Don\’t make fun of Dan Brown

OK, do make fun of Dan Brown.

A very, very, well done spoof.

And there was a story about his new book. The translators were all locked into an underground bunker to get the translations done so that it could be released in several languages simultaneously.


But in English his books are famously clunky. The actual language is terrible. The question becomes, are the translations like that too? Or do they manage to clean it up in the other languages?

I don\’t actually know anyone who has read any of the books in another language but I\’d love to know. Are the translations as famously terrible as the English language originals? Or do they take the same plot etc and turn into entirely reasonable novels?


9 thoughts on “Don\’t make fun of Dan Brown”

  1. I read the opening (a page and a half) of the Da Vinci Code, but had to stop because I was laughing too much.

  2. I also have had a similar experience. I only read Digital Fortress, Deception Point, Angels & Demons, and the The Da Vinci Code. I had to stop reading The Lost Symbol around page 730 because the pages ran out…

    Laughably bad writer!

  3. We rented a villa in Italy, where the builders were still finishing it. Even so, there was a Dan Brown in the guest library.

  4. TheJollyGreenMan

    Dan Brown, like Shakespeare and Dickens, caters to the mass market and he is coining it. Your opinion about his writing skills are just plain old jealousy. If I could sell as many books as him, I’ll trade prose for decent pay any day.

    Jealousy just makes you lot nasty.

  5. His writing and stories are appalling, but I admire him immensely. He is serving up rubbish but the whole world is eating it up with a knife and fork. Fair play to the man!

  6. Literary translation is, er, literal. The goal in all translation is to have a text that has the same effect, AFARP, on its target audience as the original did on its target audience. So you actually get a lot more rewriting in more technical disciplines than in literature.

    You have questions about what to do with names, places and such. Jokes can be a real pain and illustrate the major departure from the “just rewrite this in another language” rule for lit trans – the pun-riddled Asterix books are a great example of this, where the translators had to substitute liberally, a literal translation of Asterix simply wouldn’t have worked.

    In other words, literary translation is rather non-arty-farty most of the time. It’s done at breakneck speed and other than a handful of renowned people, very badly paid. And there isn’t that much work out there for the thousands of new art graduates who thought they’d be handsomely rewarded for pottering away being all intellectual with some avant-garde novels.

  7. TJGM: that’s a ridiculous inverse-snob argument. Dan Brown’s books are, measurably, very badly written and characterised. This is not a case of a talented writer with a middlebrow demographic (say Cookson or Le Carre) being slated by elitists who want everyone to read Serbian experimental novels.

    Dickens and Shakespeare were popular, populist and *wrote well*, and as a result were enjoyed and respected by the mass market and by literate people. There were dozens of shitty hack novelists in Dickens’ time and shitty hack playwrights in Shakespeare’s time, who were the Browns of their day. They have been forgotten.

    JamesV: I agree with all you say, but I’m not sure it answers Tim’s question, because it’s quite an unusual situation. If you’re translating something which is just *bad*, not deliberately simple in style or deliberately obscurantist, it’d be more work to maintain that style in your own language than to write something that read naturally.

    Random related factoid: Anthea Bell, co-translator of Asterix into English, is the mum of Times leader-writer and ex-blogger Oliver Kamm.

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