Posted by: blueisthenewpink | Feb 23, 2016

Let’s read… The Martian – in Hungarian? (Part I)


Andy Weir: A marsi (Fumax, 2015)

(Things got a bit long so I will publish this as a series. This is Part I, mainly about the translation’s issues. Part II will focus on the English book, and Part III is for the movie.)

I have to admit that I didn’t want to read this book at all. I knew there was a movie and everyone was giving the book high ratings but I’m usually not a fan of the most popular books of the moment and definitely not a sci-fi enthusiast. My hubby brought the Hungarian version home and as I was putting it away, I flipped it open out of Curiosity (see what I did there?). I read the first three sentences and decided I had to read the whole thing. So I started in Hungarian and noticed some mistakes in the translation. There weren’t many and it is a highly readable text but those few really bothered me.

[SPOILER alert]

For instance, when CO2 remained CO2 whereas in Hungarian we usually use the long form (szén-dioxid). There was a whole sentence I just couldn’t understand in Hungarian, which proved to be absolutely straightforward in English. “Víz és élő baktériumok hozzáadásával gyorsan elárasztódik és újratermelődik majd a Végzet Toalettjében elpusztított lakossága.” (p. 23) vs “Adding it to water and active bacteria would quickly get it inundated, replacing any population killed by the Toilet of Doom.” (p.13). Actually, population is not a joke here. Bacteria have a population, it’s “tenyészet”, not “lakosság”. The sentence still doesn’t make any sense to me.

I couldn’t imagine “Johanssen ruhájából vett újabb szövetek” (p41) either, whereas in English, “with some more string from Johannsen’s (sic!) clothing” (p.32) helped me picture how it was used. A thin long thread, not a patch of textile! It is not very nice when you have to stop to try and make sense of what’s written there. But that is exactly what happened to me again at “fogtam a szent vallási ereklyéjét” (p.42) which turned out to be only “his sacred religious item” (p.33). Not a relic. And even more so when I read the following:

Az első 50 liter után úgy döntöttem, hogy visszaveszek, és abban az iramban dolgozom, amilyenben az O2-re szert teszek, mert nem akarok a 25 literes tartalék alá menni. Úgyhogy ha kifogyok, akkor nem pöcsölök tovább a hidrazinnal, amíg a vízmennyiség bőven 25 liter fölött nem lesz. (p.44)

No. It is not water that has to be above the 25 litre mark. I know it is liquid O2 and that may be a bit confusing but it was completely obvious that it was the O2 he didn’t want to fall below 25 litres. So I checked the English version:

After my initial burst of 50 liters, I decided to settle down and just make it at the rate I get O2, I’m not willing to go below a 25-liter reserve. So when I dip too low, I stop dicking with hydrazine until I get the O2 back up to well above 25 liters. (p.35)

I don’t see how that could be misunderstood. It is explicitly there: “get the O2 back up to well above 25 liters”. How did that become water? Not even ‘running out of’ it, only ‘dipping too low’. Anyway, that was the point at which I closed the Hungarian book and started reading the original version on my Kindle (the ebook cost only 2 GBP!). I was saddened a bit beacuse the translator matched the style of the original perfectly, and it was a very enjoyable reading when I did not encounter these mistakes. Maybe it is a negative effect of the profession: does it mean I will never enjoy anything not in the original language anymore? Stupid translator’s brain.

[To be continued]


  1. […] got a bit long so I published this as a series. Part I was mainly about the translation’s issues. This is Part II with a focus on the English book, […]


  2. […] got a bit long so I published this as a series. Part I was mainly about the translation’s issues. Part II focused on the English book, and this is […]


  3. […] voltak. Ebben a részben már vannak érdekes szavak, mint “botanikus” (hello, Mark Watney) vagy “vulkanológus” (persze egy “sugárbiológiai intézet” […]


  4. […] A marsi magyarul, a fordítási hibák miatt […]


  5. […] martian in Hungarian, because of the many mistakes in its […]


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