Reading a translation of Bright-Sided

Here’s my main takeaway from Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided:

It is important to be critical (you may call it negative if you like, I’m OK with that). Companies are evil and do not deserve the freedom they currently enjoy. People need to be critical to stop the insanity that is the unregulated market. Positive thinking is our enemy.

I’m basically the intended reader of this book, its target audience.

Still I was hesitant to read it.


Translation. To Swedish. In Swedish the book is called Gilla läget.

Every time I even consider reading a translation I think “Surely, reading translations can’t be as bad as I make it out to be?”

I might be picking the wrongs books, but all evidence point to: yes it can.

This translation is probably one of the worst translations I have ever laid my eyes on.

On the one hand: GOOD. Means being a translator is not hard, as in, you don’t even have to know much English to translate into Swedish. Apparently? There is hope for me yet? That eventually I’ll find a way to become a translator of other texts than those produced at a uni.

On the other: Do we need translations? If most translations are not great (which is not necessarily true, but for me, that’s what it feels like), then what’s the point in even doing translations?

I don’t want to pick on the translator. I know translation is some tricky, tricky business. Sometimes the source text is crap, and you’re no miracle worker. (Unless it’s at the exact right time of the menstrual cycle.) Sometimes it’s not your field of expertise, and you might even tell your client this, but they still want you to do the job. Sometimes you’re just having a bad day. Or the deadline is simply unreasonable.

I blame the publisher. This book should not have been published in this state. Did anyone read the translation through before publication??

Because the translation is SO DISTRACTING.

In general, it lacks flow, but there are also pure inaccuracies.

Here’s a favorite one: eyelash curler has been translated as ögonfranspapiljott. First of all, there is no such thing. Second of all, the word is ögonfransböjare. Third: first rule of translation: you don’t go making up words. If there is no word then you have to explain it. The word the translator made up literally means curler for your eyelashes, (as in curlers you would leave in your hair over night if it was the 1950s), which is something quite different from an eyelash curler.

Even Google Translate could have translated this correctly. FFS.

Another favorite: beteendevetenskapare. Oddly enough, the correct word is used later in the text: beteendevetare. Translators of books don’t use CAT tools I take it? Or?

Also. I can tell this is a translation by an old man. How? Well, there’s the above, and then there the use of the word kurre (obsolete), and then he claims Kool-Aid is something like Tomtebrus. Tomtebrus is, apparently, something that we had in Sweden between 1900 and 1950. It’s a powder. As you may know, Kool-Aid is a liquid. Disregarding that…the majority of readers will in no way be helped by Tomtebrus. I had to look it up. In fact, I thought he was confused, using some sort of Norwegian word.

My point: you shouldn’t be able to tell anything about the translator in a translation. S/he should be invisible. That is not the case here.

Another fave: I den här verkstaden för team-building….

Sweetheart, no, they’re not talking about the place you go to fix your car. I know it’s tricky, but you’re already using team-building, may as well call this workshop too, I mean it is widely used in Swedish. I should know. We have workshops all over the place at uni.

Other sources of annoyance:

Vi plågas av våld med eldvapen och dignar under vår personliga skuldbörda (To mention one thing: that is literal translation of firearms, and it’s not right.)

..gästvänlig mot positivt tänkande.. (We’re being hospitable to positive thinking..? You sure that makes sense?)

framträdde på CNN (I take it you think CNN is a stage where you perform…?)

oundviklig melodisnutt (..I get this picture in my mind here I’m haunted by a song, literally, it’s running after me..)

En samling år 1999 med några (Yea..that does not mean what you think it means in this context, this means assembly, and you were trying to translate gathering.)

It is possible I would have had something to say about the content too. If the translation wasn’t such a hot mess.

The one good thing about this read: I feel less self-conscious about my own work having read this. At least I don’t fail at translating a gathering. On the other, I’m jealous my translation challenges aren’t this simple. Try translating chemical terminology when you are well aware you ain’t chemist. The result highly depends on the accuracy of IATE.

Here’s a thought I keep having: translators should always work in pairs. I am 100% sure that would improve all translations everywhere. Also sure the only reason that is not happening is because translators tend to be social retards. Or introverts. Or both.





This is a paraphrasing of a very famous poem by Edith Södergran (♥) called Dagen svalnar, which seems to have been translated as The Day Cools. Not sure if it’s an official translation. Seems very literal, but the second line in the poem, drink the warmth from my hand, doesn’t really make sense it’s translated differently.


