By J. A. Horrocks Oct 2020
It is a well known fact that Jane Austen spent most of her life in southern England, her travels only took her as far as Bath and the south coast. Her famous novels however, have travelled the globe, now 200 years after her death these books are translated and sold world-wide. They have been translated into over 40 different languages including German, Finnish, Romanian and Japanese.
During her life time her novels were published in France, whether Jane herself was aware of these translations is still debated today, there is no mention of this fact in her numerous letters, and we may assume she received no recompense. In fact all early translations omitted the original author's title, as Jane herself had done, would this be to continue the precedent set or to avoid any ill-will?
The first foreign publications were quite crudely translated and would therefore have lost the essence of Jane's writing. One of the earliest French translations was Mme de Montolieu's "Raison et Sensibilité or "Sense & Sensibility" in 1815, and "La Nouvelle Emma" was anonymously translated in 1816.
Of course with the French title "Raison et Sensibilité" we lose the alliteration used by the author, and also with "Fierté et Préjugés" - "Pride & Prejudice" .
"Emma" would also be published in Philadelphia, America in 1816. Her next jaunt abroad would be a publication in German in 1822, with the first Dutch translation as late as 1922 with "Geveol en Verstand", (S&S).
The slow process of achieving foreign publication could be put down to her publisher not promoting her works and therefore Jane's works remained very much for the English market. Even when a country would decide to publish, only one or two novels would be selected, not the complete set.
There were many difficulties in translating Jane's work, the process became problematic due to Jane Austen's style of writing and the translator's work often resulted in reversing the author's original meaning and even in certain cases characters speaking each other's lines! This could easily lead to a complete change of plot, however recent translations have corrected this anomaly. An example of plot reversal is this in "Pride & Prejudice":
"Elizabeth listened as little as she could, but there was no escaping the frequent mention of Wickham's name." Chapter 39,
in a Norwegian translation this becomes : "Elizabeth listened as little as possible to them, but she could not avoid paying attention when Wickham's name was occasionally mentioned."
This portrays Elizabeth as a young lady who is very interested in a certain gentleman, Mr Wickham - when in fact her interest and feelings for him were now the complete opposite.
At The Jane Austen Shop we have now stocked a number of Jane' novels in foreign languages as we know she is loved and read worldwide and we welcome all our visitors from around the globe! Feel free to browse our selection of books, latest editions are being added all the time, and maybe pair up with our comfy cushions, bookmarks and coffee mugs from our varied gift selection.
As Jane wrote "If adventures do not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad."
This phrase is certainly true for all Jane's novels, although their author viewed the world from a small village in Hampshire. The world has certainly become Jane's stage, and on behalf of all Jane Austen readers we can say -
Thank You, Merci, Danke, Gracias, Grazie, Dank U, Tack, Arigato!