10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent novel; mediocre translation, 6 Dec. 2011
I would like to start off by saying that Sult, or "Hunger" as it is translated into, is one of my favorite books. As a native Norwegian, I have read it numerous times in the original language, and consider it to be one the greatest literary accomplishments, period. Understand that this comes from someone who primarily reads English books; Norwegian works cannot expect favouritism from me.
Unfortunately this translation does not fully convey the protagonist's mood, which is perhaps the novel's greatest merit. This, I think, is mostly because the feverish nature of the narrator's ramblings and the masterfully portrayed mood swings rely so heavily on Hamsun's sentence structure and symbol usage. In this translation (perhaps in all of them), those qualities are sacrificed to great extent so that the English may run smoother. If you've read older English literature you'll be very familiar with sentences that run on due to excessive use of commas, semi-colons and rather intricately structured sentences. You'll also agree that although such works are often difficult and occasionally just plain annoying, they work upon you in a different fashion than modern prose. Sometimes, such works are translated into modern English, and inevitably something is lost in the process. This translation is not simply 'Norwegian-English', it is 'Old-ish Norwegian-Modern English'. Much was lost in that process. I am not familiar with the other translations, hence I have no alternatives to recommend. Some may think my rating is unduly harsh, but for a work of this caliber, nothing but a superb translation is tolerable. If someone can't do a work justice, he ought to leave it alone.
Furthermore, some passages are just badly translated. Sloppy, even. Here's an example:
"Det begyndte tilsidst at irritere mig at have dette skrøbelige Menneske foran mig hele Tiden. Hans rejse syntes aldrig at ville tage Ende; måske havde han bestemt sig til akkurat det samme sted som jeg, og jeg skulde hele vejen have ham for mine øjne."
"In the end I was getting increasingly irritated by having this decrepit creature in front of me all the time. His journey would never end, it seemed; maybe he was going to the exact same place as I, and I would have him before my eyes all the way."
Here's my translation -- make of it what you will.
"It began at last to irritate me, to have this feeble being before me all the time. His journey never seemed to reach its end; perhaps he was set towards the very same place as I, and I should have him before my eyes the entire way."