Once the newspaper "Nedelya" conducted a half-joke, half-serious experiment in order to find out what changes the text undergoes after its translation into other languages. Professional translators were involved in the experiment. Each of the invitees, perfectly knowing two adjacent languages, had to accept the text from his colleague and, having translated it into another language, pass it on to the next one.
An excerpt from "The Tale of how Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Nikiforovich quarreled" was taken as the original: She (Agafia Fedoseevna) gossiped, and ate boiled beetroot in the morning, and swore well, and with all these various activities, her face her expression did not change for a minute, which usually only women can show.
The translators, having received the text, set to work. At first, in the English and German versions, little has changed. But now, passing through Japanese, French and Indonesian (in the latter the personal pronouns he and she are denoted by the same word), and then through Dutch and Turkish, the phrase was transformed as follows:
While the woman was swearing while eating the liquid beetroot brew, the man was chattering. They did this without showing their feelings, as is customary with women.
But a resident of Sudan approached the matter especially creatively, altering a specific concoction from beets into a general concoction from the fruits of the earth and, conversely, engaged in general chatter about a specific one, bragging about his imaginary exploits. In turn, when translated from the Yoruba language1 into English, the fruits of the earth turned into fruits, and the expression about bragging about deeds was conveyed by the English idiom beat the timpani.
There is very little left. “What is a liquid fruit concoction? - thought a connoisseur of two languages at the same time - the African tribe Bambara and French. Yes, this is nothing but compote! " Well, where the timpani, there are tom-toms (this is such an African drum).
And now the final phase of the experiment has begun - the comparison of the most recent translation with the original language. Having passed through the hands of at least two dozen translators, Gogol's phrase was transformed into the following ridiculous lines:
After drinking the compote, she threw the old stuff out of the hut, and he happily hammered into the tomtoms.
Out of 35 original words, only one came to the finish line: the personal pronoun she, and the meaning of the phrase was completely lost!