Volume 7, No. 3 
July 2003

  Mark Hooker

Mr. Hooker with a samizdat copy of The Hobbit.




From the Editor
Forty-Two Dog Years

Index 1997-2003

  Translator Profiles
When Bad News is Good News or Serendipity Strikes Again... and Again... and Again...
by Alex Schwartz

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

Translators Around the World
German Children's and Teenagers' Slang
by Igor Maslennikov
ATA Certification In Bosnian, Croatian And Serbian
by Paula Gordon

  Medical Translation
SARS or ATP—a Misnomer in Mainland China
by Yichuan Sang, Ph.D.

  Translation Theory
La relevancia de la documentación en teoría literaria y literatura comparada para los estudios de traducción
by Dora Sales Salvador
Register Analysis as a Tool for Translation Quality Assessment
by Liu Zequan

Memory Training in Interpreting
by Weihe Zhong

Pedro Misner, 1939 - 2003
by D'Vonne Casadaban

  Translator Education
Translation: Back from Siberia
Alireza Bonyadi
Reflections of Prospective Language Teachers on Translation
Adnan Biçer, Ph.D.

  Book Review
The Hunt for Red October
Mark Hooker

  Translators' Tools
SDLX™ Translation Suite 2003
Dr. Thomas Waßmer
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor

Translators’ Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Book Review


The Hunt for Red October

by Mark Hooker
he Hunt For Red October (1984) was the first novel by the now world-famous Tom Clancy. It is an action-packed thriller that takes place against the backdrop of the Cold War, and Clancy's prose is full of—primarily negative—comments on the Soviet system and clearly pro-Western philosophical explorations of the characters' motivation. De jacht op de Red October is an abridged translation by Thomas Mass and Rein van Essen (Utrecht: A.W. Bruna Uitgevers, 1988). It is shorter by approximately one third. The English paperback is 469 pages long, while the Dutch paperback is only 316 pages long. The abridgements appear to be politically motivated, robbing the story of Clancy's comments on the Soviet system and philosophical explorations of the characters' motivation. In contrast, the Russian translation (Okhota za "Krasnym Oktyabrem", Moscow: Mir Publishers, 1997) translated by I. Pochitalina leaves Clancy's comments and philosophy where they belong. Those who think that they have read The Hunt for Red October, because they have read De jacht op de Red October have another think coming.

The Russians can read the unabridged Clancy, political comments and all. Is it not time that the Dutch had the same opportunity?
The problems begin on the first page of the text, where Clancy has Ramius and Kamarov keeping a weather eye on the "armed" icebreaker Purga. (p. 2) In the Dutch text, they are watching the "armored" icebreaker Purga. (p. 7) In English the words "armed" and "armored" only differ by two letters, but there is a big difference in meaning. The use of the word "armed" underscores the militariness of the icebreaker. The word "armored" is neutral. The Dutch translators were not the only ones to soft-pedal this distinction though, the Russian translator left out "armed" altogether. Later in the text, however, when Clancy turns his attention to political topics, freedom for example, the Russian translator stays right in step with him, while the Dutch translation just pitches Clancy's political agenda over the side.

In Clancy's version, Ryan thinks to himself "how difficult it was for the Soviets. Probably harder than anything he had ever done—their bridges were burned. They had cast themselves away from everything they had known, trusting that what they found would be better. Ryan hoped they would succeed and make the transition from Communism to freedom. In the past two days he had come to realize what courage it took for men to defect. Facing a gun in a missile room was a small matter compared with walking away from one's whole life. It was strange how easily Americans put on their freedoms. How difficult would it be for men who had risked their lives to adapt to something that men like Ryan so rarely appreciated? It was people like these who had built the American Dream, and people like these who were needed to maintain it. It was odd that such men should come from the Soviet Union. Or perhaps, not so odd, Ryan thought, listening to the conversation going back and forth in front of him." (p. 411-12) The only concession the Russian translator made to the political reality that his audience lives in was to change "Soviets" to "Russians" and "Communism" to "Totalitarianism," small but politically significant distinctions in Russia. (p. 457) All the rest of the text was as it had been written.

In the Dutch version, however, Clancy's discussion of freedom is gone and all that remains is the adventure story. The Dutch Ryan thought:

Vooral voor de Sovjets moest het moeilijk zijn, moeilijker dan wat hij ooit in zijn eigen leven had ondervonden. Ze hadden al hun schepen achter zich verbrand en de sprong in het duister gewaagd, geleid door de hoop dat het aan de andere kant beter zou zijn. De laatste twee dagen had hij leren inzien hoe hachelijk het bestaan van een deserteur was — veel hachelijker nog dan oog in oog met een gewapende vijand te staan, zoals hem zelf met de saboteur was overkomen." (p. 276-7)
Back Translation: It must be especially difficult for the Soviets, harder than anything that he had ever experienced in his own life. They had burned all their ships behind them, and dared to take a leap in the dark, led by the hope that it would be better on the other side. In the past two days he had learned how perilous the existence of a deserter was, more perilous than standing face to face with an armed enemy, something he himself had experienced with the saboteur.

The Dutch text is less than half the length of Clancy's original—82 words instead of 170—and is deprived of much more of its meaning than the simple statistical comparison suggests. The comparison of freedom and Communism is gone and the defectors have been demoted in stature by the use of the pejorative word "deserteur" instead of the word drawn from the jargon of the intelligence services that Clancy correctly used: "overloper" (defector).

Clancy returns to the concept of freedom in a conversation between Ryan and Ramius just before the Red October docks, in which Ryan is trying to explain to Ramius why there might be civilian boat traffic on the Chesapeake Bay. "It's a free country, Captain," Ryan said softly. "It will take you some time to understand what free really means. The word is often misused, but in time you will see how wise your decision was." (p. 463) Ryan's explanation is completely missing in the Dutch version (p. 312), while it is elegantly translated in the Russian edition. The deletion of the discussion of freedom in both segments suggests that it is more than pure coincidence.

Anyone who has worked as a translator knows how easy it is to mistranslate a word or to forget a line. The coherence of the type of material that was removed in the Dutch translation—as illustrated by the two examples above—suggests that the deletions were not the result of translator error, but the result of conscious editorial policy that would not have been out of place in the Soviet Union, where Clancy's books could not be published. The Russian translation cited above only came out after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russians can read the unabridged Clancy, political comments and all. Is it not time that the Dutch had the same opportunity?