I’ve just finished reading Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom. It’s not about medical translation or Trados, so I’ll have to label it “uncategorised” in this blog, but elsewhere it could be classified as a thriller, political or historical novel. If you haven’t read it yet, put it on your reading list for 2015.
The story is set in 1940. Harry Brett, who was wounded at the Battle of Dunkirk, is sent on a spy mission to Madrid by the British Intelligence, although officially he is dispatched as a translator and interpreter at the Embassy.
Flashbacks to Brett’s public school upbringing help explain why his allegiances change as the plot develops.
Sansom paints a crude picture of Madrid in post-civil war times. Scenes of abject poverty, freezing conditions and brutal repression contrast with a select group of remorseless nationalists and expats living a life wrapped in fur stoles. Later, the terrible suffering at a concentration camp near Cuenca is accentuated by a priest’s race to save souls.
Corny as it may sound, the story was a page-turner for me. I recommend it.
Invierno en Madrid
A word of warning. Don’t read the Spanish translation. I bought it for my non-English speaking husband and read the first few chapters just out of interest. It was plagued with translation and cultural errors. Compiling a full list would be too time consuming, so here are just a few examples:
– [The British Battalion] had been issued with French steel helmets from the Great War
[Sus fusiles] se habían fabricado a partir de cascos de acero franceses de la Primera Guerra Mundial
– His father […] had been blown to pieces on the Somme
Su padre […] había quedado destrozado en la batalla del Somme
– drying her hands on a tea towel
secándose las manos en una servilleta de té
– The [school’s] House names reflected its naval past: Raleigh and Drake and Hawkins.
Los apellidos de La Casa reflejaban su pasado naval: Raleigh, Drake y Hawkins.
Taking off my translator’s hat
In short, Winter in Madrid is a great book, but read it in English.
Opinions and Recommendations
If you’ve read Winter in Madrid, please leave your opinion in the comments below. I’d also love to have some recommendations of other books you’ve enjoyed recently. What should be on my reading list for 2015?