As I've said many times on this site, I dislike translations on principle - but I am trying to do something about my miserable German, and when I saw this book at Foyles last week it immediately seemed like a good idea. I know the Swedish original well, and I figured that it should be easy to read and would improve my sketchy vocabulary. That worked out even better than I had hoped, and I already feel measurably more confident.
What surprised me, though, was that for once I experienced the translation as utterly convincing. Not has been casting scorn on my claims here, and asking the obvious questions: given that my German is terrible, how can I know this is brilliant? But I just know. Even though I'm no good at the language, I have heard it spoken a great deal, and I understand how it's pronounced. I can hear it in my head when I'm reading, and it sounds exactly like the Swedish original. Everything is there. The rhythm of the narrative, with its ironic alternation of comedy and tragedy; the charming dialogues between the unforgettable characters; even the made-up names. It's a little miracle. The English translation is quite different. I can understand every word, rather than having to guess a quarter of them, but the soul of the book has disappeared. It isn't Tove Jansson any more.
If you know German, and haven't read it already, get yourself a copy. It's just one of the best children's books ever written.