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What do you think of the English translation of the books in the Millennium-series?
Posted by Editor i Stockholm, Sweden , 17 November 2008
I have to agree here with what Hanna has written in here review. I have read the whole series in Swedish and the books are amazing. I recently purchased The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for my wife her in the United States and I too thought that the translation of words was pathetic. My wife didn’t get past page 15 before she asked me what “gaol” meant. How does “jail” become “gaol”.
Doesn’t any one proof read the translation before the book goes to print??? I am finding errors that are so elementary, and it really makes bothers me too. A college professor would have failed a student committing errors of this magnitude. This really is an injustice to the book.
Posted by Andres , 22 September 2008
Just found out about these books and read all 3 in one week (in Swedish). I just surfed to see if there will be films, because they would adapt well. I’m wondering though, how these translate? As I have an apartment in Södermalm and know all of the streets and shops he mentions it is all very familiar, but the fact that SL uses so many such references might be lost on other readers and just seem confusing. I’m glad I read Swedish, because “Castles in the sky” is a terrible translation of the original title 🙂
Posted by Martin , 16 November 2008
I completely agree with the comments about the English translation. It really is full of truly elementary mistakes.
Posted by Strumpet in Denver, CO , 19 november 2008
i personally love the books and translation in it. yes there are a few mistakes. but that’s OK since it does not take away from the story line. there’s always going to be mess ups in translations, but as long as it gets the story across who cares!
Posted by Wiliam in Nashville,TN , 29 november 2008
I’ve read the first two books in Spanish and the translations are excellent (very unusual in Spain). I looked at the English version “The Girl…” and didn’t like the translation (I am a translator), however “gaol” is the correct British English word for “jail”. (I’m English BTW)
Posted by cataspanglish in Lleida, Spain , 2 december 2008
I read the first one in english and the last two in swedish . Yes, what a difference. Please get a new translater.
The work is fabulous. I lived in Stockholm in the end of the 50th and beginning of the 60th. Great to be able to associate with many of the streets etc.
What a loss that we will not be able to enjoy any more Salander & Blomquist.
Posted by paul schain in kitty hawk, nc usa , 16 december 2008
Exactly, gaol is a perfectly acceptable word in British English, and no it´s not American we know that.
Posted by Rebecca in Berlin (in Catalonia at present) , 16 december 2008
I am currently the French translation of the books and it is very well done. (I am French.) I am close to the end of the second one at the moment. i’m learning Swedish at college right now but I certainly wouldn’t be able to read them in Swedish as of now. I find that French translations are usually quite good. I’m very excited to read the rest of these chronicles.
Posted by Aïcha in New York City , 22 december 2008
Jail is the dumbed down version Of Gaol to make it easier for Americans to spell!!
Posted by David in Melbourne, Australia , 26 december 2008
I can’t say I minded the translation at all. I would imagine that any translation is bound to have some clunky parts, but I would also hope that we Americans have enough intelligence to figure out British English. Overall, good translation and I can’t wait to get a hold of the second book!
Posted by Beth in Chicago, IL , 1 januari 2009
I am reading the first book and am impressed with how well it is translated. It can no be easy to translate and continue to keep the story intact and as awesome as this one. Hats off to the translator Keeland!
Posted by Laurie in Missoula, MT , 4 januari 2009
I am not impressed by this translation. Sometimes I struggle to understand the English sentence, but it helpes to translate each individual word into Swedish. Some sayings have perfectly fine equivolents in English but instead of considering the context, the translator has translated each word. I can imagine how people who do not understand Swedish might struggle.
Posted by Pernille in London , 8 januari 2009
Just finished “The Girl . . . ” and had no problem with the English translation. Can’t wait to start the second book. I agree, too, would/will make a fantastic film . . . in the right hands.
Posted by susan in cleveland heights, OH , 16 januari 2009
The English translation is BRITISH English (so far) gaol=jail etc.
Posted by jimblevins in Cleveland Heights , 25 januari 2009
I have just read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in English and loved the book. There are a few parts that could be a bit better in the translation but it in no way detracted from a very good read. I watched the Wallander series because I also love Henning Mankel books and hope the same might happen with the Millennium trilogy.
Posted by Sheila in Edinburgh, Scotland , 28 januari 2009
I agree with Sheila above. I have just finished The Girl Who Played With Fire, and not being able to compare with the Swedish original, I must say I think it is a terrific book. It does not matter that I am not familiar with the places. Just an amazing series. I cannot wait for the third one to come out in the English translation. Hurry please.
Posted by Di in Exeter, UK , 1 februari 2009
I think the English translation was pretty good. I didn’t read the book, instead, I was listening to the audio book version narrated by Simon Vance, who also did a wonderful job. To be fair, to can you expect a translated version better than the original language?
Posted by new lasson fan in Iowa, US. , 13 februari 2009
Play nice, David in Melbourne. Americans who read know what a gaol is and enjoy a good story as well as anyone anywhere else in the world. Many of us are also sensitive to the issues discussed in the book regardless of our countries’ reputation.
Posted by Linda in Tampa, USA , 15 februari 2009
I have just finished listening to the excellent (but abridged) Fire audiobook read in English by Martin Wenner. He does a super job and thankfully uses the correct Swedish pronunciation for Swedish names and places, as well as convincing voices for all the characters. Salander is given a somewhat Cockney accent which is entirely appropriate under the circumstances of having to find an English voice for a Swedish character. As a frequent visitor to Sweden, it was a delight to hear so many familiar place names. I listened to the first and second books in my car and found myself driving to work more slowly just so I could hear more of the story each day. Can’t wait for the third volume…
Posted by The Viscount in Northants, England , 16 februari 2009
I finished the first book but this one was in Dutch, called Mannen die vrouwen haten. The translation was very good and it was very enjoyable to read the books. I bought the two other books in Schiphol airport and look forward reading them in the near future
Posted by Rosie in Brighton, UK , 16 februari 2009
I’m a translator of Swedish who has only read ‘Dragon Tattoo’ in English. A cracking read (can’t wait for the other two, and I’ll try to read them all in Swedish sometime), and I thought the translation read well, but off the top of my head: St Albans is not a suburb of London, why leave ‘tunnelbana’ in Swedish, and when Lisbeth sees an inter-continental roar past on the E4, what on earth is she looking at?!!
