The Gist, a novelette by Michael Marshall Smith, is the latest offering from Subterranean Press’s limited but honourable catalogue. To say it is by Marshall Smith—or at least, by Marshall Smith alone—is, however, something of a misnomer. Between The Gist’s covers are three novelettes and one novelette: Marshall Smith’s original, translated once into the French by Benoît Domis, translated again (without access to the original text) back into the English by Nicholas Royle. Two further recensions of the first text: three recensions of a single work.
Yes, I’m of the school that holds every translation to be a fresh recension. Every translation contains the translator’s idea of the text as well as the original author’s. If you’ve ever read translations of, say, the Greek classics from the 19th century and then compared them to a modern translation, the otherwise-invisible person of the translator becomes visible.