Customer Review

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad Latin, 23 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Hobbitus Ille: The Latin Hobbit (Hardcover)
This is a very pretty book, which would sit nicely on the bookshelf of any Latinist or fan of Tolkien. However, if anyone actually opens it with the intention of reading it, for pleasure and/or to learn something, they are up for a disappointing experience. It is a huge task to translate such a classic novel, and the translator should be commended for attempting it. Unfortunately, however, he is clearly not up to it, seeing that literally every page contains basic grammatical errors, such as

* erroneous usage of words; consider, for example, the sentence "paene in aliquo loco paene ex aliquo, cum uento aut nullo, nani ignem accendere possunt". (In the original: "Dwarves can make a fire almost anywhere out of almost anything, wind or no wind.") The main problem is that "aliquis" simply does not mean "any" in this sense; it means "some". So the Latin translates to "Dwarves can make a fire almost in some place, almost out of some thing..." (or even "... from some place"; the meaning is unclear.) Poor dwarves!

Another example: "crebro dixit se excusari" (in the original "said he was sorry so many times...") However, that can only, as far as I understand, be translated as "he said he was being excused", or possibly "said that he declared himself free from blame/liability", which is a quite different thing. (Better, though not perfect, would have been "petebat" in place of "dixit".)

* faulty morphology: "utamus" instead of "utamur", "ulterias" in place of "ulteriores", "eum" once when it should be "id", "arboris suis" instead of "arboris suae", "reficeri" for "refici", to name just a few examples. (To be fair, note that these are isolated mistakes, and that the forms are not consistently faulty throughout.)

* non-Latin constructions and syntax: for example, "epistolium tuum non accepi quoad decem atque quinque quadraginta, exactum esse." (Original: "I didn't get your note until after 10.45 to be precise.") That is not the way to indicate the time in Latin, and "to be precise" can not be rendered with an infinitive in Latin when the meaning is "in order for me to be precise."

* the hallmark of a bad translation, literally translated English idioms, such as "tange et i!" as a translation of "touch and go!" (an idiom meaning "precarious"), and "hoc non prorsum bene facit!" for "This won't do at all!"

These are just a few examples; many more can be supplied. All in all, the book throughout reads as the work of an ambitious student, yet one with little experience of writing in Latin, and indeed with little insight in what it entails to make an idiomatic translation into any language at all. A huge disappointment, to say the least. In short, avoid this book.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jul 2013 00:33:33 BDT
Quetzalcoatl says:
You are spot on with your review of this awful translation. The faulty morphology errors that you point out are particularly revealing of the "translator's" low level of competence in Latin - they strongly remind me of errors made by inexperienced students who have yet to master basic principles; perfectly understandable in students, of course, but astounding in someone commissioned by a publisher as a translator. 'Utamus', failure to understand principle of deponents; 'arboris suis', failure to understand differing declension types and and therefore thinking that nouns and adjectives in agreement must of necessity show the same endings...well, the list goes on, doesn't it? All your other criticisms, without exception, are similarly bang on target. This shoddy effort reflects badly on the "translator" for presuming to offer himself for a job he is plainly unqualified to carry out, but much worse on the publisher for (clearly) not at least putting out a sample page of two for check/review before proceeding with what has turned out to be a ghastly farrago. They should pulp it and get someone competent to do it properly.

Posted on 31 May 2014 00:23:52 BDT
J. Scott says:
Many thanks for your review. I almost wasted my money on this, and you've shown me that I would have regretted it!

In reply to an earlier post on 31 May 2014 10:01:28 BDT
Quetzalcoatl says:
I am very glad you didn't waste your money. Spread the word!
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