Posted by Ivor in Brussels , 20 februari 2009
Hi Beth in Chicago and Laurie in Missoula, and thanks for the compliments! Ivor, glad you liked my translation — please don’t blame me for the occasional weird British term, I translated the books into American English! Good thing I did leave “tunnelbana” — if I’d said “subway” I’m sure it would have been changed to “tube”. And Lisbeth’s term for Mikael is “Kalle F—ing Blomkvist”, not “Kalle Bastard Blomkvist”, for God’s sake. Stieg had an obvious fondness for U.S. English and used lots of American phrases in the book (now invisible when not surrounded by Swedish), so the present version does sound to me like a different book — still good, but not quite the same as I experienced it in my head. I’m guessing an inter-continental is a big rig, a honkin’ 18-wheeler on the E4 freeway. Sorry the Americans have to wait the longest to read books 2 and 3, but they were slow on the uptake and the Brits beat ’em to it. Check out my blog for more info on Stieg and the books and translating in general.
Posted by Reg Keeland in Albuquerque , 26 februari 2009
As a translator myself (I spent last week on “Horreur Boréale”, a French documentary on the trilogy), I’ve read the first two in English, the first in French and I’m looking for the third in French as I type. Sold out locally. Steven, you did a great job. I’d have been horrified to see ‘tunnelbana’ as ‘tube’, and in general I prefer a translation that leaves as many original references as possible, couched in enough context to be obvious. I’ll be needing them all when I visit Stockholm later in the year… Keep up the good work!
Posted by Henry Moon in Paris , 26 februari 2009
I just finished the first book, and I thought it one of the best I have read
in eons. I am sad that Stieg died so young – how many more great books might he have written? We Americans are not dolts, and we can figure out tunnelbana and gaol, but I wondered about the intercontinental. I look forward to reading the other 2 books.
Posted by Alison Gonzalez in St. Louis , 27 februari 2009
loved the books, haven’t read them in english though… i have been wondering about the title translations… why not just call the first book “Men who hates women”?? personally i love the title, and i think a few things have been lost with the changing title…
Posted by Natasja Mejdal in Denmark, Fredericia , 2 mars 2009
Hi Reg: It’s a pity books aren’t edited for the US and UK markets (‘two countries divided by a common language’) any more. If Blomkvist had worn braces on his trousers, that might have been translated as suspenders, then we’d have thought he was a cross-dresser! Inter-continental was just too obscure: long-distance lorry, truck-trailer, maybe (juggernaut or articulated lorry for us oldies!). Cultural references are a minefield. They very rarely crop up in my work as a technical translator in the public (civil) service sector.
I agree about ‘Men who hate women’. It’s fundamental to Lisbeth’s motivation in the trilogy (her father, Bjurman, etc.), but it’s just not sexy enough to sell the book, is it? Kicking the hornet’s nest is OK by me: she is, after all, opening up a can of worms. And when hornets sting…
I’m about to read the third book in Swedish. Sorry Reg, I just can’t wait!
Posted by Ivor Bloor in Brussels , 4 mars 2009
In Brazil, the first book was translated from the french language and not from Swedish. In my opinion, in that way readers loose twice. So, I decided to read in English. The tittle in Portuguese is the same of the French: ‘the man who didn’t love women’. For me, the English translation it was OK. With a dictionary English-Portuguese very close….
Posted by castilho in São Paulo , 9 mars 2009
loved the books
but could some one tell me what “herr” and “froken” are? like mr and miss or somethinh right?
Posted by leanne in ireland , 20 mars 2009
I suppose, Leanne, ‘herr’ means ‘mister’ in German and ‘froken’ (like fraulein) means ‘miss’ in Swedish.
Posted by castilho in são paulo , 24 mars 2009
Does anyone know why the English version of the 3rd Millennium book is taking so long to be published when it has already been translated in so many other languages? So unfair to have to wait. I am tempted to order it in French since I am a French person living in the UK but I read that the French translation is appalling. Any advice?
Posted by Delph in Cardiff, UK , 25 mars 2009
Don’t agree with you Delph. I first read all three in French and was totally hooked from the start. Didn’t find much to quibble about re translation but “Traduire c’est trahir”. Even the best translation leaves something to be desired if you have read the original. Have just finished volume 2 of the English version and am dying to get hold of the third and, like Delph, can’t understand why this is taking so long to be published. Shall have to read it in French again while waiting.
Posted by Karen in Brittany, France , 28 mars 2009
I thought the translation into English was fantastic. I second this: “Steven, you did a great job. I’d have been horrified to see ‘tunnelbana’ as ‘tube’, and in general I prefer a translation that leaves as many original references as possible, couched in enough context to be obvious”.
God, some people whinge a lot. Re the use of “Herr” and “Froken” etc: Use your brain! Buy a dictionary! I think the use of the original references gives the book (in the english translation) a real feeling of being there.
Posted by Walter in Sydney, Australia , 18 april 2009
I found the translation of t his book made it dry and a bit boring. I’d like to think that it was the translation – but to be honest, I find it difficult to understand why this book has been such a success.
Posted by Elizabeth in Auckland, NZ , 21 april 2009
Wow, Elizabeth in Auckland, you’re the first person to share my puzzlement! Admittedly, I’m only a fifth of the way into the first book, but I just don’t get the excitement. I was anticipating being hooked from the beginning, and keep waiting… I have wondered if the translation was a problem, as the style seems a bit wooden and reporterlike, but of course Larsson was a journalist. I’m now looking for the Spanish translation to see if that helps. We don’t get a lot of good new books here in English, so it’s been disappointing not to respond to this much-ballyhooed novel. I’ll write again if it catches fire for me…
Posted by Pamela in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico , 26 april 2009
I really enjoyed the English translations of the books, but I have to point out to some reviewers that there is no such thing as British English. There is English, that we in Britain speak, and then a dialect spoken in America called American English. So yeah, maybe there should be a version for Britain and for America, but the wording is generally correct for the original language.
Posted by Tonii in Peterborough, England. , 29 april 2009
I just finished reading the first two books. In fact was so taken by the first I ordered the second from the UK, so far has not made it to the US. I usually don’t like books that are translated but found this one teriffic. What a great read and I do know what a gaol is….and liked that not all words were literally translated. I finished the second book in one weekend and liked it better than the first.
