Ransomes Foreign Legion, August 3, 2011
In this talk, Robert Thompson took fifteen guests on a humourous, yet fascinating and informative tour around the numeous foreign editions of Arthur Ransome’s twelve Swallows and Amazons novels.
One or more of Ransome’s books have been published in Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Larvian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Slovak, Spanish and Swedish.
As Robert explained, there is scope for amusement and despair in the efforts of some translators, many of whom were handicapped by failing to properly understand Ransome’s meaning – especially in his use of nautical language – or his subtle humour. But Robert also found much to praise in the many of the translations.
Similar considerations applied to his study of Ransome’s numerous foreign illustators. An anonymous Spanish illustrator scored poorly for simply copying Ransome’s own illustrations, whilst many clearly suffered from never having seen English landscapes or buildings. Czech illustrator Věnceslav Černý, however, produced magnificent and atmospheric illustrations for several of Ransome’s novels, and Robert was justifiably pleased to have heard recently that his previously unused illustrations for several more have recently been re-discovered. Some of these have now been used in the 2011 Czech edition of Winter Holiday.
As Robert concluded, the different translators and illustrators may appear good or bad to those used to Ransome’s original text and illustrations. But they all offer the chance to view Ransome’s work from other cultures and, as such, the foreign editions of his work offer a fascinating perspective on Ransome’s well-known novels.
Robert has had a life-long interest in language. He is acknowledged to be the leading expert on the foreign editions of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series.
His book Ransome’s Foreign Legion (Amazon Publications, 2009) was published for members of The Arthur Ransome Society and short-listed for the 2010 Lakeland Book of the Year.
Robert lives in Coniston. He works for Coniston Launch, hosting their regular Swallows and Amazons lake cruises.