Blood of Elves

Pick up a copy of Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski’s first novel available in English translation, and you will probably think it is one of those blood and thunder novels full of mighty smiting and oceans of blood. You’d be wrong. It is a lot funnier, a lot cleverer and a lot less violent that you would expect from the cover. Sadly the translation has been butchered, and I spent much of the time reading it wishing I could edit the text. It is clear as you read it that Sapkowski is using neat imagery, creating amusing banter and so on, but much of it is rendered in very flat and unimaginative English. (Note: I read the UK edition from Gollancz, Orbit may have edited it further for the US release.)

Despite all of that, the book has made it onto the short list for the Gemmel Award, which should tell you a lot about how good it could have been with a good translator. Here’s hoping that it is also selling well, because it is clearly the first part of an ongoing tale that I want to hear more of. Also, having met Mr. Sapkowski, I think he’d be great fun to have at a UK convention. He speaks good English, makes good jokes, and is fond of good whisky, which should make him a great guest.

3 thoughts on “Blood of Elves

  1. I loved Andrzej Sapkowski’s “The Last Wish” and soon I’ll get to “Blood of Elves” too. And I loved his humor and the ironies from “The Last Wish”. I really hope that his novels will be all available in English, because he is an author to watch. I believe that he deserves the nomination for the Gemmell Award in full (I voted for him 🙂 ).
    When it comes to editing I don’t pronounce myself, since I saw a few works butchered in my country.

  2. do you really think the translation is that bad?

    I love Sapkowski’s books, and I have read Blood of Elves and Last Wish also in English (just to compare), but I’m definitely far from being able to notice if the translation keeps the quality of the original.

    I also spent some time searching for reviews and it seems that the opinion varies. You said that it lacks “deepness” while some said that you can’t say it’s translated. I’m wondering if there’s a way to ensure that the next parts are better translated if you’re right. I believe the Sage (5 books) make up one of the best fantasy stories ever and one of the absolute key elements of recognizing Sapkowski’s genius for Poles is the language he uses.

    I can totally forgive Danusia Stok if she failed to translate slavian legends and background jokes – it’s not easy, but if a reader “feels” something is wrong while reading, than it kills the pleasure of reading and gives you wrong experience comparing to the original 🙁

  3. Gandalf:

    The text is correct English. For someone who is not looking for quality writing that will be enough. But for someone who has a lot of experience with good writing it is painfully obvious that the translation isn’t as good as it might be.

    Oddly enough, while I spent much of my time reading it wishing I could have edited the translation, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book, because I could see what Sapkowski was doing, even though it was badly rendered.

    As to making subsequent translations better, if the first few translations sell well (and the Gemmell nomination is a good sign) then hopefully a bit more time will be spent on subsequent books. Translations are expensive.

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