Mistreated in translation

As my Italian speaking reader will know, I already posted about this wonderful (irony here!) experience in Italian, but, you know, sometimes things are so crazy you have to spread the news as much as possible.  It doesn’t matter if a lot of years have passed since the massacre, the massacre must be known to the world.
So, here we are, speaking about my misadventure again, in English. Bear with me, Italian readers!


I’m quite a huge fan of Richard Kadrey. I love his works and his style, and I’m making sure I read all his novels.

That’s why some time ago, when I saw the Italian translation of his first novel (Metrophage, 1988) on sale on Amazon.it, I bought it.
It was a good price, and, though I knew Mr. Kadrey’s style is quite challenging to translate, I was optimistic (and foolish) enough to add Metrofaga (1997) to my virtual cart.
It couldn’t possibly be that bad, could it?
The awful cover should have warned me, but I guess the thumbnail was so small that the deterrent lost its effectiveness.
Thus, I bought it.

Italian cover. When an image tells a whole story of dubious professionalism.

The Italian cover. When an image tells a whole story of dubious professionalism.

Worst decision ever, bookwise.

Oh, don’t get me wrong: the novel was nice and funny, I had a good time reading it, delving into the story and the futuristic, colorful and grim setting was a pleasure, and I loved the characters.
But, man!, the translation was so awful!
Only a book entirely translated with google translate would be worse*, but it would loose all meaning in the process.
No, in this case it was the worst professional translation I ever had the displeasure to encounter. The overall sense of the novel, the characters, the action, the events and their consequences, that wasn’t lost.
But to find them, to appreciate them, one had to battle with spelling mistakes, grammar horrors worth of an F and a great scolding, invented-on-the-spot verbs in place of existing ones, typos, a recurring inability at translating the verb “to mine”, and a general lack of pace and tone. It sounded like a dull, bored kid wrote it, choosing the dullest synonyms every time he could.
It was simply painful to read.**

If I was a published author and one of my works had been translated this way, I would feel furious and… yeah, mistreated.

The only good thing is I’ll have to buy the original version and read it again. More good time in future L.A. for me!
But the lesson’s learned for good: I’ll never read Mr. Kadrey in translation. Nor will I ever buy another book published by ShaKe Edizioni.


* Because one must understand that, despite Google’s boasting about the marvels of its translating branch, any direct translation it does from English to Italian is ludicrous at best, complete nonsense at worse.
And I keep wondering how can they be so optimistic about algorithms being able to create written content on their own, but that’s another story altogether…
** And maybe the fact I read Metrofaga during aerosol sessions had something to do with the fact I endured the grammar horrors. Or maybe it’s an overall testament to the fact not even sloppy translations can hamper a good book. Pick your choice.