We all know that the robot takeover is imminent. As a test of our future job security under the cold rule of machine, we here at Archipelago Books decided to test the abilities of our robot counterpart: the online translator. Using the programs, we translated from language to language and eventually back to English. The results, we must say, look promising. HAL 9000, I want a corner office and benefits.
We start with Gatsby. (All terrible translations facilitated by the endlessly amusing Bad Translator!)
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
…8 translations later, Bing gives us
“Thus we have won against current around the back of the private ship. Responsibility.”
From poignant meditation on the impossibility of recreating the past to syntactically vague military report, with an unadorned, “Responsibility” tacked on the end, like a reminder from a stern father. Bing Translator, ya nailed it.
We thought this one would be a layup.
1984, by George Orwell
“He loved Big Brother.”
…35 translations later, Bing gives us
“The love brothers.”
We admit that 35 may have been a bit much, but has there ever been a more straightforward sentence? Pronoun, verb, proper noun. Easy. Instead, we get the name of a Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame Tag Team? Tisk, tisk.
With Nabokov, it almost felt like cheating. This time, courtesy of freetranslation.com.
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
“I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita. ”
…18 translations later, freetranslation.com gives us
“Long-term overseas art asylum of angels, prophets and calm. If you want to share your Lolita.”
Nope, nope, pretty sure Humbert was not interested in sharing Lolita.
Hey. We see you over there in the corner, TransPerfect translator. You think it’s so funny, why don’t you show us what you can do with Mr. Dickens?
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. ”
…9 translations later, TransPerfect gives us:
“ Odlega holanr fao I j robiem Naprawd odlege Wute iin mn. ”
That’s what I thought. “Odlege Wute iin mn,” indeed.
Fellow translators and publishers thereof, I’m happy to say that the state of our union is strong.