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Customer Review

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Holding on to a hero?, 19 Oct. 2011
This review is from: The Map and the Territory (Hardcover)
It's probably fair to say that until I picked up this book, Houellebecq was my favourite contemporary author. This book (felt) a long time coming, so the level of expectation around it may have been excessively high and spotting the original version in a French bookshop last year, resplendently bound by the announcement of its prize-winning status, only increased the agony of my impatience.

I was disappointed. On so many levels.

The story was mediocre, certainly lacking any of the challenge I associate with Houellebecq's previous tales. Aside from what amounted, essentially, to a couple of interesting essays within the story and a fact about the Bichon Frise breed which proved useful to my sister, it really lacked any kind of worthwhile story. Without spoiling much for future readers, I can share that people live and then they die.

The weakness of the storyline, however, was overshadowed by the curse of modern publishing: appallingly poor accuracy. Houellebecq's text was delivered into English in the most frustrating and incompetent way imaginable.

The translation itself was poor. I repeatedly found my `inner voice' reading the bloody story with a French accent! It would be interesting to know how the book read back to someone with no knowledge of foreign languages. (Perhaps an American could comment?)

The translator appears to have an English name, so one would have thought that they would (could?) consider their output from an English reader's perspective. But there's a strong sense that that neither they, nor the editor and copy editor who will surely have supported them, have chosen to carry out their jobs with any kind of professional capability or pride. From simple proof reading errors to mistakes of fact (and yes, I do realise the book is fiction!) and easily researched and remedied descriptions of various 'things'. Class S Mercedes, anyone? For goodness sake; and there are many, many more.

Surely, in spite of the headlines of `falling educational standards', there are enough people who can ensure that basic facts, spelling and grammar are correctly delivered to the page?

This amateur approach to publishing makes me cringe as I read book after book, but with authors such as Houellebecq, I find it a cardinal sin that such incompetents are assigned to his texts. For me, his work is about accuracy. It's about precision. It's about a linguistic perfection which ensures the delivery of his vision; a vision I share in so many ways, hence my admiration for him.

How do I rate this book with Amazon's five stars? I think it has to get three stars: 'It's OK'. Because it is. Just.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Nov 2011 15:16:53 GMT
DF says:
There were a few proof-reading mistakes. This much is true.
I also found myself reading it in a French accent. He is French, though, and it's set in France. I felt ok with this.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2012 10:03:14 GMT
I agree with this reviewer, it was an excellent book somewhat spoiled by sloppy publishing. I live in France and will now go and struggle through a French text of it, or at least some, to discover if the translator did it a disservice. Or maybe it was deliberate, to remind you it is impossible to express his thoughts less clumsily in English without losing their Gallic-ness. Would the publisher or translator care to comment?
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