The question about Russian and Spanish is interesting. I would have guessed that just because of geographical proximity and cultural interchange, there would be more German speakers who know Russian, and more American English speakers who know Spanish. But on the other hand that could mean that it takes more effort, and or money, to winnow out the chaff and choose the most competent translators.
My Spanish and German are both good enough to get the gist of novels, but in both cases I read more slowly and have to look up words, so I can't imagine choosing either one for a translation of a third language like Russian or Japanese.
In any case, here in the US the point is largely moot for logistical reasons: we rarely have a choice of translations except between older and newer English versions.
If by chance I came across a translation of a book I had been wanting to read, though, I would take it in any language I could understand, if that was the only way I could get it.
Re MiMo, #3:
The story about Murakami is astonishing, not to say appalling. I've read a few of his books in English translation and have actually wondered at times how close the translation was, because the language has often seemed awkward. So if there are better renderings in German, I might even consider ordering them, even though it would be expensive from overseas. That is, if you think his novels would actually be more likable if better translated -- I've found him pretty cold and strange so far.
In general, I can see using a translation of a translation for something cheap, like a mass-market romance or mystery, but for a literary work, it's unimaginable. Though I imagine it varies by language according to popularity. I wonder if, after the boom in Japanese language learning in the technological age, the number of competent Japanese translators ever increased -- or if there were just more people who knew a fair amount of Japanese and mistakenly thought they could do serious translation.
Re Norbert, #9:
>>dass bei allen modernen Übersetzungen (protestantisch wie katholisch) etliche Feinheiten des "Originals" nicht korrekt zum Ausdruck kommen
Hmm -- yes and no. It's true that some modern translations aren't very close at all, if by 'modern' you mean the ones that are deliberately written in a folksy, conversational, modernized style, or even paraphrased, such as Good News or Living Bible.
But among the more scholarly, serious translations that try to stay as close as possible to the original text, many recent translations are an improvement on older ones in several ways -- as all new translations are intended to be, or why would anyone ever retranslate anything? Newer versions have access to more recently discovered variant sources or contemporaneous texts, which can help them correct previous errors or guesses in translation. Also, they try to use words that aren't obsolete, so readers can understand the meaning more clearly. In general, retranslation is intended to clarify the original meaning, not obscure it, so I can't see why you would assume that more modern is worse rather than better.
It's certainly fair to say that with any translation of the Bible, there are still places that aren't fully translatable or that scholars still puzzle over to this day; maybe that was all you meant. That's only partly why in general, it's a mistake to put too much emphasis on any literal meaning or any isolated word or phrase, because the content undoubtedly changed a lot in oral transmission even before it began to be written down and translated, and has been in a process of constant change and reinterpretation ever since. As with any ancient text, you get a better picture from looking for overall themes, and from comparing it to other sacred texts and to information from other sources such as archaeology.
Re WK, #10:
I'm sorry, though not surprised, to hear that. Are the customs restrictions likely to ease anytime soon with the new government, or would it help at all to have books sent privately in small quantities, perhaps used, as opposed to from Amazon or a bookstore? I could certainly look for the Roth for you if that would help -- not that I've ever skimmed anything by Roth that made me actually want to read it. Or would it help to have anything sent via a third country, such as Bolivia or Colombia?