats Disappeared from the World, by Genki Kawamura

If Cats Disappeared from the World is a wonderful, contemporary example of why literary translation is so essential to our understanding of the world. Translated from the original Japanese, it is a moving tale of loss, reconciliation and what’s truly important in life. 

Go, Went, Gone, by Jenny Erpenbeck

Not a very light read, but a great book to get stuck into while you have time over the holiday season is German author Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone. The compassionate novel explores issues of race, belonging, nationality and privilege, following the journey of a retired Berlin professor as he tentatively befriends a community of African asylum seekers living in Berlin. A fascinating and much-needed book in our 

The Seventh Function of Language, by Laurent Binet

A fabulous blending of mystery and language, The Seventh Function of Language uses the medium of fiction to explore the power of language. If there really was a seventh function of language, which was so powerful that it gave those who mastered it the power to persuade anyone to do anything, how far would we go to hide its discovery?

The General Theory of the Translation Company, by Renato Beninatto and Tucker Johnson

The General Theory of the Translation Company offers a wonderfully entertaining look at language services. Easily digestible and guaranteed to amuse, the book is both insightful and irreverent, prompting readers to think about how we talk about language services and why. 

Literary translation

Working in the translation industry is about so much more than simply making money by translating. According to the latest Tomedes translation survey results, some 52% of freelance translators cite love of languages as the main motivation behind their choice of career. 

This love of languages creates some outstanding opportunities to appreciate literary fiction. Reading a novel in its original language, then again in translation, is a fascinating experience for those who enjoy the subtleties and nuance of languages and how they interrelate. 

The process also provides a way to see another culture from the perspective of one who lives and breathes it. Values and concepts that are be alien to the reader may be perfectly natural to the author. This is one of the reasons why literary fiction in translation is so exciting – it provides stolen glimpses into faraway worlds. Though the characters may be fictitious, much is still revealed through translated novels. 

Of course, you don’t have to be a translator to enjoy literary fiction written by authors in other countries! High quality fiction of the like of the novels above speaks to a wide range of readers. 

Final thoughts

What was the last literary translation that you read and what cultural insights did you pick up as a result of reading it? What more can we do to promote the value of literary translation to society and ensure that the number of novels being translated continues to increase? Leave a comment to share your views! 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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