Posted by H. van Raan in New York, New York , 6 maj 2009
I just finished “Dragon Tattoo” and loved it. As I read I thought about the the translation, and a bit about translations in general. I should say that I am a fairly typical reader living in the heart of the heart of darkness in rural Missouri. I speak no languages other than English (or what passes for English in these parts). I have never visited Northern Europe or England. Though my eye caught on most of the phrases others have mentioned, I knew perfectly well what a gaol is and could make a comfortable guess at most everything else. The Kindle’s dictionary is handy, too.
As I don’t read Swedish, I can’t guess at how well the translation compares to the original. Though the language is not perfect, my guess was that this is a better than average translation. It read much better than many novels by American authors.
I did have a couple of small problems, however. Many (all ?) of the distances referred to in the translation were in ‘yards’ and temperatures were in Fahrenheit units. I doubt this was the case in the original. I did learn metric units from the third grade on, a hard time avoiding the feeling that I am being condescended to with this kind of ‘americanization’ of a text. I suppose that it is inevitable.
My other quibble is that I found one sentence late in the story referring to the quality of Mikeal’s book painful: “It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor – there had been no time for any polishing – but the book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice.” And ironic. Where is an editor when you *need* one?
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and the translation served me well.
Posted by D. Witten in Columbia, Missouri , 13 maj 2009
Hi to all lucky you out there who have the advantage and choice of translation. Unfortunately for me, English is the only language for me, so I probably have to make it. But hey, I guess ignorance is bliss.S ince I can’t compare between versions, the “lapses” in tranlsation doesn’t show up for me. Anyway, the story is great and I just got my hands on “The girl who played with fire”. Too bad I have to wait till 2010 for book 3, unless I master Swedish before that!
Posted by Jacquelyn in Singapore , 16 maj 2009
Just finished “The Girl with……..” and found it a very exciting work. I will read the other two in the trilogy as soon as I can get my hands on them.I think the criticism of the translation is picayune. What literate American does not know what “goal” is ?
Posted by Elaine B in New York City , 23 maj 2009
So Reg Keeland translated the book into American English? Since when do Americans ‘repair to Spain’? (page 121); Do they still say ‘forsooth’? (page 124); Does “dark” fall there, whereas in the UK “darkness” falls, or “night falls”? (page 134); Do people in the US see the following as normal “even as he reached for the door handle?” (page 138); I suggest that “just as he reached” would be a better translation. And please tell me what a “brutal domestic” is (page 80)? Here’s the context: “Worse than their straitened circumstances, Richard was a brutal domestic. He beat his wife and abused his son.”
“Sawn out” is the correct past participle form in UK English; Keeland uses “sawed out” on page 84, as a passive. Is this OK in US English?
Page 13 has an interesting expression: “They had their first quarrel, then others, and anon the antagonism turned personal”. “Anon”?
Somewhere in this book (I don’t remember the page; all other references are to my MacLehose 2008 edition.) Keeland writes “alight”, as in get off a train. Is this modern US usage?
Keeland was not the best translator of Mankell’s books and it’s a pity that a better translator couldn’t be found for the Millenium Trilogy. Everyone agrees that translation is not easy, but some of these mistakes (I could offer more examples) reek of sloppiness.
Posted by mike pritchard in barcelona , 29 maj 2009
I was wondering if I should buy my books in English or in French and then thanks to all of you, I was able to make up my mind: I will buy them in French! And it is a big plus because, believe or not, the French books came out first, which I find pretty amazing because most of the time, it’s the other way around…
Posted by Jocelyne Charest in Quebec City , 3 juni 2009
Hello, I read the three books in French but I can speak English too, and I think it is a shame that “Men who hated Women” was translated into something as noncommittal as”the Girl With a Dragon Tattoo”. Worse, what is the excuse to that? “It wasn’t sexy enough”? I hope it is just a joke, because obviously, Stieg Larsson took pain to write pages and pages of undeniable fun but with a very direct, plain feminist message, and that the translators (or more likely, the businessMEN behind the publishing of the English version) would over look it this way.
Posted by Myriam in Paris , 15 juni 2009
‘Noisome’ (p. 8 of ‘The girl who played with fire) does not mean ‘noisy’!
Posted by John Mitchell in Dorking , 16 juni 2009
The book was great. There are some Swedish phrases that are lost on me but it made perfect sense but have no point of reference. Can’t wait for the 2nd installment to hit US book stores
Posted by Scott in Houston, TX , 2 juli 2009
I agree with everybody, the translation in English is full of mistakes and I was so amazed by this so I decided to read the other two volumes in Italian that is my mother-tongue and they are better I have to say! I’m used to reading in English because I like it and I’m an English teacher so it is useful for me but not this time!
Posted by Daniela in Turin , 9 juli 2009
There is a controversy in the Spanish press at the moment over the titles (some say they were copied from the French) and also over the translation into Catalan (some say the Catalan versions of the books are translations from the French translations, not from the original language). Anybody really know anything about this?
Posted by mike pritchard in Barcelona , 12 juli 2009
I’ve read the first two of Stieg’s Millenium series and I think that they are just fine. Some folks complain about the translation but they were translated into English and not ‘American English’ thus ‘jail’ is properly translated as ‘gaol’. Stop whingeing and enjoy!
Posted by Kulanamsn in Cambridge , 17 juli 2009
It was good, and i mite b only sayin this cuz i never did and never will read it in swedish.
Posted by Anoud Al muhairi in dubai, uae , 21 juli 2009
Well, english is my second language (spanish is the first) and amazingly i found TGWTDT quite easy to read. Yes, gaol was an unusual word to me too but nothing to worry about. I’d found “strange” words even in my native language, so, I didn’t mind. I’m glad that I was able to read it, to understand every single sentence and made sense of every piece of it. Now i want to go to Sweden and make a tour around Hedeby island. Of course, in summer time! I live in Belgium and wondering if here are we gonna be able to find the movie with subtitles in english.
Posted by Paola Díaz in Brussels, Belgium , 3 augusti 2009
I bought the TGWTDT to read on the plane to UK and ordered the second in the series from Amazon the week after I arrived. I thought the translation was brilliant. Have read books that have been ruined in translation. The style was quite different to anything I have read before and I really liked it. Hope to see film/dvd with English subtitles here in New Zealand early next year.
