I was musing a while back as to how Ancillary Justice would work when translated into languages such as Finnish or Hungarian which, like Radchaai, have no gendered pronouns. As it happens, Csilla Kleinheincz got the job of translating the book into Hungarian. She has just commented on my post, and I thought it would be worth elevating that into a post. Here’s what Csilla had to say:
The non-gendered pronouns helped a lot as we are well used to having no default gender and don’t have to make a deliberate choice when using pronouns in our writings — thus our language is a bit closer to Radchaai, although I had to adjust the text more at the places where Breq uses direct references to gender. On the other hand, instead of gender-neutral nouns for ‘child’, ‘cousin’, ‘parent’ etc., I used the feminine versions to make up for what I lost with the gender-neutral translation of ‘she’. It’s possible to find a different solution but I wanted to keep the text flowing and natural while retaining the mentality behind using ‘she’ as the basic pronoun.
I really enjoyed working on it, I wish all books I get for translation would be this good and challenging.
So there you have it. Hungarian has a partial solution. Is the Finnish translator out there?
Fascinating stuff, this translation business. I have so much admiration for the people who do it.