The original (translated into English) reads:

You were looking for a woman
You found a soul—
You’re disappointed

Spinster’s rendition reads:

I was looking for life virtues
I found liberal feminism—
I’m disappointed
(And I stand by it)




Don’t you just love people who vlog in the middle of major life changes? Especially when it’s someone you already love and follow?

IF I was the sort of person who commented on videos on YouTube, which I’m not, I’d probably comment that

a. Yes, Sam did a good job promoting your channel (unintentionally I’m sure, but he did), but if it wasn’t for the vegan peanut butter brownies, wouldn’t have cared, and
b. Would not have stuck around if you weren’t brilliant. Which you are.
c. …and can I just say. While I’m obsessed with Architects (understatement of the year), never watched your channel in order to see Sam. I’m not sure what that means. But I’m pretty sure it’s good. At least from a feminist perspective?

What I learned from this little exercise: it is good for the soul to go through your likes every once in a while. Should probably do it more often.

This has been an Endless Blog Challenge post. Past topics for this challenge can be found here.

A book that suffers from its translation


I’ve read Mhari McFarlane before, in translation into Swedish. Usually I avoid translations from English into Swedish whenever possible. Because why would you read a translation if you don’t have to? I.e., translations tend to not be great. Basically, I’m a translator who doesn’t believe in translation. That’s probably a brilliant starting point.


For whatever reason I read It’s not me it’s you in Swedish and it was not bad. It didn’t read like a translation at all. It had flow for sure.

The translation of You had me at hello though, it’s making it difficult to focus on the story and not getting caught up in strange translation choices. Which is weird, because the title is spot on; the translator has really stepped away from the literal meaning of the title and picked a line from a popular Swedish song and the meaning of the words make sense with the story too.

The story is basically an Elizabeth + Darcy type love story, and you can tell in English it reads really well. What more could you want?!

The Swedish translation though.

First of all, we need to talk about main character Anna’s profession. She works at uni, apparently she’s supervising students and giving lectures. She has a PhD. I don’t need to know what the English word used is, but it’s definitely not translated as föreläsare in Swedish. I could give you a number of reasons but bottom line is: we don’t hire föreläsare at uni. We don’t. Especially not people with a PhD. She’s a lektor. 100 percent. Repeatedly seeing her referred to as föreläsare drives me insane.

I’m not blaming the translator; you can’t be familiar with all fields in life. You just can’t. But come on, it’s not that difficult to just grab random person from uni, I’m sure even a student would do, and ASK. They could all tell you. Föreläsare are people you hire for conferences, I would say usually entrepreneurs, and they come with all sorts of training. Not hired at uni though. Definitely not to supervise students.

And just to make sure that we all get that university is not a world the translator is familiar with, she throws in this little nugget Hon kommer alltså att jobba heltid när du bestämmer dig för att bli filosofie magister? 

Uh-huh. Filosofie magister isn’t something you become in Swedish, it’s a degree prefix, it’s in no way a profession. I should know, I have it. Means nothing.

Here’s another favorite: han ser ut som en slipprig kikärt. A what now!? I have literally no idea what this could mean. Other than no Swedish person read through this text before publication. Not a chance.

Also love the misuse of the word omsorg. Again. I don’t need to see the ST to know that’s simply an incorrect choice. And I don’t use the word incorrect to describe translations lightly. I’m a firm believer that there are many possible translations, and talking about a “correct translation” is for the most part daft. In this case though, I’m willing to call this just wrong.

Towards the end, it’s as if the translator has just given up on it all. The language has no flow what so ever. It reads kind of like this Hon brukar bege sig dit när en kris uppstår.

Yes. That’s a very natural and not at all stiff way to speak in Swedish. If this is a movie from the 1950s.

What I’m trying to say can be summed up as:

Dear HaperCollins,

Do you think you could maybe consider having all of your Swedish translations proofed by an actual Swedish-speaking Swede? Just a thought

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, I did like this book. I like McFarlane’s characters, and I’m so sure in original the dialogue reads beautifully, and it’s a story that just sucks you in.


It’s problematic.

First of all. Anna falls in love with a boy, James, who clearly bullied her when she was a kid in school. He did something truly horrible to her. I don’t care if he’s changed, how can you possibly see past that unless you really, really hate yourself?

Sure, James seems changed. It’s easy to see the appeal of adult James. Especially when compared to his villain friend. And sure, you shouldn’t hold grudges, but doesn’t the mere sight of a person who at one point did something horrible to you make you think of that every time?

Then there’s the beauty thing.

