In the wake of an unjustified bad review, Portuguese-to-English translator Alison Entrekin wrote an open letter to a book reviewer with The Observer, a section of UK newspaper The Guardian that publishes stories about literature and language, among other subjects. The book review written by British novelist Justin Cartwright criticized the translation of Daniel Galera's Barba ensopada de sangue, which became Blood-Drenched Beard in English.
Within this context, Czech-to-English book translator Alex Zucker, a friend of Alison's, had a great idea: Why not have a blog where professionals could publish open letters in response to negative book reviews that fail to clearly indicate exactly how translations fall short of the original. And that was how The Translator Writes Back was created, and the good news soon caught fire and the tumblr site was even featured at the Melville House Blog to quickly spread through the social media.
This is an invaluable initiative to raise awareness of translated books and the team of professionals who make it possible for readers to have access to foreign literature. Reviewers usually fail to point out when a book is a translation and translators oftentimes are not mentioned in the book description.
However, when translators are highlighted, it's usually because the reviewer is talking about "flaws" and "mistakes" made by the translator. As Alison eloquently put it, such statement can only be justified when reviewers are bilingual and able to read both the original and the translation, thus identifying said errors at the language level. Otherwise, reviewers may be critiquing the style and choice of words in the original that, in turn, have been rendered faithfully by the translator.
We at eWordNews look forward to more posts to The Translator Writes Back, so if you're a book translator who has received unjustified negative comments by critics, make sure to contact the website.