LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation


by David Bellos.

An interesting book looking at a wide range of translation-related topics, from the meaning of words, language, and the meaning of meaning itself, to simultaneous translation and the use of gesticulation – introducing many aspects of translation I had never considered before.

But with a title referencing Douglas Adams, and a blurb promising a “funny, wise, and life-affirming book”, I was expecting something different. I think this book got lost somewhere between academic and popular: one review complains it is “mostly for the lay reader…” while another says it is “too educated-linguist”. I learned a lot, for sure, but I didn’t enjoy the learning; Bellos’s verbose style and lack of examples, together with his penchant for long sentences (often without enough commas), made for a difficult read.

I did find myself nodding with understanding from time to time, even murmuring the odd a-ha, but any wit completely passed me by, and the promise of the blurb never materialised for me.


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