I do not come from an English-speaking country. I fell in love with classic literature some years ago, and I started off mostly by reading Indonesian translations, and with time I read more and more classics in English. I also read works that are originally written in other languages than English—French and Russian for example—but since I can’t read those other languages, reading in English translation would have to suffice.
So when it comes into reading classic literature, I face a major problem: to read it in English or to read it in the Indonesian translation?
I read classics in Indonesian translations because:
- they are easier to understand, hence faster to read
- they are mostly cheaper than the books written in English
- to show appreciation to the translators and publishers who made it possible for a classic literary work to be translated into Indonesian. I know it’s not easy, especially when the market for classic literature in Indonesia is not really promising. So I think they really need the appreciation.
- as a way to promote world classic literature in Indonesia, especially to those who we can consider “beginners”. Translated books are more accessible, affordable, and understandable to them.
But then, being the perfectionist that I am, after some years of reading classics in both Indonesian translation and English, I can’t help the feeling that I’m missing the “true flavour” of a classic when I’m reading Indonesian translated version. Because somehow in the process of translating and editing, the meaning of a sentence or a paragraph can change. It’s not that Indonesian translated classics are all bad; there are a lot of books that are translated wonderfully, some even came with added “Indonesian flavour”, like Landung Simpatupang’s translation of Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell.
So the problem lies here: while I still want to read Indonesian translations because of the above reasons, I also don’t want to lose hold of the true meaning of a literary work, which in my opinion can be expressed better in English. But, to be honest, there are times that I prefer to read Indonesian translations just to save time! LOL. Aside from being a perfectionist, I am also a moody and a very slow reader.
Do you face the same problem as I do? If yes how would you deal with this dilemma? Please let me know in the comments!