Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Being a translator isn’t easy—the writer is credited with the good stuff while flaws are blamed on the translator. Many reviews say The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is poorly written or poorly translated. It’s hard to tell which and I’m going to set this question aside since I can’t read Swedish. The plot is solidly constructed and paced, but suffers when severed from its original setting, culture, and language as the translator makes no effort to bridge the gap for a foreign audience. Example: “Norsjö was a small town with one main street, appropriately enough called Storgatan, that ran through the whole community.” (282) Why is this an appropriate name? I assumed (correctly) that Storgatan meant “Main,” but I’d been hoping for a pun and looked it up just in case. The translation runs unevenly; it uses plain, simple language with frequent cliches, before tossing in an oddball word that no native speaker would include: “Every family had a few skeletons in their cupboards, but the Vanger family had an entire gallimaufry of them.” (134) Context gives this away, but it reads unnaturally in context. read more