Reading Larsson

I am about 90 pages into the English translation of the second volume in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, The Girl who played with Fire. It's a slow beginner, but the main storyline seems to be kicking off.

I take grave exception to all the [insert expletive of choice] product placements in the beginning chapters of part 2. Who cares whether Lisbet Salander bought Bonde or Billy bookcases? Or what was the brand name of her sofa or her coffee table? It isn't even necessary to list what she bought - surely it would have been enough to say she went shopping for new furniture at IKEA and brought back just about everything she needed for her new apartment? The whole thing reads like a combination of an IKEA advert and instructions for a movie set designer.

Earlier in the book there are several other such lists that, although not as heavy on the product placement, do make the book longer without mattering to the story.

If anyone who has read the book in Swedish reads this, could you please post a comment and tell me if the characters, including Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, are almost always mentioned by their last names in the original? It's annoying as hell and makes them less sympathetic and I want to know which one to blame: the author or the translator.


Maxine said…
The translator delivers text to the publisher who then puts it through the normal editing process, so you can't know if it was the translator or the editor/publisher. I attended a couple of panels at conferences with translators who repeated more than once that it is galling when reviews criticise them for something that they written and had been changed by the publisher, or that they had argued with the publisher about and lost.
marled said…
I#ve read the books in german and was fascinated by the first part, but the last one was just boring!!! Didn't read it to its end.
Dorte H said…
I read them in Danish, and I haven´t really thought about it but they are probably called by their last names most of the times.

That is just not as unusual in Danish as in Icelandic (I always wonder why no one ever uses Erlendur´s last name). As they are not police officers you certainly have a point though.
Bibliophile said…
Dorte, I can clear up the mystery of the last names in Icelandic books. What we have there is a translator/publisher holding on to the Icelandic convention of using first names. Because very few Icelanders have family names and patronymics are the norm, and because the nations is very small, we refer to people by their first names or full names. If someone is mentioned by their last name, you can be sure the person is a foreigner or the translator/publisher has decided to localise the translation.

I guess the reason the last names annoy me is that first names make a person more sympathetic than last names, allowing the reader to "become" whichever character a skillful writer wants them to sympathise with. In the book in question the use of last names comes across as if the author wants the reader to remain outside the story.

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