I was shocked by the rushed job Penguin allowed Howard Goldblatt to do on the translation of Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem from Chinese to English.
I’ve been an admirer of Goldblatt and he’s been generous in sharing material with me, but I was disappointed from his first page. There was simply not the effort to get it right. This is from the first page alone:
is translated: their sky burial would come early. Could, not would is needed.
is translated: watching the wolf encirclement. Goldblatt needed to show the strength of 观察, so watching intently or something similar was needed. Just “watching” doesn’t convey the experience of the old man.
is translated: no response. Not a peep would be much better. “No response” doesn’t convey the meaning.
is translated: We’ll be in real trouble. Much better is “will be no joke” or “won’t be a party”.
is translated in the active: he squeezed into a ball of ice. In fact the meaning is that the snow turned to ice in his grip and it was probably unconsciously.
That was the first page. Perhaps Penguin needs to appoint a checker for Howard in future.