Literary translation: what it is and how it can be useful

Literary translation
By October 27th, 2021 | web translation | 0 Comments

Do you know what literary translation is, what its distinctive features are or how it differentiates from other translation services? Keep on reading and learn all the ins and outs: what it is, its functions and if it’s what you were looking for.

Features of literary translation

Many people confuse literary translation with editorial translation, but here we are to explain why they are not the same. In fact, the translation of texts for a publishing house consists of transcribing content aimed at being published: books, guides and magazines on different topics. Literary translation, as its name suggests, is focused on translating literary texts, artistic works, such as novels, poetry books, storybooks and plays.

Literary translation entails a unique difficulty, which at the same time is an appealing creative challenge for the translator. The goal of a professional literary translator is maintaining the original text’s essence, transcribing the work into another language and culture in an understandable and appealing way.

A literary translator knows how to find balance between creativity and faithfulness to the message and structure of the text. They must find the appropriate perspective beyond literalness in order to use rhetorical devices, slang and all the elements that make up the text imagined by the author so as to cause a specific impression on the reader.

Knowing the target language’s culture is as important as having a command of the language. On many occasions, the author includes cultural references or gives some places or people’s names a meaning that the translator must convey maintaining the original purpose.

Literary translation: much more than just novels

When we read a book and dive deep into the universe that the author has created, we’re not aware that we’re reading a translation. And it is to the translator’s credit, who through a linguistic and cultural localization service manages to convey the spirit of the place, help us relate to the characters of a novel or make us feel the poem’s emotion as if it were our own.

There are several fields in which literary translation is applied. Keep on reading!


Poetry is one of the most complex literary translations. Conveying meter, rhyme, rhythm and cadence requires creative work with great expertise in the genre. This is one of the clearest examples of the search for harmony between the literal and metaphorical meaning.

Literary essays

Translating an essay requires the translator to do research and learn how the author was thinking, as well as have good command of both the languages being used.

The translator must convey the concepts and ideas on which the author is reflecting, while maintaining the structure and perspective in which they are presented without forgetting the overall reasoning of the work.

Novels and storybooks

Have you ever thought about how hard it must have been to translate the magic of One Hundred Years of Solitude by García Márquez, or the charm of The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry into other languages? You have the literary translator to thank for making you forget everything so you can live vicariously through fictional characters’ lives in your own language. That is how important their work is.

If you work in the publishing field and need a literary translation service, you can count on a professional translation company to give you the results that those works deserve.