21st-century latin literature?

By interprete, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Jan 1, 2013.

  1. interprete Member


    I'm always puzzled by the impressive number of modern novels which have been translated into Latin lately on one hand, and the impression I get that very very few people, if any, have written modern literature in Latin (and the few cases I've read about were mostly poetry, not prose).

    I have always found that translating is even harder than spontaneously expressing yourself in any language ; so if there are so many latinists out there capable of translating Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter into perfect Latin, how come no one seems interested in writing a novel of their own?

    The only two examples of modern Latin-language novels I know of (in the 20th century; I know there are more cases before that) are Saeculorum Transvectio by Geneviève Métais (who also wrote lots of poems in Latin apparently) which has been out of print for years, and oops I can't find the other one I had in mind...
    Gregorius Textor and Nooj like this.
  2. Dido Active Member

    Perhaps because Latin is no one's native tongue and it's always easier to express yourself in your native tongue, than in any other tongue.
    Also: writers want an audience and books written in English reach more people :)
    Furthermore: to write a modern book - one that plays in the 21th century - you'd have to invent a Latin word for many concepts that didn't exist in classical Latin. Maybe that's why writers have the feeling they're not writing 'real' Latin.
    Gregorius Textor likes this.
  3. interprete Member

    Thanks for your reply!
    Maybe I didn't explain myself properly though... Of course anyone's first assumption would be that there have been no new novels in Latin lately because no one can write Latin well enough for such a job.
    And yet at the same time people are translating modern novels into Latin! I mean, if you can translate a text whose form, level of detail, logic etc are imposed on you, then I'm sure you are fluent enough to produce a free text of your own...
    Limited audience is also a valid assumption, but the fact that Harry Potter (one of many examples) has been published in Latin shows that audience is not the issue.

    And lastly, regarding modern vocabulary : 1/when I was talking about modern literature, I was referring to modern authors, but the chosen setting could perfectly be ancient Rome (who among us would not love anovel set in Ancient Rome !), and anyway 2/this issue hasn't stopped the translators I was talking about from introducing neologisms wherever needed to publish the Latin versions of Harry Potter, the Mysterious Island, etc. So that's not the issue either.

    So what is the issue, I really wonder.
  4. Dido Active Member

    You could ask this question about ALL translators: why are they translators and why don't they write a book of their own? I don't know :). I think writing a book of your own is something very different from translating someone else's book, even though it sometimes looks like the translator has made the book his own.

    Many people know Harry Potter and the other books that have been translated to Latin. They have read them in English and/or saw the movies. I guess that makes it easier to read the books in Latin. I'm not sure that same audience would (be able to) read a modern book written in Latin. They wouldn'tve have prior knowledge to rely on, a totally different reading experience. Are publishers willing to take that risk?
  5. Nooj Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Sydney, Australia
    It petered off after the second novel IIRC and I get the impression that it was more of a novelty project than anything else. The only people who bought it were Harry Potter enthusiasts who also read Latin. There aren't a lot of them.

    I don't think there's much of an audience for Latin novels which would offset the publishing costs. But that can't be the whole answer, because there's not so much as a fanfiction written in Latin, which can be done for free.

    I don't think writing in Latin is as easy as you make it out to be. Translating is 'simpler' in a lot of ways, in that you don't have to think of a plot or characterisation. But actually it's not that simple, because it assumes you're proficient in Latin which unfortunately can't be taken for granted among Latin enthusiasts. Take the dude who translated the Hobbit into Latin and got roundly criticised for it over at textkits for mangling the Latin badly.
    Dido likes this.
  6. interprete Member

    Good point:) Are latinists unimaginative technicians?:redface:

    Oh I think it is extremely difficult. But I tend to think that it is still easier than translating a beautiful, complex, carefully crafted and worded, novel into Latin. Literary translation into the mother tongue of today's best translators is already notoriously difficult, let alone in latin. What I just don't get is that latinists don't write novels because it's too hard, so instead they do something even harder: they translate acclaimed literary works. I just can't wrap my head around that.
  7. Aurifex Aedilis

