I don’t have a problem with reading translations any more than I have issues with watching subtitled TV or movies (the technical process of dubbing opens a can of worms that’s probably worth having someone write a full essay on). However, I often shy away from multiple-translation pieces; I’m concerned about a “telephone effect,” and I usually look for a direct translation.
Thus it was that I avoided any works I found of the Albanian author Ismail Kadare until a few months ago, when I found myself thumbing through a copy of The Successor at the library. The Successor made me hope that he had written some shorter works—which he had. Agamemnon’s Daughter: A Novella and Stories is in the same setting as The Successor, and it’s terrific. The tighter length gives no time for the lush and gorgeous language to get cumbersome, and the deft, tight characterizations—a word, a thought—are compelling and fathomably human. The themes of power, corruption, the theatre of politics, the frailty of liberty and fraternity are ever-present without interrupting the pace of the human drama.
At times, the language feels odd and there were passages I needed to re-read to understand, but I put that down to reading an English translation of a French translation of the original Albanian. The distancing effect that has is unfortunate, for this is an incredibly poignant and present story.
Nonetheless, it is worth the read.