Perhaps one of the most well-known fields of translation is literary translation, but do you know what we mean when we refer to this branch of professional translation? 

Literary translation falls under the umbrella of editorial translation, which encompasses the translation of all types of publishable documents: books on various topics, magazines, etc. Literary translation, as its name implies, specifically centres on the translation of literary works, such as novels, short stories, poetry, theatre, etc. 

This branch of professional translation calls for a high degree of creativity in comparison to other branches. In other words, translating an instruction manual does not require the same creativity as a novel or poem. 

Difficulties in literary translation 

Despite it not appearing so at first glance, this branch of translation is highly complex and can pose many challenges to the literary translator. These include: 

· Rhetorical devices and word plays. They are more common in poetry but can appear in any type of text. At times, there simply isn’t a valid equivalent in the target language and therefore the translator must find the best possible alternative. 

· Proper nouns. The names of places or people can sometimes mean something in the original language and have particular significance. In this case, the translator must think about whether or not to translate the names. 

· Terminology. Some genres, such as science fiction, employ highly specific and complex terminology that the translator needs to know in order to understand and correctly translate the work. 

· Sagas. This point is closely related to the previous point: if in a particular saga the same translation is always used for a word that is already familiar to the readers, the translation cannot suddenly be changed. In other words, the terminology that fans are familiar with must be respected and therefore, the translator must also know the terms. 

· Information that will be revealed later on. In the translation of novels, it may be that facts are indirectly or vaguely mentioned at the start, which are then explained at the end. These references may be difficult to translate if the translator does not know for certain what is being spoken about. For this reason, if there is time, it is important to read the entire work before starting on the translation. 

· The source language culture. Depending on the type of work, it may be that the text includes multiple references to the culture of the original language. If a novel is set in Madrid, for example, it’s likely that typical dishes are mentioned that don’t exist in England and that we are unfamiliar with. Book translators and, ultimately, all translators, must be as familiar as possible with the foreign culture to understand what is being talked about and know how to act in each situation. 

As you can see, literary translation is not a simple task that can be carried out hastily. A book is highly complex and must be left to professionals to ensure the best results. 

New technologies 

New requirements in literary translation have surfaced with new technologies. We’re hearing more and more about e-books or electronic books, which are carving their own niche in the market. 

Although the content of an e-book is the same as a paper book, the layouts are different. There are many different examples: needing to translate Kindle books, or ePub from English into Spanish, or an entire book in PDF… The possibilities are endless! 

In all these instances, it’s important to turn to a professional translator who knows which tools are needed and how to work with these formats. 

Why count on professionals like us? 

Bearing in mind the complexity of literary works, machine translation must be ruled out if you want to achieve a good result—no question about it. As we already explained in another blog post, resorting to Google Translate (or another similar tool) isn’t the best option. Literary translation, as we’ve explained before, has a series of added difficulties that can only be resolved by a human translator. Therefore, if you intend to publish the translation, the best thing is to rule out using these tools to translate a book for free. 

A translation agency like ours offers you the best results. Simply get in touch with us via our contact form and we’ll assist you right from the start. You can find out how much it costs to translate your book into English or any other language, and even tell us your preferences. We’re a team of professional translators who’ll be delighted to help you.