    • Aedilis

    You're probably being a bit too complimentary towards the Latin translations of these books. Whatever it is that constitutes perfect Latin, I don't think the best place to go looking for it is in these largely whimsical confections.
    Arca Defectionis likes this.
  8. interprete Member

    I see! Well I wouldn't know, my Latin is not good enough to judge, far from it. So proficient latin readers could read those Harry Potter books and cringe at poor grammar/choice of words?
  9. Dido Active Member

  10. The thing about translators is that they are taking somebody else's original idea and "simply" translating it. To write one's own novel is completely different; you have to come up with the ideas, in Latin, and put it down on paper. Basically, you can't just write the novel in your native tongue in your head and then translate as you write. You have to and mentally construct it in Latin if you want it to be purely Latin. I guess I ought to say, one has to think in Latin. :)

    I don't know about Harry Potter, but I was discussing with a Tolkien author about Hobbitus Ille, and he said he wasn't really impressed with it. It kind of ruined both the Latin and the story, because the syntax wasn't always correct and the story had lost Tolkien's style in the translation.
  11. interprete Member

    Thanks, very interesting!

    It seems that most reviews are very positive, but the reviewers might not be much more advanced in Latin than myself... so all this shows for sure is that a number of people out their are very enthusiastic about the idea.
    The (apparently) more reliable reviews mainly critisized the fact that the style has suffered too much from the translation process, and that the structure felt too 'English'. To me, such comments seem to question the translator's translating skills more than anything else. This kind of reinforces my impression that maybe the end result would have been better, had he written an original composition, instead of trying to transpose modern English prose into Latin...
    I hope I'm not sounding too stubborn, I do see that several among you here disagree, but I hope someone can elaborate their point of view if they have time...
  12. interprete Member

    True, but in other words: you are free! Free to choose how long or short your sentence will be, how to describe stuff, how to make people speak and react, and never having to ask yourself how to find a middle ground between not sounding Latin enough and not being faithful enough to whatever original you would otherwise be translating. You are free to make up sentences the way Cicero did, use the same kind of vocabulary maybe, the same rhythm, etc.

    The only added difficulty, I think, lies in the creativity you will need as an author, but that's a non-issue, or at least it does not directly bear on the language itself. Plus, I don't see why it would be possible to find imaginative authors in all language communities except the Latin community...
  13. Stultus Jacobus Member

    Its odd, I agree, especially considering the amount of Latin composition that there still is in this world. Writing a novel in Latin, once I can say I have mastered the language (far down the road, I am afraid) is in fact a dream of mine.

    Anyway, there is *some* stuff out there, try this link http://www.circulus.fr/opera/fabulae/dexter/dexter.php
    Those are (supposed to be) some original stories in Latin, so maybe you will find them enjoyable. I haven't read any of them myself, but I was aware of their existence, so I dug them up for you.
    interprete likes this.
  14. interprete Member

    Thank you!
  15. Kosmokrator Active Member

    hmm i don't see the point of translating crap into crap; it's exponential and dangerous crap like cancer
  16. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    I have plenty of ideas in my head that I would love to commit to paper. But, if I ever do, no matter how proficient in Latin I may be at that time, it will be in English.

    A novel would take time, love and commitment. If I love my story and am committed to sharing it, then I would want to share it in a language that my family, friends, and more people in general could read. If I care so little about my project that I wouldn't mind if only a handful of people could read it and virtually none of them actually would, then it couldn't be a very good story, and certainly wouldn't be worth the time.
    Gregorius Textor and Kosmokrator like this.
  17. Kosmokrator Active Member

    nice point of view
  18. interprete Member

    Me too!:redface:

    I understand what you mean: there is no point writing it in Latin if the main point for you is to tell a story. I personally would be interested in telling a story in Latin; to me the form would be just as important as the substance. Plus, if the story is that great, then surely after the time it takes to become known to a few, it will be translated into major modern languages!:)
  19. Acsacal Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris

    Sodalis quidam "Circuli Latini Lutetiensis" fabellam scripsit quam deferre (=download) potes.
    interprete likes this.
  20. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    If you agree with Nik, why do you write in Latin, then? ;) (Just for the pleasure of it I guess.)

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