Posted by Bev Dibble in Tauranga , 15 augusti 2009
Sorry to be a curmudgeon, but it’s amazing to me how many people criticizing the translation either can’t spell or write so ungrammatically.
If Reg Keeland lives in Albuquerque I presume he’s American, yet he seems able to switch back and forth between English & American versions thereof. A Brit who’s lived in the US for decades, I know no Swedish yet was completely absorbed by both of the translated books out so far.
Stieg Larsson must have been a remarkable person. I look forward to the third and last in the series, however it’s translated.
Posted by Judith in Urbana, Illinois , 20 augusti 2009
Here! Here! I agree with Judith! The translation added spark and an interesting quirkiness to the story. Living in Europe as a foreigner made me realize that many, many people speak the way this book was translated. A dab of British here, American there, a little Swedish, and ein bischen Deutsch. It made me wish I was back living amongst people who appreciate diversity of language!
Although the discussion is muy interesting, I am not sure why there is such negativity. The differences and similarities in language are what have inspired this conversation about an excellent triology by a great author. Long Live Language!
Excellent books! Thank you to the late, great Stieg Larsson and to Reg Keeland for bringing the books my way.
Posted by Lindsey in USA (today, maybe not tomorrow) , 2 september 2009
to the person who carped about the use of the word “gaol” in place of jail…
the word gaol is used, although it’s a bit archaic, in many parts if the world, including england, which if i remember rightly is the firt home of the english language. i am no linguist so it may have had scandinavian origins as the vikings did visit england a few times and established homes there.
i would suggest that sometimes this person should read a few works by authors who did not write in this century.
as to whether it is, on the whole, a good translation, is not for me to say as i don’t speak swedish but something is ALWAYS lost in translation. nonetheless, it is a good book, even in english and i plan to read the rest of them ASAP, and order the movies as well.
as to larrsons death, come on…it was just too timely for the shadowy forces he was fighting and writing about.
Posted by Shelle in Shores of lake erie , 4 september 2009
I just read the first book, in English. Why talk about miles and feet in the first half of the book, then talk kilometers later on? Most of the story goes into a hell of a lot of detail and as a reader I try to take all detail in (not to miss a clue probably). That’s probally why this translation bothered me.
A few sentences just did not read pleasantly, although I understood the thought. Amazing also that characters get up on the hour and change activity on the hour… Besides that, I couldn’t stop reading and I feel empty now I’ve finished.
Oh, and ‘Studs manager’ should be ‘Stud Manager’. Question: why record months in lower cast roman numerals? I didn’t get that one… Is that a Swedish thing?
All the best!
Posted by Joëlle in Moss Vale NSW AUSTRALIA , 4 september 2009
I am a pure “American” but was an English Lit. major in college, and had no problems at all with the English translations. In fact I liked them very much. Of course we are trying to read Swedish in English, and have to expect that much of the original language will move over — all foreign languages do that in translations as it makes the resultant text much more believable. I have been to Sweden and loved the references to Stockholm that I learned to love during my several visits — wish I was back there again (in summer only!!!). And Americans should learn that we are but one country speaking basic English, and the U.K., Australia, Canada, and other English speaking countries have enriched our language beyond measure.
Posted by Charles Wilkes in San Jose, Calif., USA , 4 september 2009
I have a question. Why does Blomkvist despise the nickname “Kalle”? What does it mean? I felt I was missing something with this.
Posted by Jo in NC, USA , 12 september 2009
I’ve read the first book (Man som hatar kvinnor) in both Swedish and in English. My main complaint regards the name – Why on earth did the book have to be re-titled to “The girl etc….” I think it is a major flaw, the original title is excellent and captures the theme(s) of the story.
Posted by Lilla Gumman in Woking , 15 september 2009
I, on the other hand, think they should retrofit all Swedish editions to match the English titles. (just kidding)
It’s whatever sells better – on each particular market. Look at the German titles! The French and Spanish are “men who did NOT love women” – I guess it’s taboo in a romance language to say a man would hate women, right?
That’s my 2 cents.
Posted by , 19 september 2009
Why does Blomkvist hate the nickname Kalle?
Well, it’s like this: When you a little kid, you accept Richey and Davey or Charlie, but some folks, when they grow a bit older like to be called Richard, David and Charles.
(Kalle is what you would call a kid named Karl.)
I hope this helps.
Posted by Karl , 19 september 2009
First of all, let me tell you that the Spanish translation couldn’t be worse (I’m a translator and would have loved to translate it, too bad I don’t speak Swedish!!!)
Regarding “Kalle”, are you sure Karl of your comment? Throught the first and second books (I still have the third to go) it seems to have some relation with a journalistic work that Blomkvist achieved in the past, isn’t it?
Posted by Maricruz , 20 september 2009
Having lived my entire life in Södermalm I found it very appealing to read a book that takes place in places that I’m very familiar with. I also love the way that Stieg Larsson makes passes to events and people well known for all Swedes. By the passes he makes and how he desribes certain events he shows of many of the wrongs in society ( and his left and feminist views).
Having read the English translation because I was curious for how such a familiar things would be described to the outside world I must say I was disappointed. I can understand that most of the references to famous Swedes is taken out since it could be difficult to explain their importance, but at the same time leaving them out leave out a socialcritic that is show in the way he compare things in the book to real event and people. Beeing a feminist and socialist myself I loved how he described event the way I aswell view the world and by how and which people he mention( can’t remember them all, but remember he mentions Osmo Vallo, a famous case of a man who died while beeing detained by the police) you get a sence of whats important for Stieg.
As to the comment of why Mikael Blomqvist doesn’t like to be called Kalle Blomqvist ( Kalle is the common nickname for Karl which is one of Mikael’s names, Carl Mikael Blomqvist) it’s because Kalle Blomqvist is a famous child detective in a series of books written by Astrid Lindgren, I guess he doesn’t fancy beeing compared to a children’s book character famous for solving crimes.
