Thanks for the link, it was fascinating. I especially liked Zucker's input; substitute ghostwriting for translating, and it still reads appropriately.
I've never attempted literary translation; if able, I just read the book in the original. I have translated jokes from one language to another, and suspect it's just as difficult. English is my mother tongue, and translating jokes from English into other languages is fairly easy. Just make the right cultural connections. I translated all the Polish jokes I could think of with a Polish physician; we used German in conversation. I just made them all about Ukranians.
Translating German jokes into English is a pain. I still haven't figured out how to translate a great one whose punchline is "It's always helpful to have a cellphone nearby."
I don't know about translating jokes from German into English, but here is a great joke by Jürgen von der Lippe:
Brad Pit, Donald Trump, a small boy and an old man are travelling in a small aeroplane. The plane is in trouble and going down, but there are only three parachutes on board. Brad grabs the first one and says, "Sorry guys, but I've got a bunch of kids and an ex-wife to support. I've got to go", and he jumps. Next, Donald Trump grabs a parachute and jumps (because the world could not do without him, obviously). The old man sees this and says to the small boy, "Go ahead. I've lived my life. Take the last one. Go on." The boy looks at him and says, "No, it's alright. Don't worry. Donald took my school backpack."
This joke only really works if you know what primary school children's school bags look like in Germany and Austria.
Thanks for sharing! An enlightening read!
Before I embarked on my sideline of "literary" translation (which for me includes all kinds of fiction and authors I am not acquainted with), I honestly thought that "lost in translation" was a bad excuse for sloppy work. Now that I find myself having to "transcreate" phrases like "making a mountain out of a molehill" with both the idiomatic sense and a reference to an actual mountain (!), I'm beginning to see why translators can get so worked up.
The other thing that I find challenging is register and regional variation. Things like when I came across the German word "Zugehfrau" (charwoman) for the very first time in my life last week! How embarrassing. Before I can even start to think about making the text flow and read like an original, I have to piece together the vocab likely to be used by the characters, and it's no good just looking up the words in a dictionary, as you probably know. An author of mine recently took all the London slang and dialect out of his thriller and changed it back to the Queen's English to make life easier for me. (I guess he wasn't confident of my research skills.)
The really great thing about literary translation for me is the structure you get in a work of fiction. It gives you a sense of reproducing an intricate and (hopefully) well-rounded "whole", with a beginning, a middle and an end. And of course, the fact that free online translation programs still don't get literary translations right!