Artful Murder An Exploration of the Language of Raymond Chandler and its Translation into Dutch Master’s Thesis Translation Studies University of Utrecht Supervisors

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Artful Murder

An Exploration of the Language of Raymond Chandler and its Translation into Dutch

Artful Murder

An Exploration of the Language of Raymond Chandler and its Translation into Dutch

Master’s Thesis Translation Studies

University of Utrecht

Supervisors: Dr. C. Koster

Dr. O. R. Kosters
Christine Valk

August 2007


I would like to express some words of gratitude to my family, especially to my husband, who had to put up with me during the writing of this thesis, and my children who, as regularly as clockwork, informed after my progress and whose main concern seemed to be whether I was able to resume my maternal duties. I want to thank my friends for providing me with the necessary victuals when the bottom of my larder became visible and for providing me with the necessary distraction, even if I did not realize that I needed it. I extend my most sincere thanks to my second daughter, without whom I would never have been able to make an intelligible layout. Last but not least I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. C. Koster and Dr. O. Kosters for helping me dot the i’s and cross the t’s.


1. An Apology 7

1.2. Literary Values 8

2. The History of the Detective Story – An Overview 12

2.1. Ancient Times 12

2.2. On the Origin of the Species 13

2.3. The American Way of Life 14

2.4. Modern Times 16

3. Raymond Chandler – A Biography 17

3.1. The Early Years 17

3.2. English Education 18

3.3. A New Country and New Possibilities 19

3.4. Pulp Fiction Writer 21

3.5. The Days of Wine and Roses 22

3.6. The Last Years 24

4. The Little Sister 25

4.1. Summary 25

4.2. Translators 27

5. Analysis 28

5.1. Preliminary analysis 28

5.2. Chandler’s Style 31

5.3. Proper Nouns 39

5.4. By Any Given or Taken Name 43

5.5. Imagery 45

5.6. Culture-Specific Problems 51

6. Translations 56

6.1. Foreignization and Domestication 56

6.2. Proper Nouns 58

6.3. Style 59

6.4. Similes 60

6.4. Translation Comparison 63

7. Conclusion 79


I have always been interested in crime. Perhaps that is why I like reading detective stories, though I used to feel a bit ashamed to admit it. However, it was not until I read Jerry Palmer’s essay Thrillers: The Deviant behind the Consensus during a course in criminology at Nijmegen University that I realized I was not the only one to like them. Indeed, readers and writers rank from tinkers to tailors, from soldiers to sailors. According to Julian Symons, Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Stalin both admired Poe’s work, Stanley Baldwin enjoyed Anna Katherine Green’s The Leavenworth Case and Sigmund Freud is said to have liked the work of Dorothy Sayers (Bloody Murder, 12).

In 1959 the British Detection Club held a competition called Only For Dons. Its main purpose was to encourage new talents to write detective stories. The competition was restricted to dons only because it was feared that otherwise the amount of contributions would be too large. Apart from Agatha Christie, the jury consisted of crime novelist and reviewer of crime literature Julian Symons and Nicholas Blake, which was the pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis, an Oxford professor of poetry who was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968. In the Netherlands too, several university professors have moonlighted or still moonlight as detective writers. The best known are Helene Nolthenius and René Appel.

This having said, it may not come as a surprise that I would like to write my thesis on a subject related to detective novels. I have more closely looked into a novel by Raymond Chandler. Not only is he renowned for his mastery of the American language but also for his style, literary techniques, imagery, poetry and his awareness of sentence structure and syntax. I have chosen his novel The Little Sister1, not because it is one of his best novels – it is not – but because there are two Dutch translations available. The first translation is by the Dutch detective novelist Havank and the second is by the journalist Henja Schneider. Because detective novels are immensely popular, publishers are not likely to spend much money on their translations – they will sell anyhow. Therefore, translations come, more often than not, at the bottom of the publisher’s list. However, translation is an art in itself. In the light of this view, it would be interesting to see how both translators dealt with Chandler’s masterful language and vivid style.

The first chapter is an apology of the genre – I still feel the need to defend myself. The second chapter consists of a brief overview of the history of the detective novel in order to give Chandler’s novels a place in time and history. The third chapter contains a short biography of Raymond Chandler, which provides some background information on the world he lived in and sheds some light on his development as a writer. In the fourth chapter a summary of Chandler’s novel The Little Sister is given. The fifth chapter consists of an analysis of possible translation problems in this book. Translation theories and scientific views on possible translation problems are taken into account. The sixth chapter consists of a study of the way the translators dealt with the problems previously established.

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