Sorry for my bad English, hope you understand by points anyway
their not famous outside Sweden but at the same time you misses, the parallelles and the things he want to say in a
Posted by Kerstin in Stockholm , 24 oktober 2009
I’m really interested in the views of a native Swede like Kerstin who has read the English translations. I thought the plots were great but the translation was pretty substandard – in English the dialogue came across as wooden and contrived and the prose advanced the plot line but was certainly not a literary achievement. I have heard that the Scandinavian languages have a much smaller vocabulary than English and wondered whether this was a contributing factor to the unexpressive writing or whether the Swedish original was good but the translator was incapable of reproducing Larsson’s style. The fact that he has left out elements of the story suggests that the latter is quite possible – why on earth he didn’t leave them in and include footnotes or endnotes is beyond comprehension. Any reasonably well informed person in the west of sufficient age remembers Olaf Palme’s assassination and Anna Lindh’s stabbing and could cope perfectly well with learning more about Swedish political history. Anyway, if Kerstin or someone else in a similar situation can cast further light on the translation issues I would be very interested.
By the way the first book made it very clear why Blomqvist hated being called Kalle, spelling out the reference to Astrid Lindgren’s child detective.
Posted by Susan in Canberra, Australia , 2 november 2009
I have to say that I thought the English translation was excellent. For the most part it succeeds in transforming idiomatic Swedish into idiomatic English, even as a British English reader. I’ve just got hold of the books in Swedish, and I’m enjoying trying to follow the translation process. I have the advantage of having lived in Sweden in the 70s, and learning some Swedish then, so it’s an opportunity to revisit my rather rusty Swedish.
Posted by Ian Kinghorn in Edinburgh, Scotland , 19 november 2009
What made me go nuts was the constant use of last names in the English translations.
When I actually found out that one of the periferal police men had been given a new last name, so you wouldn’t mix it up with another person…. Why not do as in the Swedish books…. use both first and last names until Mikael, as most Swedes, refusees to be called Mr Blomkvist. Or should I say Herr Blomkvist.
Same thing here. It is Miss Salander, but Herr Blomkvist…?
In one sentence he has recieved a verdict, the next segment he has been given a judgement.
I have translated enough during my 5 years in the US and 30+ in growing up in Sweden to say that the translation was very, very confusing.
Who did the Brittish translation?
Posted by Malin E in Norwalk, CT , 30 november 2009
I am not a native (English) speaker but I read a lot in English. English-to-Dutch translations often bother me when they are badly done (you can easily see the original structure of the sentence shining through in the Dutch version).
I do not know a lot about Swedish (apart from Swedish Chef,,”Bork, bork, bork” :-)) but it I get the impression the same problem appears here; a lot of the text structure does not feel English. Some expressions seem almost correct, for instance “give an eye tooth” which I think should be “give their eyeteeth”.
To me it all feels a bit stiff and sloppy (including some actual spelling errors in this print like “dosen’t”). Finally, I forgot where, the translator actually mentions a difference of meaning between a Swedish and English word- unless the author did so too, this is ridiculous! It is, after all, his job to translate the book without the reader noticing much. I am interested in languages and translation, but not when reading a book.
I did like the story, and I just realised by looking for more complaints of this translation that this book is rather a hype at the moment. I must say (mainly due to the translation) I do not think it’s exceptional, but a nice read when your in bed with the flu 🙂
Posted by Wouter in Enschede, Netherlands , 18 december 2009
I’m surprised that so many find fault with the English translations. I’ve read many translations that come out awkward. This isn’t one of them. I don’t know Swedish, but find the English version extraordinarily smooth and idiomatic – almost as if it were the original written in English. My wife and are enjoying this trilogy tremendously and recommending it to everyone.
Posted by Gus-Gus in Paris , 17 januari 2010
I think what I enjoyed about the english translation was that it gave me the impression that I was in conversation with someone for who english wasn’t their first language.
I felt like I was transported to Sweden because the english didn’t always sit right but it added to the mystique of a very well written story.
Posted by Mike in Adelaide, Australia , 5 mars 2010
Hmm… Having grown up in both Sweden and the US, I felt the English translation is lacking. Not just word choice, but turns of phrase, and lack of context, that don’t let the non-Swedish readers know what they are missing. (the irony of Kalle Blomkvist, Bjornligan, offices on Gotgatan in Stockholm) Kerstin described it (in very good English) well previously.
I’d ignored the books completely when I visited Sweden, and that was a mistake. On a whim, I listened to TGWTDT (in English) on audiocd, and cringed a bit listening to the dialogue (Lisbeth with a cockney accent?!) and the Swedish pronunciation.. But of course, the story is so good, I then was hooked. I then started reading them in English, and gave up. Finally, I received the books in Swedish for the holidays, and it was probably one of the best presents I got this year.
I read a lot of Astrid Lindgren as a child, and was similarly disappointed when we received the English versions of her books, for our son, and found that much of the charm was lost.
Posted by amemm in Providence, RI , 22 mars 2010
I don’t speak Swedish and I’ve only read the English version so I can’t comment on the quaility of translation. But just having read that I am impressed by the series, I don’t feel as though the sentances were hard to read or dummed down. It was a very engrossing read so I say thumbs up to the translater for getting it across to us English speakers! Thanks for some of the best characters Ive read about for a while. cheers
Posted by JMB in Sydney , 3 april 2010
As an American reading the English translations, I am finding them stunningly well done. The flow is so good that I am able to forget that I am reading at all – a window opens up in the page and I’m there. So I think the translator(s) must have done an excellent job, though I’m sure some things will inevitably be lost in any translation. The only thing I wish were added is a pronunciation guide for the names! It’s nice to be able to hear them in one’s head while reading.
Posted by HWN in Boston , 19 april 2010
As a gardener in California I was shocked to read of rhododendrons growing in the Caribbean in the beginning of TGWPWF. Can someone who reads in Swedish check if the plant mentioned was something else, possibly oleander?
Posted by PAT in SEBASTOPOL , 29 April 2010
In the swedish original text it is Rhododendron.
Posted by Linus in Stockholm , 29 April 2010
To Mike Pritchard in Barcelona, in response to your post of 29 May 2009, if this reaches you at this late date: Every one of your quibbles about my “translation” was something that was rewritten by MacLehose. See why I used a pseudonym? –Reg Keeland
Posted by Reg Keeland in Albuquerque, New Mexico , 14 maj 2010
To Mike Pritchard in Barcelona again: I heard from the Spanish translator that she was forced to use the UK edited version of the translation to “correct” her translation from Swedish! Yes, we’re all just interchangeable chimpanzees in the translation profession: give us enough typewriters and we’ll eventually translate all of Shakespeare into Swedish, just by chance.