The way I understood It’s not me it’s you, McFarlane is interested in heroines that don’t quite fit into the beauty norm. Anna is basically described as curvy, but really she’s really a classic beauty underneath, promise!!! Whereas James has more in-your-face good looks. Both of which bores the hell out of me. I don’t even understand why it’s relevant.

At the same time, we should admire James for his ethics, for realizing beauty isn’t everything, as he finally leaves his wife when he understands that beauty is everything she’s got, beyond looks she’s just a vicious person.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t go on about how your two main characters are just stunning, but then having one character be the villain because she (and it’s important that it’s a she) is too beautiful.

Or well. It is a very true illustration of what it’s like to be a female in this world: there’s no winning. You mustn’t be too feminine, but oh you mustn’t forget that you’re a woman! Unfortunately I don’t think that was what McFarlane was aiming for.

Maybe I was wrong, maybe I didn’t like this book? I seem to be arguing that if I had read it in English I would probably have been a fan of the language. Period.

I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it, let’s leave it at that. There are far worse books in this world, a lot of which are probably on your reading list already.


One lovely blog award


  1. Write an article accepting the award.
  2. Thank the person you nominated you and put a link to their blog.
  3. Tell the reader seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate other blogs for the award.
  5. Let them know that you nominated them.
  6. Post the rules to let your followers know how it works.

This feels like it’s long overdue, but here it is!

I was nominated by Lise over at; said it before and I’ll say it again, thanks so much! Lise does lots of Lush posts, among other things; and who doesn’t love that?! Go have a look!

Seven facts about me:

  1. I love keeping things in tin boxes, all sorts of things, not just tea.
  2. I have a Mackintosh obsession.

    Maybe just a few more bits..?

  3. I like potted plants. They don’t like me so much tho. There’s always a few facing imminent death at any given time. Current victims:
  4. My drink of choice is without a doubt Sauvignon blanc. It’s currently so bad I will refuse any other type wine. Well, with this one exception:final1475514000043
  5. I know how to crochet circular rugs.
  6. There is still something teenage about how I decorate my home.
  7. I’ve always liked shorts, skirts and dresses in inappropriate lengths. Remember these ones?


My nominees: 

I’m going to cheat on this one. Would you like to be nominated? Just leave a comment!


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Reading challenge; The first book you see in a bookstore

So this is another one of the books I bought in London, and this one I’m sad to say is a miss.

It’s Elizabeth Mckenzie’s The Portable Veblen. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Basically, it’s the story of Veblen and Paul. Who are supposed to be in love. And this is a major problem I have with this book; I don’t see how these two people are in love and engaged to be married. I just don’t. It’s not even that they don’t have common ground, I’ve come to understand that’s not a prerequisite for two people to be involved (?? what do I know ??), it’s just how they behave towards each other. I can’t shake the feeling that they’re just complete strangers. Bottom line: not buying it. I’m not convinced these two people are in love.

Also. I’m usually a fan of eccentric female leads. But I have no sympathy for or interest in Veblen. I much prefer Paul who, in addition to having a quite gory and interesting job, at times is petty, bitter, jealous, you know, he’s a human being with flaws. I like flaws. And also, people who are in hate with the world. I like them.


I suppose the worst thing you could say about Veblen is she has an irrational relationship with squirrels, but otherwise seems to not be a bad person. Both of which bothers me. Too happy and walking around talking to squirrels. She reminds me of Amélie from Montmartre. Now I don’t dislike Amélie, but I think that has to do with narration, perspective, and the overall feel of the story. For me, it works in Amélie, it doesn’t work here. And especially not for 400 goddamn pages. If the book was about Paul only…I would not hate it. At all. Had I not paid for this book, I would probably not have finished it.

Also wondering about the choice to include a few lines in Norweigan, no tranlsation. Example:

Elizabeth McKenzie the portable veblen

I mean it’s fine for us Scandinavians, but other readers? Say this was Russian. I wouldn’t be happy. I also don’t see the point. Is it some sort of brag? Check me out I know some Norwegian ? I just don’t get it.

There’s also sometimes pictures (?? you don’t trust your ability to paint the picture using words ??), and I’ve always hated when the author includes other texts in her story. E.g. in this book there are texts that Veblen wrote as a kid inserted. Can’t take it. Can’t even take when Blixa Bargeld includes his own lyrics in Europa kreuzweise; and I like his lyrics (like is a severe understatement, I’d have them tattooed on my body if I was into tattoos), and the book too. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll be including it in the challenge. I need something to put my faith back in the written word after this.

This is the part where you tell me I’m just not understanding the book at all, that I got it all wrong. Go on then!


