Translators: To Tweak or not to Tweak

Frank Stajano fms27 at
Mon Jun 18 12:16:50 CEST 2007

jerryblake2 at wrote:
> I don't think of comics as just "casual entertainment," as Donald 
> Markstein seems to--they're literature of a type, and when foreign 
> literature is translated it should be treated respectfully. I wouldn't 
> like it if someone decided to insert contemporary references into Dante 
> or Edmond Rostand to make them more "entertaining," and I don't like to 
> see the same thing done to Scarpa. In addition, references to stuff like 
> Bill Clinton's cat will make the American translation just as badly 
> dated as the Italian original may or may not have been in years to 
> come--is Markstein suggesting that we re-dialogue Scarpa's stories with 
> every reprinting in order to keep bringing them up to date? No one would 
> ever suggest doing such a thing with Barks, Herriman, Roy Crane, or 
> other American comics geniuses, so why should we do it with European 
> comic geniuses? I suppose this makes me a "musty old antiquary," but I 
> prefer to think that I just happen to have some respect for creative 
> independence. Translators, no matter how talented they might be as 
> writers, are mere moving men when they're translating stories, and 
> they shouldn't tweak the work of art they're transporting at the expense 
> of its creator.

Let's sculpt the above in marble!
I am 100% behind what Jerry (and Francesco) wrote.

A good translator is

- one who lets the original author shine through

- one who understands all the nuances of what the original author meant

- one capable of carrying as much of that as possible to the target language

- one who is humble enough to recognize that he is NOT THE AUTHOR and 
that the original creation deserves faithful respect

Note that this is not just because it was "our" Scarpa: we are equally 
vocal when translators take liberties with the Barks and Rosa stories in 
European publications---it's just that you Americans on DCML usually 
don't get to hear about it.


   Frank Stajano

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