Posted by Reg Keeland in Albuquerque , 14 maj 2010
To Jo in NC, USA: Kalle is the diminutive of Karl, as pointed out by Karl above, but “Kalle Blomkvist” is also the name of the boy detective in a series of children’s books by Astrid Lindgren! Mikael doesn’t want to be seen as a boy detective, basta.
Posted by Reg Keeland in Albuquerque , 14 maj 2010
Having just discovered this suite of comments, I welcome any other questions you may have about the translation. It’s odd that the translator is always the first to be blamed for any infelicities, when there are often numerous editors further along in the process.
Posted by Reg Keeland in Albuquerque , 14 maj 2010
I’m French but I’m working abroad and where I am, only the English translation was available. I found it highly readable and I had no issue with the “gaol” that someone here mentioned, for instance, although I only learned proper English late. So I guess it’s a good point. Or maybe not being and English native speaker prevents me from seeing stylistic mistakes …
If I want to be picky, I was annoyed by the use of feets and °F. As far as I know, the Swedes use the metric system…
And to be fair, I don’t think the style is (was, sorry) Larsson’s big strength. There are many parts that seem a little odd and probably are in Swedish too. But those books are horribly hard to close. I’ve had 400 pages of it tonight and I wonder in what shape I’ll be at work tomorrow…
Posted by Scotian in Canada , 18 maj 2010
Who cares about the vlaidity of the translations? All three books are a bloody good read
Posted by Robert in Brisbane, Australia , 22 maj 2010
I absolutely hated the English translation!
Posted by http://literarykitty.wordpress.com/ in London , 30 July 2010
I am half way through the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – the book is superb and the translation is spot on. Thank goodness – as otherwise I would not have been able to enjoy this excellent story. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
Posted by Michael in Kettering, UK , 30 augusti 2010
In the first book, there are quite a lot of temperatures, and they are significant. It was really odd to have to calculate the conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius, given that the characters are Swedish. For me, it broke the illusion. I was taken out of the fictional world and made to consider why the publisher would have made such an idiot decision.
The edition I was reading, by the way, was from Penguin Canada, and I imagine all non-elderly Canadians would have had the same experience.
Posted by Matt DeCoursey in Hong Kong , 1 September 2010
I started this book ( the English translation) 2 days ago and found it a little hard going at first but quickly came to the point where I can’t put it down! I read it in the morning with my tea, at lunchtime, and grab a few minutes whenever I can during the day to find out what happens next! I can’t comment as to translation since I don’t speak Swedish and, I confess, have some difficulty with the proper names in the book, but the writing does sometimes appear stilted and I thought that was because the writer was Swedish and wrote the original in Swedish and that style would be different to what I’m used to. Loving it and looking forward to the next two!!
Posted by Jenny Anderson in Oakville, Ontario,Canada , 17 september 2010
I haven’t read a book in ages. I jokingly tell my friends that I stopped reading books when they started making movies. But a friend convinced me to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was intrigued because my amazing granddaughter was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I couldn’t put the book down and once finished, I immediately started the second book. And now I’ve finished that one. I’m afraid that American English is the only language I know so of course I loved every tidbit. Thanks, Reg Keeland, for working so hard at making it possible for such a one as myself to read these wonderful books. And now… on to book three.
Posted by Teri Ahlstrom in Newport News, Virginia , 28 september 2010
I enjoyed reading the first two volumes in its French translation in spite of it being poorly done at times. I realized the enormity of the work involved but that is no excuse for a translator and an editor to let escape so many translating errors There were some Swedish regionalisms that were poorly translated and therefore made me wonder about their real meaning. I will be reading the third volume in English in the hopes of it receiving a better treatment than the French language.
Posted by MFL in Montreal, Canada , 9 November 2010
Born Swede living in Canada, only read the English version. I have no quibbles with “gaol” or other British expressions. But not having read the swedish versions I regularly go “WTF?” in my head, translate into swedish and go “aha!”.
E.g. “It was not an ideal company. They expected to make money” (or somesuch). Ideel in swedish means non-profit. Ideal makes no sense.
“She had to read the resume of the report”. Resume, in Canada at least, is only used in the Curriculum Vitae sense. Resume in swedish would be an executive summary.
Finally “Phantomen”?? Really? Keep Fantomen or translate to The Phantom. What kind of botched gibberish is Phantomen?
I just started the first book a few weeks ago, so I’m sure my list of peeves will grow.
Posted by Wolf in Toronto , 12 november 2010
I’m reading book 1 right now. IMHO the English translation is OK. The I was hooked 10 pages into it. I find the prose compelling. If a book doesn’t grab me in the 25 pages I drop it and move on. I find the imperfections in translation help to give it a ‘foreign’ feel. If it were translated to ‘perfect’ American English with proper American idioms it would not read right.
Posted by Rick in Louisville, KY USA , 28 december 2010
I had no issue with the Penguin Canada version of TGWTDT that I read. There were a couple of confusing things, but common sense helps – for example, A3 is obviously a major highway and the A4 binders are probably similar to our three ring binders. There was nothing that presented any problem at all in appreciating the story. It was a decent translation job.
Posted by Steve Renolds in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada , 12 Mars 2011
Having a Swedish mum and a Spanish dad, I grew up speaking both. But I speak English to my brother and sister, as it was the language I heard my parents speak to each other… The translation is very basic, readable, but not great. I was hoping after the first book that there would be enough complaints that they would hire someone new for the job. That is the other thing about having to watch a Swedish or Spanish film with subtitles. I can’t help but read the subtitles and get sidetracked by the bad translations…
Posted by Veronica in Södra Ängby , 17 Mars 2011
Loved all the books but “gotten” and “ahold” used over and over again started to send shivers down my back. That’s exclusively American slang I would think? Not happy with the translation.
Posted by Delta in Sydney , 14 April 2011
“To Mike Pritchard in Barcelona, in response to your post of 29 May 2009, if this reaches you at this late date: Every one of your quibbles about my ‘translation’ was something that was rewritten by MacLehose. See why I used a pseudonym? –Reg Keeland”
“It’s odd that the translator is always the first to be blamed for any infelicities, when there are often numerous editors further along in the process.
