Literary translation: 5 Most Translated Literary Texts In The World

by William Reid

Cultural and idiomatic differences make Literary translation challenging. Mastering translation and conveying the intended meaning takes time and practice, yet many messages have profound significance regardless of the language in which they were written. For instance, many books have universal appeal because of their profound messages and compelling narratives. Religious texts, fantasy novels, and classic children’s literature are among the most widely translated books. Estimates range from 3,000 to 5,000 different translations of the Bible in use today. Let’s check out some of the most commonly translated literature.

Literary translation

Antoine de Saint-“The Exupéry’s Little Prince” was released in 1943 by Reynal & Hitchcock. Both English and French versions of the book were initially published. It’s about an adult who reconnects with their inner kid and uses that connection to visit planets where outstanding education takes place. The official website for “The Little Prince” claims that it has been translated into 300 different tongues.

Why Literary Translation is Necessary?

Many books, whether they are works of fiction or nonfiction, holy scriptures, or comic comics, have been translated into various tongues. It should come as no surprise that children’s novels predominate among those with several translations.

A book is translated so that people from different cultures can read it. There is no more straightforward method of promoting a book. Naturally, more people could read it if more languages were converted.

Various obstacles must be overcome when working as a translator. They must be fluent in both languages they are working with. They employ a mystical process that allows literature to be translated into another language without altering its essential meaning. Sometimes a book that doesn’t sell well in its native form gains popularity after being published in Literary translation.

The Bible has been translated more than any other book.

The Bible is a translated book in large quantity if we count religious works in this category. The Bible is available in seven hundred plus languages, according to the most up-to-date statistics in 2021, making it accessible to 6 billion plus speakers all over the world.

The Book of Dao (The Book of the Way and Its Virtue)

This collection of Lao Tzu’s philosophical writings is the oldest book and has been translated into more than 250 languages. In its original form, it was a Chinese treatise written around 400 B.C. and devoted to the philosophical and religious underpinnings of Daoism and Taoism. Once its moral teachings reached the West, it increased in the twentieth century. The book has several sloppy English titles, the most common of which is Tao Te Ching.

Pilgrim’s Progress

Written in the 1600s, Pilgrim’s Progress is widely considered one of the earliest novels in the English language and a landmark work of Christian literature. John Bunyan combines allegory and perspective in this novel about a figurative Heaven as seen through the experiences of a person named Christian. It has been translated into almost 200 languages.

Little Prince has been translated into nearly every language worldwide.

Little Prince is the most translated work in the world, second only to the Bible. Since its initial publication in 1943, this intellectual fable has been translated into over 475 tongues. Hassaniya, a language spoken by people in the Sahara region of Morocco, is the language into which the literature was translated for the 300th time. 

This is highly significant because Saint-Exupéry drew inspiration for his literary masterwork from his time spent in Mexico and more specifically, in the area of the desert where Hassaniya is the language. All of the widely spoken languages on Earth and a plethora of less widely spoken ones have seen Literary translations of Little Prince.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

This popular children’s and adult book by Lewis Carroll has inspired countless artistic interpretations. It was first published in English in the middle of the nineteenth century and has remained consistently popular ever since. It’s the first book in Carroll’s Alice trilogy, an allegorical tale of a kid joining a magical realm. It’s been translated into roughly 175 languages so far. Pinocchio: His Fantastic Journeys

The Adventures of Pinocchio

This novella by Carlo Collodi was the most widely Literary translation of fiction a decade ago. The original text of The Adventures of Pinocchio was written in Italian, but the story has since been rendered into 260 different tongues.

Everyone knows the tale of the wooden puppet that comes to life, but few are aware of the scathing criticism that inspired the original Italian literature. Pinocchio is one of the most well-known examples of a story that Disney softened, brightened, and, dare I say it, made likeable. Pinocchio is not the sweet and easily manipulated child of the 1940 cartoon but rather a vicious and stubborn one.

A “Harry Potter”

Most of these titles are timeless classics, although the ‘Harry Potter volumes are more modern and have been translated into numerous tongues. Between 1997 and 2007, J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. This list indicates that the first Harry Potter novel has been localized into about 80 different tongues.

There is wisdom in the Tao Te Ching.

The “Tao Te Ching” was composed in China in approximately 400 BC and is considered a foundational document for the philosophy and religion of Taoism. According to tradition, Laozi wrote the book. Written in Classical Chinese, which lacks many components and sentence structure of modern languages, the “Tao Te Ching” is notoriously difficult to translate. However, The Tao Te Ching has been translated into more than 250 different languages despite this fact.

Certified Translators of Literature

One of the critical responsibilities of a literary translator is to convey the original author’s meaning in the target language, which often necessitates being true to the genre the source material belongs to.

It isn’t easy since the translator must be imaginative to bring the original text’s literary figures into the target language and achieve the desired effect. The success of the translation hinges on how faithfully it stays true to the original in spirit and essence. Furthermore, the cultural context of the source and destination languages must be considered when translating a work from one language to another; for example, while translating from Arabic to Norwegian. Short stories, dramas, poetry, novels, comic books, adapted works, and so on are all examples of literary works that can be translated.

Troubles that arise when providing literary translation services

What follows are some of the difficulties encountered when translating literature:

Designated stylistic elements and clever wordplay. Stylistic elements and wordplay make translation difficult because there are sometimes no direct analogues. The literary translator’s job is to decipher the author’s meaning and the beauty of his or her expression and then choose a word or phrase that best conveys that.

  • Specific names. 

Place names, people’s names, and even the names of animals all have the potential to carry significant interpretive weight. For instance, one of the main characters in the original version of the novel Scarlet, which is based on the fairy story, is named Wolf. Lobo is the Spanish word for “wolf,” which is how this name was interpreted when it was first introduced to the Spanish language.

  • Terminology. 

The majority of the time, this issue appears in works of science fiction and fantasy. This is because the author creates new language to describe the novel’s settings, items, and activities. Moreover, the jargon is often difficult to understand.

Similar to what has been described in the preceding paragraphs, it can be challenging for Literary translation. It’s crucial to stick with a single translation of a name or term after you’ve decided on it. This ensures the reader can quickly grasp the material entirely. This sort of setback, for instance, appears in the narrative, as mentioned earlier and takes on the same tone. The character’s name was original “Lobo” for Wolf in Scarlet but was later returned to its English version in subsequent novels. This is problematic because a reader who does not know English will not understand the reference made by the name.

  • Details were disclosed afterwards.

Authors of specific works intend to pique readers’ curiosity by setting up a certain level of anticipation. To achieve this effect, writers introduce the plot indirectly or vaguely and then fill in the blanks by the book’s end. Since they might not know the context, literary translators may need help with this truth. Translators should read the entire novel before beginning the Literary translation process.

  • Goal cultural group. 

There could be a lot of hidden allusions to the original culture there. Since the translator’s job is to evoke the same emotions in readers of both languages, he or she must have a deep understanding of both cultures.

As the world becomes more interconnected, so does the literary world, with more and more books from all over the world gaining widespread attention and admiration.

For the sake of international understanding, literary translation services are indispensable. Our professional translation team members all have extensive literature backgrounds and knowledge of the academic world. To ensure that your readers fully understand your writing, we combine this expertise with our lightning-fast translation process.

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