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Reading challenge; A translation

The reading challenge calls for a book translated into English; I’m going to ignore the English part. (Oh, she’s not following the rules of the challenge again, how unusual.)

My excuse; a) I read translations all the time, and b) I reckon it’s possible they added the in English part so that no one would think that they were going to read a book in another language.

Also. I had a pile of books not really fitting into the reading challenge but which I was really kinda keen to read, so here we are.

I’ve read Mhairi McFarlane’s It’s not me, it’s you, translated into Swedish.

I feel I should say something about the translation. It is the translation category after all. And it is a field where I should possess some sort of authority, having a degree and all that.

Here it goes; Eh. Didn’t hate it.

OK. Let’s be slightly more serious. a) Who the hell am I to judge a translation? b) It’s easier to write about translations if they’re kinda bad.

Overall, I noted maybe a few things where I wondered what the reasoning behind the choice of translation was, but I didn’t get caught up wondering how it was phrased in English. This is a very good sign.

It does read a little weird, but this has to do with this book being written in what I would call a typical British voice; we don’t write like that here. So it’s always going to seem a bit off somehow. IF, and that’s a big if, you think about the fact that it is a translation when reading. I’m betting most people don’t.

I quite liked this read; it served its purpose. It’s clearly meant as a bit of light entertainment and I do love that.


It was a bit long. By which I mean, like really, the final 100 pages or so focusing on how the main character was going end up with some guy at the end? Might be that I’m just not that interested in whether or not they end up together, but was it necessary? Couldn’t it have ended with them not getting together? I like it when no one gets anyone ever.

I kid you not. Example: I’ve watched He’s just not that into you multiple times. And I love it. But. After the first time, I always turn it off before Justin Long comes crawling back to Ginnifer Goodwin because I hate that ending. (Yes HI bitter old hag here, how can I help you?)

And can we also talk about why the object of desire had to be a traditionally handsome man who in addition is rich? That’s just awfully convenient and oh. so. boring. Or better yet, let’s not talk about it and just leave it there.

Other than that, I really did like it. Promise.


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Reading list

Because my reading seems to be back on track, I figured I was due for some book shopping. This arrived in the mail yesterday:


As per usual, my book purchases are not the most thought through, which is sometimes good and sometimes, not so much.

Rainbow Rowell Komma framWhile I realize that this is a translation of Landline I must have temporarily forgot that I don’t generally get along well with translations. I’ve become extremely critical, I’d say it was a result of being able to “leave work at home”, but I was critical before I even got my degree. And even though I know exactly how difficult translation is. I picked this particular book because a. it was on sale b. I’ve been wanting to read something by Rainbow Rowell.

Karolina Ramqvist Flickvännen [The Girlfriend]. Now this I got right. I really liked Ramqvist’s Alltings början [How it all started, well, that’s how I’d translate it anyway], and I’ve been wanting to read something else by her for a whileI’ve read a preview and it got good reviews so I’m really looking forward to this read.

Mhari McFarlane Det är inte jag det är du [It’s not me it’s you]. In my defense, even though I don’t particularly enjoy translations, I should be reading translations. Theoretically, it should make me better at my work. Now, if only uni staff could write texts with the same readability index, it might also work in practice. So why did I pick this book? Again on sale, but also ‘Oo, Scottish romance, must read’.

Roxane Gay Bad Feminist. Now this is confusing. This also a translation. But for whatever reason they’ve selected to retain the English title. This choice overshadows the content of the book, I am dying to read this as a translation and see if I can figure out what is behind this choice. I’m not promising that I’ll change my mind. Because, obviously, I’ve already decided they’re wrong. Unless they’re referring to a text or some shape or form called Bad feminist. In which case, shame on me for not knowing about it?

Anna Lawstadius Larsson Räfvhonan [I’m sure any attempt at a translation of this title requires being familiar with the content of the book]. I don’t know this author, and I’m only vaguely aware of the story of the book. Apparently, it’s 1810, there’s a fire and a queen on the run. Well. That’s all you really need to know, isn’t it? I just hope it’s not narrated like the Philippa Gregory novel. Not that there’s anything wrong with Philippa Gregory, I’ve enjoyed her work in the past. I just didn’t get along with The Other Queen, mainly because of the narration.

But first, I going to finish reading the Anthony Kiedis bio, which, if you haven’t read it already I highly recommend. If you’re into the musician bio type genre. Possibly even if you’re not; it is really well written, such a pleasure to read. And I love how Kiedis’ voice comes through in the text, there is no doubt who’s telling this story.



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