“Posted by Reg Keeland in Albuquerque , 14 maj 2010”
Thanks for these enlightening comments. I’m one of those who found the English text awkward on occasions, but who don’t fully understand the entire process of converting a Swedish novel into an English novel. Hence I’m also guilty of blaming everything on the man whose name is on the cover under “translated by”. I was surprised to read Kerstin in Stockholm’s comment (24 Oct 2009) stating that parts of the original novel had actually been cut from the English version. That’s clearly an editor’s handiwork and now I’m wondering just how many of the other complaints that I and others have are in fact nothing to do with Mr. Keeland.
Despite these quibbles, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the English versions so they clearly worked well on the whole.
Posted by genji in Lisbethtown , 20 April 2011
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets? Nest: text variations
Differences between texts of the Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage/Random House English (US) translation of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets? Nest, translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland, and the MacLehose Press/Quercus English (UK) translation, also by Reg Keeland
I bought and devoured the individual US editions of the Millenium Trilogy soon after they each came out, and then later I chose to buy the Knopf US slipcased set of all three Lisbeth Salander stories as a matched set to keep in my ?permanent? personal library.
My initial curiosity about the US and UK editions was aroused when I decided that I want to have a complete set in paperback ?reading editions? to preserve the mint condition of my copy of the slipcased set through what I expect to be numerous additional readings (I have already completed two complete readings of all and up to five readings of certain chapters). The only paperback edition of Hornets? Nest I could find was a MacLehose Press/Quercus English (UK) edition. But as it was the same translator Reg Keeland I was not expecting any textual differences. What was immediately puzzling to me though was that the UK paperback of Hornets? Nest was so much thicker ? more pages than the US paperback editions of the first two books. I had not perceived Hornets? Nest to be significantly longer than the first two, and indeed in my Knopf hardcover slipcased set all three volumes seemed nearly the same ?thickness? in pages. Visually, there did not seem to be any significant difference in the number of words per page in the UK paperback. The typeface size, character density, and lines per page, all seemed essentially the same. What could account for such a significant difference, which a quick check of page numbers showed the UK edition of Hornets? Nest to be 113 pages longer than the US paperback of Fire? (see note below)
I began doing a paragraph by paragraph comparison between the texts in my US Knopf Hardcover edition of Hornets? Nest and my UK edition of it. First observation was that the Knopf edition layout had actually spaced out the chapter headings in larger bolder type, leaving slightly MORE blank space on those pages than the UK edition. Identical texts were in the opening ?Intermezzo in a Corridor? so nothing there.
But IMMEDIATELY in paragraph 5 of the first page of Chapter 1, there was a major difference! In the US edition paragraph 5 is quite short, just three sentences, ending with the sentence ?It had been a strenuous evening.? But in the UK edition paragraph 5 continues on for an additional six sentences, filling most of the page! And again, the US edition entirely omits what is paragraph 8 in the UK edition (a short two sentences long), and the US edition radically shortens what is Paragraph 12 in it, omitting three long sentences from what is paragraph 13 in the UK edition. The opening sentence in the paragraph after that is altered by omitting one word in the US edition to make a good transition from what remains of the shortened paragraph.
At this point, in some degree of shock, I stopped this laborious word by word comparison. Absolutely there ARE differences in the text. Now I would certainly accept the proposition that these specific omissions from the US text are of secondary importance. They deal with activities in Dr. Jonasson?s day leading up to Lisbeth?s arrival at the hospital , a cup of tea being tendered to him by a nurse, and his reflections on the types of cases he sees in his medical ER practice.
Were one to view these as two different drafts of the story, different readers might prefer either the more concise US version or the more expansive UK version. Frankly, to me these particular differences do not alter the story in any significant way, although as a percentage of the number of words in the text within this initial few pages of the story, the difference is substantial. It certainly made me wonder.
First of all, that the two editions, both being represented as a (the) translation to English from the Swedish by the same person, Reg Keeland, could be so different. Beyond a mere translation, it appears that Mr. Keeland ? or somebody ? CHOSE to remove some of Stieg Larsson?s text from the US edition (I take that as more plausible than the alternative, which would be that for the UK edition either Keeland ADDED text of his OWN to Larsson?s Swedish text, or started from a different Swedish version by Larsson, or that perhaps Larsson lived long enough to edit and approve the shorter translation version for the US edition?). What was the principal REASON for the changes? Who decided on them?
Secondly, a large concern came to me about what OTHER deviations might exist within the 743 pages of the UK text, which might be (to me at least) important clues, local color, plot developments or character insights to the story, when the initial ones I discovered above were (in my opinion) not so critical.
Now in the big picture here I read and delight in the Lisbeth stories as vividly entertaining roller coaster rides of suspense. I am not a literary stylist or critic. I am not motivated to dissect the stories or critique Larsson?s writing. I do not have the desire (at least not yet!) to crawl word for word, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph, through the entire book ? or all three books! ? as I did for the first few pages of Hornets? Nest, to check for more deviations.
So to check quickly for further more important deviations, I first jumped directly in the UK edition to reading the exciting and climactic Part Four , which begins with chapter 23.
What I noticed in Part Four, in a normal roller coaster speed reading of the UK edition, trusting in my memory on the US edition, were only a few, most trivial and logical deviations. In the Epilogue where Lisbeth and Ronald have their ultimate confrontation the old brick works, ?freight elevator? in the US edition is replaced by ?goods lift? in the UK edition. And the dimensions of the old brick works are stated in feet in the US edition and stated in the equivalent number of meters in the UK edition. Those Part Four changes I noticed are of course truly logical and trivial changes, neither adding , changing, nor removing any information from the reader. Any literate reader in either the US or the UK would immediately understand either meaning perfectly. That of course does not address what other deviations may or may not occur in all the other pages of the text, nor is it certain that there are not some additional deviations within Part Four that I simply missed in my fast read.
Then I went back to chapter 1 and worked out to page 6 out of the 24 pages in the UK version and edition of chapter 1. Looking just at those first six pages of chapter 1 in the UK paperback of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets? Nest, I found a number of additional changes:
? Two additional complete paragraphs which were omitted entirely from the US edition, leading to a total reduction of over 20% in the words of text covering that same part of the chapter in the US edition
? The name of the nurse was identified as Nurse Nicander in the UK edition, but was dropped in the US edition and replaced by ?the nurse?
? The hotel name changed from the ?Radisson? in the UK edition to the ?Elite Park Avenue? in the US edition
? The word ?telephone? was used in the UK edition and ?phone? was used in its place in the US edition
As noted earlier, these deviations I have identified above in chapter 1 can all be pretty safely categorized as of merely secondary importance to the plot or character development. But that so many differences can be found in just the first less than 1% of the overall text is surprising to me. I found no statement or indication that would lead me to expect even a single change. Indeed, the overleaf of the title page in the US edition includes the statement, ?This translation originally published in Great Britain by MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus.? This translation, it says: It does NOT say, ?The translation in this book has been adapted for the US from the translation originally published in Great Britain by MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus.?
I am very curious: have others in any of these Stieg Larsson forums looked into the differences between the US and UK editions? Any comments or discussions? Has anyone who is fluent in reading Swedish compared the original Swedish text to these translations Into English? Does anyone know whether similar variations between US and UK printings of the same text are common in many or most novels?
Posted by Walter in Minneapolis , 16 June 2011
To Reg Keeland
I should have read some of your earlier posts before submitting mine just above, Reg!
Fundamentally, the bottom line to me as you doubtless have deduced from my post just above, I think the books and your translation are just GREAT!
(sorry that the quotation marks and bullets in my text were swapped to question marks in the post)
Meanwhile from your earlier post responding to someone else my suspicion is that for their own reasons somebody at Knopf cut out some of your translation from the US edition, and somebody at MacLehose swapped in a lot of British English words and expressions where the translation the way you wrote it used American English idioms.
Being of intense DANISH heritage myself (cousins there today, all four grandparents born there, etc, etc) I found it delightful that so many of my ancestors given names appeared in the Swedish characters in the series 🙂
Posted by Walter in Minneapolis , 16 June 2011
Yes the English translation makes a good read but I’ve just started reading the Swedish originals and after 3 chapters there are some glaring misses that detract from the way we understand the characters.
Salander is described as being anorexically thin in Swedish but just anorexic in English. Breasts that are barely visible under clothing(Swe) are not ‘childlike’ (Eng).
Kåt is not attracted – it means horny.
Her clothes are ovanlig prydlig – unusually correct but in English Salander is exceptionally decked out!
Frodes reaction in the English version omits references to dog turds.
Blomkvist is Bror Duktig – perhaps Mister clever clogs – but not Practical Pig form a Disney film, and framgångsrik is succesful, not excellent. He has to pay skadestånd – damages – as a result of the court case – not taxes.
When Armansky thinks of her as Pippi Longstocking the idea his good judgement has kept him from joking about her is completely omitted.
The list is a long one….Clearly some errors are just that but some are just carelessness and perhaps by choice and together they reduce the shades of meaning and subtle character diescriptions (and dry humour).
Posted by Liz in Sweden , 10 January 2012
Sorry for this late comment but I’ve just discovered this site and its thread.
About 35 years ago I was a professional translator in Sweden and have read all three books in English, French, Swedish, German and Italian. I have to admit that I am addicted to the entire Trilogy. From what I have read, elsewhere, there was a great deal of editorial ‘slash and burn’ editing of the original proofs due to Larsson’s logorrhea style of writing; so much so in fact that the translator (Reg Keeland) protested and almost had his name taken off the final product.
At the outset I honestly thought the english version was below par but on repeated readings am very impressed by the smoothness of the translated language in all three books, especially ‘Hornet’s nest’, so can imagine that non-swedish readers couldn’t give a hoot about the nit-picking errors tha some of the more polyglot readers have found. The French translation is exceptional, almost up to the level of the original Swedish and this made the book a mega success in France and allowed it to become a radio drama on France Culture. The books caused a storm in literary circles in Italy, Germany and also in Spain (though i haven’t read the spanish translation).
For any english speaker who wants to become a translator, learn latin, as Tacitus’ writings in the original are very different from the translated copy.
Posted by Former Malmö inhabitant in Paris, France , 21 May 2012
Enough with the translation BS. I have just finished the three books and had no difficulty understanding and following the story line. I have some Latin and Spanish background but don’t really think either was necessary to comprehend and thoroughly enjoy the writings. I am just saddened that there will be no more of these engrossing thrillers. How fortunate advocates of this genre are to have the opportunity to read this series in whatever language best suits them!
Posted by mikekresch in San Francisco , 1 juni 2012
There’s nothing wrong with the translation. Any flaws in the text (and there are many), is down to the author. Larsson wasn’t a very good writer – he even said so himself.
Posted by Lyn in Stockholm , 16 September 2012
Concerning the endings of book 3: I have read the books in English, and have seen the Noomi Rapace TV 6-part series. SPOILER: The final scene in the TV series, and in the book, are different. In the book, she lets him in; in the TV series, she does not, he leaves and does not come in.
My original thought was, why would the producers make such a significant change? But later I realized that the change may actually have been in the English translation.
I know there are a lot of people who have read the book in Swedish. In the Swedish version, does she let him in or turn him away?
Posted by Chuck in Ferndale, Washington , 1 February 2014
I completely agree with Liz: the English translation leaves a LOT to be desired when it comes to capturing the subtleties of the character’s attitudes and behaviours, to the extend that on my first read, it lead me to completely misunderstand what was going on especially in the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael, which to my mind, is really the center of the book: it’s a love story, not a thriller. My Swedish is rather sketchy (my native language is German, which is closer to Swedish in many ways than English, especially when it comes to vocabulary) but I decided to read the original because I had a feeling that the translator didn’t really understand some of the cultural context of the story, and was wondering if it would read differently in Swedish. And boy it does! Larsson is a very good writer who chooses his words *very* carefully, and he does not deserve to be treated as if he were just another author of penny romances, where shades and subtleties of language don’t matter. I hope there will be another more adequate translation sometime! And as to the titles: I think it is a crying shame that so few foreign publishers have had the guts to keep the original titles, especially of the first book, since it is something of a political statement – an allusion to a famous line from Germaine Greer to be precise – and I think not to use it, is a total cop out.
Posted by Asni in Wellington NZ , 25 May 2014